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BBC iPlayer Kids: Hands on

Today the BBC is launching iPlayer Kids, a family-friendly version of the ubiquitous streaming service that promises to serve age-appropriate content for children. 

The new soft-play version of iPlayer will let kids create basic profiles that lets them enter their name and age. The app will then populate the Home page with relevant content; toddlers will only see Cbeebies shows while older kids will see CBBC shows programmes. 

The idea of the service is to give kids streamlined access to content that already accounts for roughly a third of all content viewed on iPlayer, while ringfencing them from some of the more grown-up oriented shows available, in a manner similar to Netflix’s Kids feature and the recently-launched Sky Kids app

Or, as director of BBC Children’s Alice Webb says: “We’re offering choice and control, wrapped up in a child-friendly design and the largest range of home-grown UK content on a platform parents can trust. 

“In a nutshell, the app is CBBC and CBeebies in their hands – a BBC iPlayer re-designed for a new, digitally savvy generation.” 

Like its bigger sibling, BBC iPlayer Kids will let users download shows to phones and tablets for offline viewing. Downloads are subject to the same rights restrictions as content available on the full fat iPlayer, so after a set number of days, they’ll expire, but you won’t be subject to any geolocation restrictions, so you’ll be able to load an iPad will several hours of Danger Mouse if you’re heading off abroad on holiday. 

You’ll also be able to turn on high quality downloads for viewing on tablets or phones with high resolution screens. These settings can be toggled from a page that’s protected by a 4-digit PIN, if parents don’t want to see their phones clogged up with multiple HD downloads of Octonauts

Of the 10,000+ hours worth of shows available on iPlayer Kids this year, we’re told that a ‘significant’ amount of it will feature subtitles, singing and AD (audio description) tracks, but we’ve been unable to get any solid figures for how many programmes will feature accessibility options. 

We’ve had some brief hands-on time with the Android version and things are looking very polished. Parents will no doubt love that it’s easy for kids to create profiles and jump between them.

BBC iPlayer Kids: Hands on

As you can see from our screengrabs, the age restrictions of the profiles of our fictions kids are serving relevant content to the home pages. One area that could do with some work is restricting access to downloads that might not be appropriate for younger siblings. 

Our fictional seven year old son Adam downloaded an episode of Young Dracula, which was freely available to our (equally fictional) two year old daughter Amy from the downloads tab. It’s also not possible for parents to set their own PIN; you’re given a new randomly generated code each time you want to access the settings, which could prove a stumbling block for younger sprogs, but won’t stop more determined kids. 

The Android and Amazon versions of iPlayer Kids are available to download from Google Play and Amazon Appstore now; the iOS version, we understand should be live in the App Store later today. 

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