Spotify is a digital music and podcast streaming service that provides access to an online library of copyright restricted content via a web player or app. Music and audio content can be selected by the user or generated by Spotify’s complex algorithm that recommends content based on the user’s listening history. A basic ad-supported version of Spotify is available free of charge and a premium version with additional features is offered via a paid monthly subscription. Spotify is available on Windows, MacOS and Linux computers, iOS and Android mobile devices, digital media players and smart home devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Nest. Spotify has 456 million active users each month, comprising of 195 million premium subscribers and 240 million users of the free service. This makes Spotify the largest audio streaming service.

The minimum age restriction for Spotify users is 13, however it does not have any rigorous age verification methods.

Users under 18 are required to have parental consent to use the app.

Find out more about age ratings in our ‘A parent and carer’s guide to age ratings of apps and games’.

Spotify provides users with access to a huge online library that continues to grow with the ongoing addition of new content. The main uses of Spotify are to search for and play specific music content on demand and to keep up to date with new music. Users can like or dislike content that they think is good or bad to personalise their experience by training the Spotify algorithm to identify further content based on their listening habits. The premium subscription version allows users to listen to their favourite music and audio content, create and share playlists, follow playlists curated by other users and upload content that is not available in the Spotify catalogue. Sharing content with friends is a popular aspect of Spotify with young people. Spotify users can follow other users or make their own listening habits visible to users who follow them. The ‘Friend Activity’ feature allows users to show each other what they are playing in Spotify in real time to create a shared listening experience. Friends can be added individually by Spotify username or by linking the user’s Spotify account with their Facebook account to access their Facebook friends list. Playlists can be made collaborative by allowing friends to contribute content. As well as sharing content by using a ’Share’ button within the app, playlists can be shared by text, email, social media or simply by copying and pasting the playlist link. Spotify also allows musicians and musical artists to add their own content to the Spotify library and promote their work.

The key feature of Spotify is the playback of music and audio content from the online catalogue.

  • Everything the user has saved in Spotify – songs, artists, albums, podcasts, playlists, etc.

  • A collection of Spotify content created by users or curated by the Spotify algorithm.

  • An on-demand audio programme, usually focused on a specific topic, theme or subject.

  • Playback of music or audio content through Spotify via the internet.

  • Music or audio content copied within a Spotify account to be played offline.

  • Music or audio content added to a Spotify account and saved in the user’s library.

  • A feature identifying what the user or Spotify algorithm has scheduled to play next.

  • An option to play music from an album or playlist in a randomised order.

  • A child-friendly version of Spotify available as part of a Premium Family Subscription.

  • A brief looping video clip that automatically plays while listening to a song by that artist.

The huge Spotify catalogue of music and podcasts inevitably includes some explicit content in the form of song lyrics and adult-orientated conversations. Content identified by Spotify as suitable only for users aged over 18 is marked with an ‘Explicit content’ or ‘E’ label. An alternative subscription version called ‘Spotify Kids’ is available for children aged twelve and younger and is curated by Spotify to contain only child-friendly content. Spotify also uses images to identify songs, albums, artists, playlists, podcasts and profiles, some of which may not be suitable for children. Spotify includes video as well as audio podcasts, which have potential for inappropriate visual as well as audio content. A recent addition to Spotify is ‘Canvas’, a feature that replaces album art with a brief looping video clip. Some of these video clips might not be suitable for children. Children using the free ad-funded version of Spotify will be exposed to advertising, most of which will be designed for adult audiences.

The primary risk to children using Spotify is exposure to age-inappropriate music and podcasts, particularly profanity and adult-orientated language and themes. Accessing Spotify through a ‘Premium’ subscription and using the explicit content filter in settings will restrict most but not all content that is inappropriate for children. For example, some explicit content might not be reported to Spotify by the rights holder, so the content will not be tagged and will play even when the filter is applied. Additionally, music and podcasts with explicit titles and/or cover art will continue to appear in search lists, even if the filter prevents the content being played.

Spotify is not a social media platform and does not have any mechanism for messaging or chat. However, some Spotify users have used the cover art, name and description fields of playlists to communicate with followers in a way that is open to abuse. The primary feature for connecting with other Spotify users is the ‘Friend activity’ function that allows users to follow each other and see what music or audio content they are playing in real time. Spotify and Facebook accounts can be linked to facilitate the process of adding friends. When connected to Facebook, a Spotify profile will show the user’s real name and Facebook picture. Playlists can be made collaborative by allowing friends to contribute content. The ‘Friend activity’ and Facebook connectivity functions are not inherently harmful but can lead to Spotify users being followed and potentially contacted outside the app. It is recommended that your child keeps their playlist private.

Spotify has ‘Platform rules’ that provide a guide to activity and behaviour that is not permitted or accepted by Spotify. For example, the ‘Platform rules’ cover dangerous, deceptive, sensitive and illegal content and state that non-compliance with the rules may result in the content being removed and accounts being suspended or terminated.

Spotify is free to download and install on all platforms and the ad-supported version is free to use. Spotify ‘Premium’ is a paid version of the service available as an individual or shared subscription. Other options include the duo plan for two users from the same household, the family plan for up to six users from the same household and a discounted personal plan for students. Only ‘Premium’ plans provide parental controls, including the explicit content filter. Spotify is a streaming service that pays artists through advertising on the free service or revenue generated by subscription plans and does not support the purchase of individual content. Other than a paid monthly subscription, the only cost incurred by using Spotify is data, with 1GB of data usage providing approximately twenty-three hours of music playback at the default 96kbps ‘Normal’ sound quality. Increasing the sound quality to ‘High’ or ‘Very High’ will increase data usage.

  • Creating a free or subscription Spotify account requires the provision of extensive personal information and Spotify account profiles are public by default. Profiles can be set to private in Spotify settings.

    To set an account to ‘Private’:

    • Select the home icon and go to the settings menu by clicking on the gear icon.
    • Scroll down to ‘Social’ and toggle on the option for ‘Private session’.v
  • All music, including anything tagged by Spotify as ‘Explicit’ is available to stream by default but can be restricted in the settings of ‘Premium’ accounts. Free Spotify accounts do not allow explicit content to be filtered. Spotify provides the ‘Friend activity’ feature for users to share their listening activity but account holders can listen anonymously by setting their Spotify session to private. Similarly, users can make individual existing playlists or all future playlists secret in settings to prevent their activity being viewed by other users.

    To manage explicit content on mobile device:

    • Select the home icon and go to the setting menu by clicking on the gear icon.
    • Scroll down to ‘Allow explicit content’ and toggle off this option.

    To manage explicit content on a desktop:

    • Click the downwards arrow in the upper right and select ‘Settings’.
    • Under ‘Explicit content’ turn off the toggle next to ‘Allow playback of explicit-rated content’.

    To manage playlists:

    • Select ‘Your library’ and choose the playlist you want to manage.
    • Click on your chosen playlist and select the three dots icon.
    • Scroll down and select the ‘Make private’ option and choose ‘Make private’ again when prompted.
  • Users can report and block other users who may be bothering them or behaving inappropriately on the platform.

    To report a playlist:

    • Go to the playlist you wish to report and select the three dots icon.
    • Choose the ‘Report abuse’ option, which will redirect you to a reporting form.
    • Choose your reason from the listed options.
      • Sexual content.
      • Violent or dangerous.
      • Hateful or abusive.
      • Deceptive content.
      • I just don’t like it.

    To report a user:

    • Go to the user you wish to report by clicking on their username.
    • Select the three dots icon and choose ‘Report abuse’.
    • Choose your reason from the listed options.
      • Sexual content.
      • Violent or dangerous.
      • Hateful or abusive.
      • Deceptive content.
      • I just don’t like it.
  • Spotify has a sleep timer, primarily designed to preserve battery life and data usage, that can be used to limit the time the Spotify app is active. The timer is available only in the iOS and Android app versions of Spotify and is activated during playback or music or podcast.

    To enable ‘Sleep timer’ for music:

    • Open the app and start playing a song.
    • Open it into full screen by tapping its title in the media playback bar at the bottom of the app.
    • Select the three dots icon and scroll down to ‘Sleep timer’.

    Choose how long you would like to listen to music until the app automatically stops the audio.

    To enable ‘Sleep timer’ for podcasts:

    • Open the app and start playing a podcast.
    • Open it into full screen by tapping its title in the media playback bar at the bottom of the app.
    • Select the mood-shaped icon to access the ‘Sleep timer’.
    • Choose how long you would like to listen to the podcast until it stops.

Spotify settings in ‘Premium’ accounts allow parents and carers to restrict explicit content but the easiest way to keep children safe when using Spotify is to create a ‘Spotify Kids’ account as part of a premium family subscription. A family plan allows up to five child profiles and the ad-free app can be downloaded onto as many devices as required. The app provides ‘nursery rhymes, bedtime stories, children’s songs, lullabies and much more’ for younger children and ‘chart pop, TV and film hits, bedtime stories, background music for gaming and homework’ for older children, all curated by Spotify. ‘Spotify kids’ also allows adults to view and manage the content accessed by the child by using the parental controls feature.

Spotify has a dedicated privacy centre, where users can learn more about their privacy on the app and how their data is used.

Spotify has produced a short guide to Spotify for parents and carers, which outlines how to keep children and young people safe on the platform.