YouTube channel owners: Is your content directed to children?

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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.



I believe that it is important to protect children's information, but I believe the current rules, as applied to YouTube may put up barriers to creators that are unnecessary. There are videos that are created with children in mind. There are videos that are created for an adult audience. And there is a third classification that your current guidelines completely ignore: family friendly content. This is content that even young children CAN watch, and may include some things that appeal to children, but they are not created FOR children. Many content creators at this time are confused by the guidelines and are left wondering if they are responsible for editing out any and all things that might appeal to children at the risk of being fined for violating COPPA rules. This is unreasonable. Please adapt the guidelines and categorization so that there is a place for family friendly content without it being classified as "for children" when it really isn't.

I have a question.If we put a blood in gacha life videos does that mean we are not kid friendly?

I have a concern for this. There are cartoons that are geared towards adults and teenagers. There are also video games and Computer games not appropriate for children. What happens to them?

Hello good sir,I know protecting children is important but can u try to manage on that by trying to not worry other youtuber's about their channels?Thank you.

1. The fine is COMPLETELY ridiculous. YouTube will loose the majority of their channels because people on YouTube can't afford to pay that amount.
2. It is NOT the youtubers problem if someone's child stumbles upon their channel and It's not for kids. Youtubers have no control of their audience. Plus, many underage kids lie about their age to make a google account. So there's no way of knowing if there's any kids watching your videos.
3. Why..?

There have been complaints from creators that specifically mark their content as "not for kids", but YouTube, either by bot or manually, changes the designation to "for kids" and continues to change it after the creator has returned it to the proper rating. YouTube has specifically said that "creators know their audience best". What would be your response if you happen to catch a video marked as such?

Hello, my name is James and I'm a YouTube content creator. I've been on the platform for about 3 years now. I also happen to have social anxiety disorder, so going out in public and getting and keeping a regular 9 to 5 job is very challenging for me (I was scared to even write this, but I know that I must try and do something considering how important this is to me). YouTube has been exceptionally helpful for me as it has not only allowed me to express myself through video creation, but it has also generously allowed me to make my own money. These factors have helped tremendously to improve my self esteem and lessen the pressure on my everyday life.If you go ahead with the changes to YouTube in the state that it currently is then hundreds if not thousands of creators lives will be ruined overnight. I personally agree with a lot of the things you stand behind like keeping children safe online, but the way that it is currently is the wrong way to enforce these rules. YouTube has really helped me to challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone, as seeing other people who are in a similar situation to me who are successful and happy has helped give me some of the confidence that I desperately needed to try and do basic tasks like interacting with people. Without YouTube I can't say that I would even be here to this day. Please consider the creators (whose lives depend on YouTube to make a living) as well as the children who you are trying to protect.
Thank you so much for reading,
I hope that you have a great day,

Hello FTC! I just wanna say, why did COPPA "Take over" youtube? Cause i dont understand what's happening. Is youtube being saved or something?

If The FTC reads this, thank you for your time.

Hello! Thank you for this update, it is very much appreciated. My comment is more of a question. So you said you recognize some animated content appeals to everyone.

"...just because your video has bright colors or animated characters doesn’t mean you’re automatically covered by COPPA... the FTC recognizes there can be animated programming that appeals to everyone."

Does that mean content that appeals to everyone is exempt from COPPA compliance, even if kids under 13 are part of the "everyone" that's watching?

Another question, do you make a distinction between "intended audience" and "actual audience"? According to my understanding of what YT told us, the "intended audience" is irrelevant if the "actual audience" is kids. However, in this document it seems like the decisive factor for you to implement COPPA is the "intended audience" not the "actual audience".

"...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".

Many YouTube creators think they're not covered by COPPA because their intended audience has never been kids. But YouTube being a wildly popular free service, and kids being the curious, learning-hungry little people they are, they have found these channels. So by some unintended evolutionary process, these channels now have a considerable kid audience. Are they right in thinking they are not covered by COPPA?

Hi dear FTC!
I understand your concern regarding kids privacy protection. We have 6 kids in our house and they are obsessed over mobiles. But when I give anyone of kids my phone and the ad that comes before video is some kind business tool because I am a business owner.
The solution provided doesn't fit in current situation.
I recommend you guys should give this another 3-6 months to really dig deep because this will decide the future of technology.
This will literally burn alot of houses. People have spent so many years creating videos and all there hard will go to waste. It is not fair on them.
What you can do that ask YouTube to put a system in place that can just review the advertiser and Mark it as trusted and if someone is spamming they can just categorize third ads not suitable for kids so the system doesn't show those ads on kids directed content. That way people will not lose money and advertiser, content creators and FTC and COPPA can be happy.

Plz just stop. You’re gonna effect SO many content creators by doing this. You will even make people lose their jobs. And besides, it’s not our problem that YouTube is for 13+ And over and THE PARENTS THINK THAT ITS MEANT FOR THEIR CHILD!! If they’re unhappy, the parents should move to YouTube Kids. And they shouldn’t blame us content creators and YouTube for making rules. It’s not our fault because the PARENTS broke the YouTube rules. It’s the PARENTS who should be listening to the rules and not let their child just go to some random website! And this website has rules. And one of the rules is that 13+ and over can watch YouTube ONLY.

What about people who make family friendly contact not kid

I understand COPPA is meant to protect children online however how the COPPA goes about doing so feels less like censorship. Why should a YouTuber work hours on making a video just for it to be hidden because it is kid friendly? I normally don't speak up against things like this but COPPA needs to be changed or gone. The United States stands on the idea of freedom, not censorship of those trying to make videos on the topics that make them happy. Also the "slang words" used as examples in COPPA's guidelines are used by people young and old now (such as cool, whatever, and fun).

Don't you guys think your wording is too vague.

This entire thing can ruin people's lives, you can't decide that what we make is for kids if we say it is not, you are scare mongering, kids will still watch videos that are not for kids that's not the content creators fault and yet they are the ones who will suffer for this

Whats happens:
If a creator uploads a video,
ticks the box declaring that the content is not for children
a bot or human MANUALLY recategorises the content as suitable for children

Who's responsible for that video now?

I ask as I have seen some creators having this done to them which they have caught on video.

Seems like a brilliant way for someone to ruin someones channel/income, because the person manually checking doesn't care about the creators, just cares about his/her own pay packet... which is probably pennies compared to the creators earnings.

About the coppa rule, is Gacha life could be considered 'child-appealing' ???

What if someone is making a reaction video about some animated character but the person reacting to the video is swearing or the animation is doing inappropriate Acts, is that still directed directly towards children?

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.

What if my content is directed at a 13+ but has the slangs and sayings of a 12 year old?

YouTube has rules that children under 13 should not be on YouTube, but instead on their site YouTube kids. This would put 100s or 1000s if people out of a job.

Dear FTC
As of right now there are a lot of content creators using YouTube as their main source of income and as the Coppa law comes into place many of them will lose the opportunity for their usual viewers to watch their videos and this is also taking their jobs from them just by making them list their video as “for kids”. Please reconsider this decision
Yours sincerely, a YouTube viewer

Many YouTube content creators can't afford any fine at all. I know at least one whose in his preteens, and know there are more teenage and younger people out there who make videos.

Are you planning on slapping twelve-year-olds with tens of thousands of dollars in fines they can't hope to afford just because they pushed the wrong button when they made their video? If so than you clearly don't actually care about protecting kids at all.

The COPPA rules are far too broad for the current state of digital media.
Often times content is for both Adults and children, are the current definition of what is for children is inaccurate.
For example bright colors are often used for Adults as well because you need to catch the eye of a viewer to get them to watch the video. Or often now Adults watch animation The is geared for Adults, I.E. Rick and Morty, Archer, Anime like Attack on Titan.

This current rules do not fit the current climate of digital media, and this much be changed so that we can still protect children and not destroy creators that are aimed at Adults. Please amend this rules in a mannor that will be able to protect children properly.

There are social media lawyers who have read this, and don't clearly understand which videos are targeted for kids. I am a small channel owner, but I don't think my channel is for kids, because it's dangerous by nature. I do however have a daughter, and my wife has been scared that she will lose many of the channels that, my daughter loves to watch so much. This is because of the fear that many of the channel owners are facing. If a parent allows their child on YouTube; they are consenting to youtube collecting data on their child. I have known they do that, as long as I have used YouTube. Personally; I would rather my daughter be exposed to personalized ads about playdough; instead of being exposed to random ads, that may or may not be appropriate.

This doesnt help......

if in a video for children in a few minutes some blasphemies or swear words and still for children appear? for example in a 5-minute video for children but at 2 minutes a dirty word or blasphemy appears and again for children?

First thanks for clearing up some of the confusion, but this rules are still extremely vague. Like say Disney if I make a video about a disney movie. I would like to be able to talk to people in the chat. Now I know the FTC isn’t disabling the chat I know that is on Youtube/Google. But because of a law made almost 25 years ago that the FTC is updating I can not talk about a disney movie in fear on a huge fine. Please look in to this law more and try to make it more fare. I just what to make a Disney video with out a fear of a fine.

There are a lot of animators that make adult content. If someone labels their stuff for adult. Then it is for adult and shouldn't be fine because some idiot doesn't take the time to properly understand the content.

Same goes for video games. Many video games are for a mature audience but get labeled for child because it is a video game.

This doesn’t help anyone.

I don't think it's right to fine YouTubers slot of money for not making it is content. I am trying to start my own channel and it's going to be much harder. I have a 6 year old autistic son who feels better when he watches some of his channels. I monitor his channels. I think I should be in charge, not the government.

people controlling channel(/s) do not have complete control the ads that play on their videos let alone know what ads play(they only know the categories of the ads). the platform(youtube) is collecting the data, the only difference is the channel will get a harsh fine for incorrect labeling. i understand that COPPA needs to be put in place; but the method youtube is implementing it seems self defeating and harmful to kids creators. another issue arising if for the middle ground which is something you address, but youtube does not do as a method of exploit. content creators are getting punished for youtube's wrong doing; you are allowing the perpetuation of what you're supposed to prevent by allowing another part of the consumers(content creators) to be subject to unfair treatment. sure content creators produce content to consume, but they are still consumers of the youtube service.

hello there my name is Ryan and I just want to say kid appealing is not the same as just for kids I make a lot of family friendly content that has to do with kids and adults and I don't understand what I put my content under because it's not just for kids and it's not just for adults and there's no third option on YouTube like if I make a video about Disneyland Disneyland's not just for kids it's for kids and adults so what do I put that video under this is a bad ideas you guys need to hold off until YouTube can fix it where there's a third option because this will destroy a lot of family friendly content the kid only content will leave the platform because there will be no money in it for them and there will only be adult videos on the platform which kids will still see and this is very very bad because there will not be no family friendly content cuz there's no third option Help me please

-Content creators do not collect data on children for advertising or anything else.
-YouTube has not gone the best job with ensuring that the members of their website are 13 and up
-YouTube has a child friendly app.
-The specific characteristics to determine if a video or videos are towards children or not are extremely vague and broad.
-Not every piece 9f content is for kids. This includes cartoons as well.
-Parents depend on apps to babysit their children and typically don't monitor what the children to watch.

The Six-Step Compliance Plan for Your Business says You must comply with COPPA if:

Your website or online service is directed to children under 13 and you collect personal information from them.


Your website or online service is directed to children under 13 and you let others collect personal information from them.


Your website or online service is directed to a general audience, but you have actual knowledge that you collect personal information from children under 13.


Your company runs an ad network or plug-in, for example, and you have actual knowledge that you collect personal information from users of a website or service directed to children under 13.

The COPPA laws need to be addressed before addressing the channel owners. Parents need to be more aware of the what they are doing when they buy their 6 year a cell phone or hand their phone over without enabling a kids mode. As a gaming channel geared towards 18 and up audiences and not recommend to anybody under 13, this scares me. As a parent, I am appalled that so many people let their kids watch something and then blame the creator for their own ignorance.

Do I have to make a verificable parental consent if I mark my videos on Youtube as: "made for kids", without having an external software that colects personal information of people under 13 years old?

COPPA needs to stop right now!

does fortnite count as kid content? (of course theres guns, death and stuff but it is just a video game.)

Hey FTC. Can you please make YouTube have a General Audience option in the channel settings? Because as far as I know they still haven't put one in yet.

Thanks for the update, my channel isn’t made for kids just for the real thing, my channel is for adults only

Good read! My problem is as a hunter and Fisher I may see things as being safe for children since I believe with safe practice kids can hunt and fish but some parents may see the killing of animals as not being something safe for their children to see. How do I determine what's ok and what's not.

Hello my channel is mostly focused on reviewing albums and my general audience is teens and adults and is also my target audience. I need to know where i can make sure my content is not for kids due to me swearing here and there and the context and concept of the albums i am reviewing are not safe for kids to listen too. Where do i check off my content as "not for kids"

You need to reconsider. This is going to ruin lives. A $40,000 fine PER VIDEO can gave such an impact on so many channels, especially ones I myself have grown to watch and love. You may say that there can only be two options, one for "MADE FOR KIDS" and one for "MADE FOR ADULTS" but what about content for EVERYONE? You need to recognize that if family friendly channelschannels or channels that have no choice (especially go for channels with no choice) go for the kids option, it will be like there content, their channel, their life work won't even exist. You're also quite vague with what you call "made for kids" content ... are you saying that only animation and arts/crafts are just for kids? This isn't true! Many people enjoy cartoons as well, and there's even adult animations as Family Guy, who deal with mature topics. I guess in you're eyes that's "made for kids" as well. Please, PLEASE, for the future of YouTube, you need to reconsider what you are doing. It's the patents job to decide what the kids watch, not yours. Encourage to use YouTube Kids, the app made for them specifically, instead of causing every single inspiring content creator to lose their freedom. YouTube is a site for people over 13+, it was NEVER intended for kids in the first place! I suggest that you make family friendly/kids channels upload their content exclusively for the YouTube Kds app instead of putting all this stress and nervousness onto all of us.
Please, FTC. If you're reading this ... for the future of y. Reconsider you're decision.

Why did you do this to everyone? I need a answer soon

Just get parents to make their kids watch YouTube kids

I believe that if COPPA is applied to YouTube content creators, it will cause many creators who rely on their channels to survive to create much more extreme content in order to ensure that their videos are not considered child friendly under COPPA. In turn, many of the children who are using the site without the approval of their parents will be exposed to far more graphic and vulgar content than they otherwise would, because of this shift in creator culture. For instance, the movie Deadpool is about a funny, vulgar Marvel character. Marvel movies are certainly something children are interested in, but Deadpool, while being a Marvel character and featuring other child-friendly Marvel characters, is certainly not a child-friendly movie. If you went to the movie store and picked up Deadpool for your child to watch instead of a Spiderman movie, you were probably looking into this movie at surface-level and should have thought harder about if this content is appropriate for your child.

In conclusion, I believe it should be a parent's responsibility to make sure a video on YouTube is appropriate for their child, not a responsibility for a content creator.

Creators should not be responsible for ad content when they cannot choose the content of the ads and they do not control the cookies that is done by Google and is their responsibility.......


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