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Under COPPA, how do I know if my channel is “directed to children”? Since the FTC and New York Attorney General announced their September 2019 settlement with YouTube for violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule, we’ve heard that question from channel owners – sometimes called content creators. If you’re a channel owner who shares content on user-generated platforms like YouTube, read on for FTC staff guidance about the applicability of the COPPA Rule and how those covered by the Rule can comply with its requirements.

The FTC action against YouTube and Google

The lawsuit against YouTube and Google alleged that the companies illegally collected personal information from children, in violation of COPPA. According to the complaint, the companies collected that information from viewers of child-directed YouTube channels in the form of persistent identifiers that track users across the Internet, but didn’t notify parents and get their consent. To settle the case, YouTube and Google agreed to create a mechanism so that channel owners can designate when the videos they upload to YouTube are – to use the words of COPPA – “directed to children.” The purpose of this requirement is to make sure that both YouTube and channel owners are complying with the law.

A COPPA recap

That provision of the settlement has raised questions among content creators about how to determine if what they upload to YouTube or other platforms is “directed to children.” The answer requires a brief summary of some key COPPA provisions. Passed by Congress in 1998, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act is a federal law that protects the privacy of children under 13. COPPA’s foundational principle is one that most people can agree on: Parents – not kids, companies, platforms, or content creators – should be in control when it comes to information collected from children online.

The FTC enforces the law through the COPPA Rule. In general, COPPA requires operators of commercial websites and online services that are directed to children (more about that in a minute) to provide notice and obtain verifiable parental consent before they collect personal information from kids under 13.

The COPPA Rule defines “personal information” to include obvious things like a child’s first and last name or home address, but that’s not all. Under COPPA, personal information also covers what are called persistent identifiers – behind-the-scenes code that recognizes a user over time and across different sites or online services. That could be an IP address or a cookie when it’s used to serve targeted ads. Keep in mind that an operator also might be collecting personal information through an open comment field on its site or service that allows a user under 13 to make personal information publicly available. For example, think of a comment like this on a child-directed site: My name is Mary Jones from Springfield. I love this video!

How COPPA applies to channel owners

So how does COPPA apply to channel owners who upload their content to YouTube or another third-party platform? COPPA applies in the same way it would if the channel owner had its own website or app. If a channel owner uploads content to a platform like YouTube, the channel might meet the definition of a “website or online service” covered by COPPA, depending on the nature of the content and the information collected. If the content is directed to children and if the channel owner, or someone on its behalf (for example, an ad network), collects personal information from viewers of that content (for example, through a persistent identifier that tracks a user to serve interest-based ads), the channel is covered by COPPA. Once COPPA applies, the operator must provide notice, obtain verifiable parental consent, and meet COPPA’s other requirements. For information on how to comply with COPPA, please visit the FTC’s COPPA page for our Six-Step Compliance Plan for Your Business.

How channel owners can determine if their content is directed to children

Under COPPA, there is no one-size-fits-all answer about what makes a site directed to children, but we can offer some guidance. To be clear, your content isn’t considered “directed to children” just because some children may see it. However, if your intended audience is kids under 13, you’re covered by COPPA and have to honor the Rule’s requirements.

The Rule sets out additional factors the FTC will consider in determining whether your content is child-directed:

  • the subject matter,
  • visual content,
  • the use of animated characters or child-oriented activities and incentives,
  • the kind of music or other audio content,
  • the age of models,
  • the presence of child celebrities or celebrities who appeal to children,
  • language or other characteristics of the site,
  • whether advertising that promotes or appears on the site is directed to children, and
  • competent and reliable empirical evidence about the age of the audience.

The determination of whether content is child-directed will be clearer in some contexts than in others, but we can share some general rules of thumb. First, unless you’re affirmatively targeting kids, there are many subject matter categories where you don’t have to worry about COPPA. For example, if your videos are about traditionally adult activities like employment, finances, politics, home ownership, home improvement, or travel, you’re probably not covered unless your content is geared toward kids. The same would be true for videos aimed at high school or college students. On the other hand, if your content includes traditional children’s pastimes or activities, it may be child-directed. For example, the FTC recently determined that an online dress-up game was child-directed.

Second, just because your video has bright colors or animated characters doesn’t mean you’re automatically covered by COPPA. While many animated shows are directed to kids, the FTC recognizes there can be animated programming that appeals to everyone.

Third, the complaint in the YouTube case offers some examples of channels the FTC considered to be directed to children. For example, many content creators explicitly stated in the “About” section of their YouTube channel that their intended audience was children under 13. Other channels made similar statements in communications with YouTube. In addition, many of the channels featured popular animated children’s programs or showed kids playing with toys or participating in other child-oriented activities. Some of the channel owners also enabled settings that made their content appear when users searched for the names of popular toys or animated characters. Want to see the FTC’s analysis in context? Read pages 10-14 of the YouTube complaint.

Finally, if you’ve applied the factors listed in the COPPA Rule and still wonder if your content is “directed to children,” it might help to consider how others view your content and content similar to yours. Has your channel been reviewed on sites that evaluate content for kids? Is your channel – or channels like yours – mentioned in blogs for parents of young children or in media articles about child-directed content? Have you surveyed your users or is there other empirical evidence about the age of your audience?

What are the possible penalties for violating COPPA?

The Rule allows for civil penalties of up to $42,530 per violation, but the FTC considers a number of factors in determining the appropriate amount, including a company’s financial condition and the impact a penalty could have on its ability to stay in business. While Google and YouTube paid $170 million, in another COPPA case settled this year, the operator paid a total civil penalty of $35,000.

Isn’t the FTC taking another look at the COPPA Rule?

Yes, the FTC is currently evaluating the Rule in light of rapid changes in technology. If you would like to comment on the effectiveness of the COPPA Rule and whether changes are needed, the FTC has extended the comment deadline to December 9, 2019.

Where can channel owners go for more information?

A look at the factors in the COPPA Rule will help most channel owners determine if their content is directed to children. If you’re still unsure about how COPPA applies to you, consider contacting an attorney or consulting with one of the COPPA Safe Harbor programs – self-regulatory groups that offer guidance on how operators can comply with the law. Visit the FTC’s website for a list of currently approved Safe Harbor organizations. For more resources, visit the FTC’s Children’s Privacy page for our Six-Step Compliance Plan for Your Business.

 
 
 

2,459 Comments

Natalie
November 27, 2019
Hello FTC and anyone else reading this response to the recent issue that has arisen with "children directed content". I myself have been a small creator on Youtube for a few months now and reading these new guidelines on my channel has concerned me deeply. It is true that many children use Youtube every day to watch their favorite content creators and are found in dangerous situations here and there to inappropriate content, like any other social media platform/website. From what I've read throughout all the articles, guidelines, concerns, etc. about this issue I've come to the conclusion that this statement of guideline changes is still very vague. You've given a decent explanation so far of what content creators need to look out for and what we can be fined upon but the guidelines are still unclear for some creators. These creators being the ones who intend their videos to be directed towards Youtube's standard audience of 13+, who don't curse, have animated characters, and include well-known franchises (like the gaming community) let's say like Pokemon or Minecraft. What will happen to these channels? To me, they are perfectly fine and these types of demographics are related to kids, teens, and adults. Therefore why should they put their channel into one categorized setting from mature to child-directed? I personally believe that this new rule should be removed from Youtube completely as it will destroy the platform and force content creators to find new sources of income. This new rule would also potentially make content on Youtube more mature, meaning more cursing and inappropriate topics. We all know that kids lie about their age on the internet and sometimes parents tell their kids to do this as well because of privacy issues, so what if these children come across one of these newly made mature videos? Instead, why don't we remove this new guideline in general and promote the family-friendly channels and Youtube kids then remove the inappropriate channels you don't want your kids watching. Half of the time kids don't even pay attention to ads and will just skip them entirely so I don't understand how this has become a major issue on Youtube especially since ads can be found anywhere in technology. Ads can be found on cable TV, websites, social media platforms, apps on your electronic device, a billboard sign, a restaurant/fast food joint, and even schools. Therefore I ask you please think about this decision once again before you destroy amazing people's financial services and the vague guidelines you set before us creators. Thank you for your time. - Natalie
Guest
November 27, 2019
I think storytelling from Youtube is generally not made for kids. It really relates to teenagers and young adults. Specifically, it depends on what story the storytellers are telling. Examples of stories that AREN'T made for kids: - A sad and/or traumatic event - Hateful experiences - Romance (Crushes, Break-ups, etc...) - Toxic relationships, friendships, families, etc... - Doing mischievous acts - About Racism, Sexualism, etc... - Thoughts on GENERAL things or experiences on LIFE (especially on adulthood and/or teenage times) - Thoughts on existence - Vlogging in places (NOT playgrounds, elementary schools, preschools & toy stores selling toys for people below 13) - Something Unusual or Weird that it's unappealing to children (Under 13) Examples of stories that ARE made for kids (Also according to a statement from COPPA): - Their childhood toys, games and films (Suitable for people below 13) - Vlogging in places (Playgrounds, elementary schools, preschools & toy stores selling toys for people below 13)
Guest
November 27, 2019
Can videos that are about games like Minecraft, Terraria and other games that appeals to all ages be marked as not made for kids?
ZmAngry guy
November 27, 2019
Please don’t do this to YouTube this will hurt every content creator and their channels this is something that they love to do which is their job and their life especially the videos we all like to watch don’t take them down that’s why there’s YouTube kids that these younger viewers can watch leave YouTube the way it is!
Guest
November 27, 2019
The biggest issue is that the decision as to whether COPPA would apply to a video - such as a mature craft or hobby video - is ultimately subjective, by which time it would appear to be too late. That makes it a BAD solution, because there is no clarity - no hard line. It is wrong to have laws that can massively fine people when the law itself cannot provide sufficient clarity of definition for real day-to-day application by normal people.
FTC Staff
November 29, 2019

In reply to by Guest

The complaint in the YouTube case offers some examples of channels the FTC considered to be directed to children. For example, many content creators explicitly stated in the “About” section of their YouTube channel that their intended audience was children under 13. Other channels made similar statements in communications with YouTube. In addition, many of the channels featured popular animated children’s programs or showed kids playing with toys or participating in other child-oriented activities. Some of the channel owners also enabled settings that made their content appear when users searched for the names of popular toys or animated characters. Read pages 10-14 of the YouTube complaint to see the FTC’s analysis in context.

Cody Castillo
November 27, 2019
You people need to realize that a lot of the stuff you listed as "appealing to kids" is liked by adults too, not just some adults but wide swaths of the adult and young adult population! Learn about nerd, geek, animation, etc culture, just because of kids like it too DOES NOT MEAN IT IS FOR KIDS. Learn more about what you are regulating before you destroy not only an entire online community but the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people who make content related to pop culture and who aim their content AT ADULTS!
Please change …
November 27, 2019
Please people who watch YouTube have to be 13 years old so please change the rules for YouTube
Guest
November 29, 2019
This is legally important that you listen to what our content creators have to say because millions are not very happy about the incoming changes to the platform. And a $42,000 fine is ridiculous because our content creators will be bankrupt and homeless. Please take this into consideration and rethink this through, it's affecting our communities and the content creators who've been on the YouTube working very hard. There has got to be a possible solution to improve these changes.
Guest
November 27, 2019
WHAT ABOUT SLIDE SHOWS I MAKE ABOUT JESUS?! AM I GOING TO BE FIND FOR IT?
Guest
November 27, 2019
This is just the gov giving themselves control over commutation and claiming it's "to protect the children". In 10 years, i'm sure critisizing the FTC will be declared "harmful to children" and we'll be fined for comments like these.
Guest
January 23, 2020
Are Horror Games Like Five Nights At Freddy's Or Gaming In General Directed Towards Kids? What About Music? Please Clarify This.
Guest
November 27, 2019
YouTube is 109% at fault here- not the creators and not the parents. Kids have way too much access via any mobile device/smart tv etc. Even Google’s Parent Link system is awful. They are the distributor (like ABC, NBC, Hulu). If they aren’t paying for programming but are going to make gobs of money off the creators- they need to be responsible for who accessed THEIR site and what content goes to what group. Just because content would be of interest to a kid doesn’t make it kid friendly. Before each video- put an ad, disclaimer & age verification & be done with it.
Loser J
November 27, 2019
Can't YouTube just ask for an account sign in with an age selection and block the features for -13 so everyone is left alone and happy
ProCandle729
November 27, 2019
As we said, it's a parent's fault too because they don't care about his child and let them watch any video. So, we can't fault all YouTuber Creator because some of the videos are appropriate for kids. But, some gaming videos like puzzle block, cooking simulator, Minecraft, etc. Video gaming still is appropriate for kids under 13 years old. We can't blame all YouTube Creator. Give a chance to all YouTube Creator. Question: What's are YouTube Kids Made for. Question: Do we get fined if we violating COPPA Rules. Question: How the COPPA Works? Question: Why w
Guest
November 27, 2019
I make animations on YouTube. It’s kid-friendly, but it’s for a vast audience. If I put a disclaimer at the beginning that the video isn’t made for kids, will I be safe?
Guest
November 27, 2019
The Guidelines are rubbish. If you’re going to implement guidelines that have harsh consequences the rules should be black and white. They should be very clear. This is very vague
Stephanie
November 27, 2019
I really think if kids under 13 are watching videos, maybe their parents should monitor it? It just seems like it's absurd that you can get charged if the FTC thinks your video isn't this or that, but you thought it was or wasn't? Hopefully, warnings will be given first if it violates because many of us aren't sure. Like, I make lyric videos and believe they shouldn't really be aimed at kids, but maybe Harry Styles could???? It's all very vague and when this goes into effect, you guys should make sure that you warn those who are violating so they can change it because we all think differently...
Guest
November 27, 2019
Cant there just be a "general audience" button? It would really help creators.
Guest
November 27, 2019
Can we just not have this coppa stuff? Just let the creators be free and let parents be parents, fine the parents imagine how much money u could make then.
Lilly
November 27, 2019
As a young content creator, I believe that creators who make content directed towards kids and live of adsense, will be forced to make adult content or quit YouTube all together. As a result of this, there is going to be more content on YouTube that is directed for adults and teenagers. However, kids are still going to watch YouTube. Its not the content creators fault that children's parents allow them to watch their favorite videos.
Guest
November 27, 2019
This has no detail, its hard to undeeatand what each rule even means. p
Guest
November 27, 2019
Ignore it like we've been doing for 20 years now. Get a fine? Throw it in the trash.
Lea Raymond
November 27, 2019
I think the best option would simply be to allow parents to give explicit permission for YouTube to use their children's data from YouTube. It is the parent's responsibility to protect children online, not content creators, YouTube themself, or even the FTC. Thank you for taking this message into consideration and I hope it makes an impact.
Robbie Walker
November 27, 2019
Okay, since we found out you’re actually supporting videos for the general audience, YouTube is going AGAINST that notion. They are instead forcing us to have two selections: “Kid” and “Adult” resulting in having a lose-lose situation. You guys gotta do something about it before this happens.
Guest
November 27, 2019
These rules are vague and don't make sense. Where would Love Nikki (a dress up app many adults and teens play) fall? It'd definitely not a children's game. Will I be fined for marking my content as not for children, despite the game falling under the dress up category? Please be more clear or make an E for everyone category. Something content creators can mark if they make content for both adults and children. Also youtube is the one collecting data on its viewers. Not the content creators.
Guest
November 27, 2019
PLEASE consider other viewers who depend on videos to enhance their hobbies and income. I am a pensioner and cannot afford to attend classes. Plus, I live in South Africa so how on earth can I visit classes overseas?!
Guest
November 27, 2019
Watching TV is much more harmful than YouTube videos!
Shazin
November 27, 2019
Pls don’t take this rule if you want money get it from parents not us
Guest
November 27, 2019
This is too vague and this is basically all the entertainment of youtube your saying is wrong. I can't believe some of you dont watch or understand youtube and are making a law that will kill all GOOD, ORIGINAL AND LIVELY CONTENT on youtube. Please, this is too aggressive. I myself is an animator and this is scaring me from doing what i love. Because it appeals to children. Anything appeals from kids that's why we have different jobs and why we are diverse. Because there is watchable stuff for all of us. PLEASE RECONSIDER THE DAMAGE YOU ARE DOING TO THIS PLATFORM.
Blue and Red S…
January 22, 2020
Is content from other countries affected aswell? ( ex. Philippines )
FTC Staff
January 22, 2020

In reply to by Blue and Red S…

Foreign-based websites and online services must comply with COPPA if they are directed to children in the United States, or if they knowingly collect personal information from children in the U.S. The law’s definition of “operator” includes foreign-based websites and online services that are involved in commerce in the United States or its territories.

U.S.-based sites and services that collect information from foreign children also are subject to COPPA. See COPPA FAQS B.7. https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/complying-coppa-frequently-asked-questions

Guest
November 27, 2019
hi im a 23 year old adult who has been watching youtube from the beginning. these new laws could kill THOUSANDS of jobs and could put some people into poverty. also the rules are way to vauge and undescriptive. please dont enact these laws it will hurt you rather than help. thanks for reading
Guest
November 27, 2019
My Channels are for Adults and children because my videos are not violent and not out of ordinary just an informations about what's going on in the world today especially when it's abnormal but natural ,thanks for understanding please when ever my video is out of children view let me know okay.and God almighty bless you all in Jesus christ name Amen.
Alex
November 27, 2019
Change your law because it to old for this era and the the era is new but the law 20 years old animation is sometimes for adult.
Brian madora
November 27, 2019
What the h**k coppa, i know you protect children but this is just torcher (idk if i spelled it right, im on mobile) like cant we just watch something that is good for kidos and us, pre teens and adults can FREAKING watch, like for pre teens, memes or games from xbox or playstation or for adults, FREAKING ANYTHING so just stop this thing from afecting us how to watch you tube, please and if not, the go live under a brige
Clickster
November 27, 2019
I thought Youtube was where people can make content about whatever they want but now COPPA is being stupid. :(
Alex
November 27, 2019
Do you know that youtube kids exist in the world.
Guest
November 27, 2019
My YouTube videos made for Adults! Not kids.
Guest
November 27, 2019
You don't know what you are doing to us if you pit the COPPA rules and FTC we can't do any videos at all Your going to ruin our internet culture please don't do this! You don't understand what will happen if you add those rules on youtube
Guest
November 27, 2019
Why are you doing this?You will destroy people's job.YouTube will be DONE.Don't you understand that you don't do anything except making it worse?It's not YouTube's fault,it's the parent's fault!THEY bought their children's phones,not YouTube.they aloud their children to do whatever they want! and you destroy YouTube. YouTube did nothing and you still destroy it till there is nothing left.You just want it all destroyed till there is no hope
Alex123
November 27, 2019
Why boomers controls this please stop don't do it I want you keep Youtube normal
LlamaPlaysGames_YT
November 27, 2019
But what if our channel is "family friendly" YouTube either has options "for kids" Or "not for kids. " There is no "for all ages" Option.
Guest
November 27, 2019
If we just change this up a little bit, this would actually do very good. At its current state, however, this could backfire hard. If we want to keep kids content going, we need to give content creators revenue. Otherwise, they won't be able to make money, and will either shut down or start making more mature content. Kids will most certainly keep watching this, with won't be a win for either side.
Robert Hornibrook
November 27, 2019
How is it governments job to regulate what our children watch and consume on the internet? That should fall under the parents jurisdiction.
Bearleyart
November 27, 2019
I believe a specific age range would help a lot here. I looked through the legal links provided and it seems all examples used were for ages 3-7, so a age range would be quite helpful in making this easier to understand. (not legal advice so don't quote me on this I'm just a normal dude this is not legal advice) It seems to be if It could air on nick jr or playhouse disney. it's probably coverd by COPPA. good thing i don't plan to make that type of content.
Guest
November 27, 2019
Can Age Of 13 Or Above Can Run YouTube channels?? Pls confirm
Guest
November 27, 2019
YouTube has so many people making videos for a living. Does taking away innocent people's jobs sound okay to you? These innocent people will go into debt because of this. This is not okay.
Guest
November 27, 2019
As much as this tries to clear things up. It is still very vague. What about toy reviews that are aimed at an adult or older audience. These videos aren't or rather, the products/toys in the videos are not aimed at children, nor would children buy them. They even say on the box these products aren't for children ages 15 and under. Also for cartoons, what about anime? Anime isn't always aimed at children.
Alexa Irizarry
November 27, 2019
YouTube has so many people making videos for a living. Does taking away innocent people's jobs sound okay to you? These innocent people will go into debt because of this. This is not okay.

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