Children understand that they can watch TV shows “on demand” on a range of devices, from the family tablet to a parent’s smartphone.

There is now a growing collection of apps serving these habits, from established broadcasters to internet companies and inventive startups. Some are free, while others charge a monthly subscription.

All offer shows and videos to stream, with other features offered by some including downloads for offline viewing; the ability to set time limits and create separate profiles for your children; and extra educational games.

An obvious but important point: these apps fit within a wider, healthy lifestyle for children: from reading and physical creativity to active play away from a screen, rather than replacing books, bikes and splattering the house with paints.

BBC iPlayer Kids
Android / iOS (Free)

BBC iPlayer Kids.
 

Newly released, this is a standalone version of the BBC’s existing iPlayer app, offering shows from its two children’s channels CBeebies and CBBC. It’s only available within the UK.

 

You can create profiles for each child, entering their name, age and choosing a monster avatar. The BBC says it will not collect any personal data beyond that, with the age used to decide what shows are available to each child within the app. Four year-olds won’t see scarier CBBC dramas like Wolfblood, for example.

The app is like a simpler, brighter version of the main iPlayer app, with shows presented in a sideways-scrolling feed of recent series and episodes, although they can also be accessed from an A-Z shows list or the search function.

As with iPlayer, shows can be downloaded to your device for offline viewing for up to 30 days: perfect for a long plane, train or automobile trip. Because the app isn’t storing details of what each child watches, it doesn’t offer personalised recommendations based on their habits.

Like the main iPlayer, the iPlayer Kids app is free to use, with no advertising or in-app purchases.

YouTube Kids
Android / iOS (Free)

YouTube Kids.

A growing number of children are watching more YouTube videos than traditional TV shows, but the main YouTube app can be problematic in terms of controlling where your kids end up in its not-always-child-friendly catalogue.

YouTube Kids aims to solve that headache: it pulls in videos for children – with a flagging system for parents to alert it if anything unsuitable slips through the filters – and presents them in an easy scrolling interface.

Children will find big brands like Barbie and Shaun the Sheep nestling alongside popular YouTube channels like The Diamond Minecart and nursery-rhymes channel Little Baby Bum. Once your child has watched a few videos, the app will start recommending more that it thinks they’ll like.

When setting up, you can tell the app whether your child is pre-school or school-age; turn the search option off – it returns blanks for queries like ‘sex’ and ‘smoking’ even if your children try – and you can set a time-limit of between one and 120 minutes per session. There is no offline downloads feature.

YouTube Kids is free to use, with no in-app purchases. However, it does include advertising, which the company says it screens for child-suitability.

Sky Kids
Android / iOS (free for Sky subscribers)

Sky Kids.

This slick app is aimed at subscribers to Sky’s satellite-TV service in the UK who have children aged between three and nine: the latter can use it to watch TV shows from a range of partners, without any risk of stumbling into a Game of Thrones bloodbath.

Those partners include the BBC, Nickelodeon, Disney and Cartoon Network, meaning shows like Octonauts, Horrible Histories, Star Wars Rebels and Regular Show are all available: thousands of episodes in all. There are plans to add exclusive shows in the future, including new episodes of Morph.

You can create individual profiles for each child, although for now there are no time-limit settings – Sky says those are coming later in the year. The app does not currently support downloads for offline viewing either, so you’ll need to use it on a stable connection – 3G and 4G included.

If you’re a Sky subscriber, the app comes as part of your package: you just need to log in with your Sky ID to get it set up.

Amazon Prime Video
Android / iOS (part of £79-a-year Prime membership)

Amazon Prime Video.

If you subscribe to Amazon’s Prime membership to get free shipping on products you buy, the Prime Video films and TV streaming service comes bundled in too, with its own app to download.

This isn’t aimed purely at children: there’s content for all ages, so you’ll need to be overseeing your kids when they’re choosing what to watch. There are a number of children’s shows available though: Peppa Pig, Tom and Jerry, Pingu, SpongeBob SquarePants and other famous brands.

Amazon has also commissioned its own “originals” shows for children. The pick of the bunch are a lovely stop-motion animation series called Tumble Leaf; science-focused drama Annedroids; and sitcom Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street.

You can download shows and films for offline viewing, as well as adding them to a “watchlist” to remember them. You can also use the app to access shows and films that you’ve bought from Amazon’s digital store – good for those not available to stream.

Prime Video is free for Prime members, who currently pay £79 a year for the overall service.

Netflix
Android / iOS (£5.99 - £8.99 a month)

Netflix.

Like Prime Video, Netflix is a TV and film-streaming service aimed at all ages. Unlike Amazon, it has a dedicated Kids feature, where any family members on your account who you have designated as children will only be able to see kids’ content.

On Netflix’s website, you can specify whether they can see shows “for older kids and below” or just “for little kids only”, while adding a PIN to your account to ensure your children don’t try to watch unsuitable content on the sly.

Grouped into genres like action, adventures, funny and dinosaurs, there are plenty of shows to choose from. Like Amazon, Netflix has commissioned some originals too: mainly from its partnership with Hollywood studio DreamWorks to make shows based on films like Turbo and Puss In Boots. A pair of exclusive Lego-branded shows were recently added too.

One of Netflix’s drawbacks – for adults and children alike – is its lack of an offline downloads mode, meaning it’s best used in the home or somewhere with a stable Wi-Fi connection.

A monthly subscription costs £5.99, £7.49 or £8.99 a month depending whether you want HD (or “Ultra HD” on the highest tier), and how many screens you want to be able to watch on at the same time – one, two and four respectively.

DisneyLife
Android / iOS (£9.99 a month)

DisneyLife.

DisneyLife is the broadest app here in terms of its content: besides films and TV shows, it also has digital books and streaming music.

It’s all Disney though, which for TV means shows like Phineas and Ferb, Hannah Montana, That’s So Raven and Sofia the First from its Disney XD, Disney Junior and Disney Channel networks. Marvel and Star Wars cartoons are on the way too.

Outside TV, there’s a stash of films, from older movies like The Sword in the Stone and The Black Cauldron to more modern fare including Brave and Frozen – and plenty of classic cartoons starring Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and friends.

Shows can be downloaded for offline viewing on your device, while parental controls include profiles for each child – including restricting them to U, PG or 12-rated content, and setting weekday and weekend time-limits on their use of the app.

Parental controls include the ability to create a profile for each child then set whether they can watch U, PG or 12-rated content, as well as setting weekday and weekend time limits on their use of the app. DisneyLife costs £9.99 a month via subscription.

 

Courtesy: The Guardian