With YouTube’s ongoing growth, it’s no surprise that Google has acquired the company behind ToonTube, a video platform for kids.
And ToonTube Shuts Down…
ToonTube is Launchpad’s online community that, like YouTube, allows children to upload and share videos with one another. Videos included music, animation, and channels that focused on unboxing games. The most popular channels on the site were receiving billions of views.
But after the acquisition was announced, ToonTube said it was time to “retire ToonTube, our global storytelling network for kids.” All video content must be downloaded by March 4th, presumably to allow Launchpad Toys to focus on Google’s agenda. No one knows for sure what’s next, but the company’s apps are now completely free.
On their website, they said they were “turning the team loose on a whole slew of amazing new creativity tools for kids that we can’t wait to tell you about.”
Speculation has arisen that Google will develop a separate video platform for children, much like ToonTube.
Google’s Agenda for Kids
Almost a year ago, The Information claimed that Google was developing a version of the site specifically for kids under 10. The site would focus specifically on kid-friendly material, while screening racier, more adult-oriented material.
TeleStory, one of Launchpad Toys’ apps, seems to fit well with Google’s agenda. Children are encouraged to “write, direct, and star in your own TV show.” After writing a script, children are allowed to use built-in themes that augment their video.
There are clear reasons why Google would want to focus on video:
As we’ve written about elsewhere, video is exploding in popularity. All of the major social networks and micro-blogging platforms are integrating video functionality…and not just ads. Facebook’s autoplay videos have some news networks speculating that the massive social network may be able to compete with YouTube as a video platform.
Likewise, Millenials watch less TV. The decline in TV usage, according to video marketing firm ReelSEO, is echoed in the millennial generation. They also reported that DVR and Live TV usage are lowest among those aged 18-24, while smartphone usage is higher.
Kids and Tech: What the Data Shows
Though the study’s demographics are quite a bit older than the young kids that make up “Generation Z” or the “iGeneration,” the trend is clear…
Video is moving to mobile…and mobile is where the youth are. One study found that some young people are so addicted to their phones that, when they were taken away, they “employed the rhetoric of addiction, dependency and depression.”
And the Harvard Business Review reported that:
- Two-third of children aged 4-7 have used an iPhone or iPod
- 6% of children from 2-5 have their own smartphone
- 72% of the top 100 education apps in iTunes were aimed at preschoolers and elementary school students
- Children aged 11-14 average 73 minutes per day texting
- More than 25% of 2-5 year olds and over 40% of 6-8 year olds use the internet
- The amount of time kids spend online has tripled in the past 10 years
Clearly, the younger generation is a connected generation. And Google plans to capitalize on that connectivity.
How Other Tech Companies are Adapting Their Services for Kids
But Google isn’t the only company that’s targeting younger demographics with new media:
Twitter launched a new version of Vine, just for kids. Vine Kids will build off the same 6-second loops that Vine uses, but this version of the app will filter out inappropriate content…such as twerking, swearing, and other adult-oriented material.
Facebook hinted at plans to allow younger generations onto its site. Currently, Facebook bans children under 13 from using the site. But a patent application filed at the end of 2012 had some speculating that Facebook might allow children to use the site with parental supervision.
And according to a study cited by Daily Mail, more than half of children ignore Facebook’s age limit. The study claimed that most children will set up a fake profile by age 11. Leaving aside legitimate concerns around child safety, these trends clearly indicate that kids are adapting to the online world…in many cases, better than older generations.
Nickelodeon is hopping on the streaming bandwagon. This spring, they plan to offer a subscription-based service that would reach consumers directly – without relying on Hulu, Netflix, or other streaming carriers. Though they were sparse on the details, they said that the standalone service wouldn’t carry the Nickelodeon name, and would be “very attractive for parents and children.”
Clearly, young children are becoming more tech-savvy and internet-savvy with each passing day. And some companies appear to be tackling this problem more than others…
While Facebook has poked its nose in the direction of adapting services for its kids, it still has a long way to go if it wants to cover the entire age spectrum.
Google, however, has its fingers in many pots. By acquiring ToonTube and offering a separate, child-friendly video platform, Google is adding more tools to its umbrella of services.