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YouTube launches a kid-friendly app

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Shohei Miyano/Reuters/File

(Read caption) A woman walks in front of a logo of YouTube at the YouTube Space Tokyo. YouTube Kids, a free app for Android mobile devices, will be released Feb. 23.

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Parents who want to share the fun of YouTube with their children without having to worry about them stumbling onto less-than-appropriate videos will soon have that option.

YouTube Kids, a free app for Android mobile devices, will be released Feb. 23.

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The free app is designed to let children find the kind of content they enjoy and will include parental tools like a timer, to limit how long children can spend using it, and the ability to turn off the app’s sound and search function, according to Google, which owns YouTube.

Family-friendly videos will be divided into four categories: Shows, Music, Learning and Explore.

Content for the app will come from the likes of DreamWorks, Jim Henson TV, National Geographic Kids and Reading Rainbow. Google partnered with child-advocacy groups and other organizations to test the app before its release.

“At a time when a child’s access to media can be overwhelming and filled with empty calories, I’m excited that YouTube Kids is making this commitment to give families a safe environment to spark curiosity while still entertaining,” said longtime “Reading Rainbow” host LeVar Burton in a written statement.

“Reading Rainbow” will debut a new series on YouTube Kids, “uTech,” which explores technology in a kid-friendly way.

And yes, parents of toddlers, Thomas the Tank Engine will be there, too.

“The ‘Thomas & Friends’ YouTube channel has been a meaningful platform for fans of all ages to discover the world of Thomas,” Sid Mathur, a vice president with HIT Entertainment, the British-American company behind Thomas, “Barney,” “Bob the Builder” and other children’s favorites, said in a release.

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“YouTube Kids surfaces the best of kids’ content from their bigger platform and encourages kids to safely explore and navigate through engaging videos.”

Children’s advocacy group Common Sense Media called YouTube Kids a “serious contender as a family’s go-to way for kids to watch videos online.”

There was no word from Google on whether YouTube Kids will eventually be released for Apple’s iOS operating system or on other platforms. Android is a Google product as well.

Doug Gross is a staff writer covering personal finance for NerdWallet. Follow him on Twitter at @doug_gross and on Google+.