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.

 
 
 

Comments

You can see examples of channels the FTC considered to be directed to children in the complaint in the YouTube case.

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.

Use ful information thanks to share info

As a creator, my biggest concern is that my content can be seen as a mix of both. I have young characters and they might appeal to children, but the content and the video itself isn’t for kids. Plus there would be lot’s of creators that want to make there videos just for an older audience, but the video and characters would appeal to children.
I propose that YouTube creators should be able to restrict there video to older audiences no matter what the content; or who the characters might be. By this I mean that if a creator makes a character or uses a character that appeals to children, and the said character is doing a children friendly activity, but the creator does not want children watching there channel. They should be allowed to state that even the one children friendly video is not directed to kids.

Sir i am from India and I want to know, are students of High school (Class 11 & Class 12 Science) Kids? I teach Chemistry subject for every one.

You not supposed to do that to youtube you don't Let what about a deal for YouTube what about you can delay the Jan 1 2020 to January 12 2023 ok we will get the money and the 45 million dollars ok promise

Doesn’t this organization realize that google and YouTube are trying to remove the responsibility that they put on there hands on to the community that that has nothing to do with their income methods and vocally protests whenever they put idiotic and anti consumer malarkey

this is very stupid and needs to stop take this down you are making a huge mistake many people's dreams will be destroyed and the suicide rate will take a massive jump.

Man calm down, dont exaggerate!

will inactive channels that haven't been used in 5+ years still be fined even if you don't have the password for the channel or even the username?

How I'm feeling about this situation is I don't know what will happen but not to jump to conclusions. If something bad may happen to one of my favorite channels I've watched over the years. I would feel betrayed after my whole experience of being entertained. Where else are we going to watch and have a good and fun time to experience? If we choose to aim it for kids, what's the point of having NO Likes, Dislikes, No Notifications and No Comments? And if we choose to aim it for adults, does every adult video have to be UNSEEN? What happened with making sure if anyone's 18 or older instead of taking it away. Just because most videos that are for everyone doesn't mean they're always just for kids only. When videos are meant to be for adults, then they are for adults. If videos are meant to be for kids, then they are for kids. And if they are for everyone, then they are for everyone. Which is why I hopefully wish luck on the creators with their efforts they have entertained for us. To create more ideas, to create more videos for the future and make it more easier for the creators to have a better career for them.

Im a creator on youtube I like to create animation memes (basically mini music videos) these include animals within it, I also like to do speedpaints, and animated storytimes they may be child attractive but my videos are directed towards teens 13 and older what should I consider my videos

Okay, this is a much better approach towards this aspect of the law, but I still believe that the fine is way too much. Many Youtubers have hundreds of videos per channel, now some YouTubers range from 14 (a year above the youtube age limit, so do not worry there) and above, those who are at a younger age (myself included) use Youtube as a way to provide entertainment, now if a 14-year-old child was fined 35,000 dollars for a mis-advertised video they would never be able to pay that off. And if you add onto every video they do plus with all the other YouTubers you may fine for miss advertising, you would break the economy and we would go into another depression. Now, FTC I understand you want to keep children safe, but look at other crimes, some are in the thousands, not the hundred thousand.

Everything else on this bill seems fairly reasonable (besides the ad revenue going down, but that could be fixed with an update to the platform and non0-targeted ads being on the children's channels). This is a much better improvement, good job staff and team that provided this!

Is Minecraft Content "Made for kids"?

YouTube will be destroyed if this continues

According to your laws, adults can't like or be entertained by anything animated, bright colors, music, etc!!! I am a 25 year old woman who LOVES the same content as you claim only children enjoy. You need to reevaluate the world.

Hi, do you realise how this will affect individuals who’s whole life’s are YouTube. I’m not talking about the top channels I’m talking about the small individual channels that work hard to provide content for everyone that are going to get hit hardest. I’m all for looking after kids but punishing the masses is not the way Togo about this

Please reconsider this rule. It takes away a parents freedom to choose how to raise their child and quite frankly seems unconstitutional. You’ll be hurting thousands of content creators, taking away their one source of income or fining them into the ground and absolutely ruining their lives. All while making YouTube an even more dangerous place for kids. Many parents are saying they would rather have an ad targeted towards their kids about a toy than just anything. Please reconsider

Why does youtuber have to pay 42k per video

This while thing has left me with a lot of anxiety, I'm someone who has abandoned accounts, those that I for the love of trying cannot get into.
All videos are uploaded before COPPA even came into law, I live in the UK do I don't even know if that helps me when it comes to the fines. I don't want to be taken to court or fined for something I can't control. YouTube has the ability to see when an account was last logged in to, there are going to be those out there who are not aware of COPPA with abandoned accounts. Please take this into consideration, instead abandoned accounts I believe that haven't been logged into for a year or more should be instead removed. Save the small YouTubers who will have nothing in ways or means of paying fines. Please consider the lives you will inevitably ruin, we aren't companies or businesses. We shouldn't be made to suffer for YouTube''s mistake. Consider delaying the Rule until a later date and everything is considered.

Then what was YouTube Kids for!?

I still think this is incredibly vague. WHAT type of animated characters are you talking about? Does anime count as animated characters? And WHAT IS THE AGE OF MODELS?!?! I hate this, I've been getting depression from this ever since.

Hello, FTC. I'm concerned about the new COPPA regulations. While I appreciate the spirit behind the idea... I don't think it's going to work out like you hope it will.

I'm a homeschool mom. I rely on YouTube A LOT for my lessons. Everything from nature videos to science experiments to history lessons. Not all of these things come from "kids channels". They come from sources that are probably best considered neutral: not designated specifically for kids, but not so edgy that they'd be considered "adult".

If these new regulations go into place, I'm going to be losing a LOT of content that I rely on to teach because these neutral sources will either leave the platform due to the loss of ad revenue, or will start getting edgier and more adult to avoid being labeled as "for kids" and will therefore no longer be suitable for my lessons.

And this isn't just me. I know many people in the homeschool community, and just in education at large, that are going to ave serious problems with losing access to their content. Not to mention, "kids videos" will no longer have the ability to be saved for future viewing or be saved to a playlist, which is a feature I rely on to set up my lesson videos in advance. I don't have time to search for the videos I need on the spot every time I need to view it. It's easier for me to search for appropriate videos at the start of the year, preview them to confirm suitability of content, select the ones that best meet my needs, and create a playlist for the whole year so that hen it comes time for lessons, I can simply click and go.

Please reconsider the application of these regulations. It is up to parents, not bureaucracies, to monitor what sort of content their children have access to. I know you can't force everyone to be responsible. But even with these regulations, you STILL can't force everyone to be responsible because kids are still going to access YouTube anyway if they have no supervision. The only difference is, there will be far less child friendly content for them to access if these restrictions go forward.

At the end of the day, we all will ultimately lose.

Thank you for your time.

Please don't do this. this will ruin YouTube for millions of people who see this as their job. You will turn this fantastic community into nothing. please stop. for the sake of millions who depend on YouTube.

But channel owners are NOT the ones collecting the data, and aside from the new "Made for Kids" or "Not made for kids" essentially telling YouTube to collect data or not collect data, content creators have no control over what data is collected or what is done with that data. YouTube and Google control that and should be held responsible for not changing their data collection policies and blocking ALL data collection from users under 13.

Putting that responsibility into the hands of content creators who have no control over the data collection and who might watch their content on a platform as large as YouTube, is unfair. Since YouTube is open to anyone, even if content is marked as "Not made for Kids" a user under the age of 13 can still watch that content, and since YouTube has done nothing to limit what it collects, their data will be collected BY YOUTUBE. Again, the content creator has no control over this data collection.

The black and white definition of what is considered "Made for Children" and Not made for children" is far too broad, and still does nothing to protect the collection of data from children 13 and under as defined by COPPA. This policy does not block children from watching content marked as not made for kids, in which their data will still be collected, so how does this protect them at all.

Instead, YouTube needs to change it's data collection policies. If a user is under the age of 13, YouTube needs to turn off ALL data collection based on their age. This would be the simplest way to comply with COPPA.

At the very least, since even knowing that a user is under the age of 13 needs that data to be collected, COPPA should allow for a popup to appear asking for age verification. That one piece of data is stored as a cookie, so that it doesn't need to be verified every time, and if the age chosen is under 13, YouTube must turns off ALL data collection from that user.

Putting the responsibility of COPPA compliance onto Content Creators who are not the ones collecting this data, using this data, or violating data collection policies, is, simply put, WRONG. The FTC allowing YouTube to not change their data collection policies, which were in direct violation of COPPA, but instead pass that blame onto their Content Creators will not be accepted.

This makes me feel a little better, thank you for clarifying some vague details from before.

Also, I will say cool and whatever, whenever I want to, youtube has been going on for a long time so why take the creativity away from all of us darnit!!!!!!!

Hey uh, i kinda don't understand this.. What should i do that my channel doesn't get attacked by COPPA?

Please enforce it on youtube that they make a "general audiance" tap. Clearly the FTC are not after creators who do mixed audiance videos and yet youtube has failed to inform us about it. So please enforce this on youtube.

Thank you

The only problem here is , people have inactive channels, most of them are lost and probably have content, who knows how many other videos won't be changed , and how are you capable of getting the account back, before getting a fine?

Why is COPPA happening because their is a YouTube called YouTube kids so please stop kids can go on YouTube kids and the teens can go on YouTube so please stop COPPA please.....................

What if theres a youtube under 18?
You cant fine under 18s and they probably have no clue what COPPA is.
Thats why I think COPPA should not fine youtubers for that

Keep up the good work FTC. The people complaining about this likely have not seen the disturbing child-directed content this rule is targeting. If everyone knew about the content that has been allowed to exist on YouTube they would gladly suffer a small restriction in their own content creation.

SMALL restriction that if you do the violation gets 35000 dollars in debt. No, nothing wrong with that.

The thing is, this rule was incredibly vague when it first came out, hencing the outburst. The huge list of items that you could get fined for because it's child friendly.

Please, do not allow this rule to continue unchecked. The requirements are extremely vague and parents should be paying attention to what their children are watching online! Parents must parent themselves! That famous phrase "it takes a village to raise a child" should not be a thing.

will posting a video saying that my content is not targeted for kids under the age of 13 help with my channel help when i make it.

Please some of us who suffer anxiety and panic attacks depend on these YouTube channels as a way to cope with anxiety. And now we have to worry about you taking them away. These YouTube creators are real people and depend on these channels you make there living ! Please don’t do this

Good Afternoon,
This is a very vague law I'm very hard for creators and other websites to understand. I would have the site creator have a rating system like the movies. On some websites like YouTube you need a general audience option as well as 14+, 18+ and under 12. This would be way easier for people a to understand and be to still be able to put out videos and comply with the law at the same time.
Thank you

This will affect countless hard-working independent creators on YouTube, children should be very well the responsibility of the parents as the site's terms themselves state that it requires a user to be 13 and older to even create an account. All this is doing is affecting the livelihood of innocent content producers.

What do I do if my videos are for ALL ages?

Thanks for the clarification. It seems my content is safe.

Unclear criteria and broad brush categorization is not helpful. Animation software content provider confused how to comply. We make 3d content for expensive professional animation software and use youtube to demonstrate methods and created animation art and the content is not directed at children, however it will be appealing to some children. It seems unfair that our publications reach and feedback be inhibited with the COPPA restrictions.

This rule is too broad and doesn’t take the complexities of the real world into consideration. There is a lot of content created now a days that is meant for both children and adults, or includes something like toys, but is aimed at an adult audience. The FTC has to do a better job. Until it can, they should keep out of regulating content. Leave content meant for the ENTIRE family alone.

I already know that I'm no big shot and a single person's words rarely get heard but seriously why is this so vague and it's not the content creators fault for what adds show up except for a box that just like this bill vaguely has any options you literally have to say your 13 and up to even make a account why not just make youtube change their website so you have to have a acount to even get on the website that should fix this whole problem. Slapping a 42 k fine on a content creator will do nothing but cause drama and not only hurt the creator but the FTC reputation aswell this whole mess was made by youtube so let the company fix their problem instead of trying to scare every content creator to conform to this vague list there should not even be a for kids option on youtube, 13 and up only, they caused this let them pay for it not every little acount.

Hello! I am a bit confused here. As EVERYTHING ‘appeals’ to children. All videos. TV shows and commercials too. Walk inside the grocery store and see how-everything appeals to kids there... So let me understand this, YouTube messed up, agreed to pay a fine, but it’s now being taken out on us? We have NO control on how data was collected. We can’t control parents. It’s not our jobs. Look just scratch the entire darn platform. I’m over it!

Still TOO vague. My channel includes animation, is harmless to children (I know it's not the moral matter of the content that counts) and my goal is target anyone who is old enough to learn languages and I explain things in detailed, but comprehensive ways toddlers simply cannot grasp. As a matter of fact, not even adults understand clearly what many grammar aspects I explain means. My current age report is "55-65" meaning that my current audience is 100% 55-65 which by the way coincides with my face-to-face students' ages who need to learn in order to travel and visit relatives. I use animations because I can represent anything I want through them, unlike what my plain face in front of a camera would. I and many other creators are ruled by fear right now and I would like my channel to be MANUALLY reviewed by the FTC by someone who clearly understands Portuguese because now I and many others cannot fully trust YouTube's binary options offered without considering that kids watch "adult" content such as vehicle reviews, engineering, science, education, music, movie and movie-related content etc. The upcoming sweep is completely up to internal interpretations, so no creator will be really able to ensure they don't mean to help YouTube collect children information illegally. Is commenting, liking, sharing a video considered "child activity"? I am not against COPPA, but it requires human eyes in every video published and a report so that we have time to adjust the channel (or delete it) before we are charged a potential fine for money we don't even make. It may take several years for a creator to actually start seeing monthly cents in the AdSense, it does not happen overnight and it is YouTube who decides monetization rules, not creators.
I hope we all have a safe environment both for children and creators. I am sure most of us mean no evil at all. I will keep my channel set as "for kids" even knowing my current audience is 55-65 years old and that I create content for teenagers and adults to understand. Grammar definitely does not "appeal to children" in most cases, but I am now forced to believe it does through YouTube's binary options given. We need channel guidance from by FTC and time to remove our content from YouTube before being charged a thing. Moreover, my channel aims chiefly Portuguese speakers,

Please make the subject explicitly clear because there are people over the age of 13 that are interested in Subject matters that kids like. For example, Video Games are by not only kids but adults as well so you got to make the rules clear so people can understand. Another example is light color, adult like it is that it is generally appealing to eyes and can really get people attention not just kids. Youtube has a general term of incompetence when it come to terms and service and will use bots that are highly infamous for working and generally tend to make the same mistakes over and over when people saying otherwise. Also please change the amount of the fine because 99.9% of content creators can not pay that amount. I’m currently a beginning content creator and these rules will probably kill any chance that other small and upcoming content creators may have. So I humbly ask you can you please make the rules explicitly clear so we can be able to act accordingly.

This rule is taking away the funding for some of my favorite YouTubers, they will not be able to fund new videos and they will not be able to support themselves. It will negatively affect them as individuals, content creators, and us as viewers.

There still needs to be clarification. A few topics that need to be clarified.

Sports: on the original release taking about COPPA it listed sports as "kids content". How? Sports are made for everyone, a youtube channel taking about professional sports shouldn't be considered as "made for kids". I could understand if it was a peewee team or midget hockey, leagues that are U14 but not NBA, NHL, MLB, NFL, MLS, or any sport that has players over the age of 14.

Video games: this is probably the biggest topic to be talking about. What video games are co sided made for kids? How do we now which games are made for kids? Is it the rating on the game? But then what if a game is rated E? Then that means it's for everyone, and so should not fall under "made for kids". If it's the subject matter then what about video games about superheroes? You could argue that a game like that is made for kids, may even have an E rating, but contains violence, the most non-kid friendly content out there next to sexual themes. Then what about a game like minecraft? It's made for everyone and people of all ages play the game, and enjoy watching videos about it. This needs to be incredibly more transparent.

And what about pop culture? What of pop culture is considered made for kids? Star wars? Contains violence. Marvel/DC? Again contains violence, and mature themes. What about rick and Morty? Its animation but is definitely not made for kids. Simpson? And what about lego? If someone is doing a custom build on historic buildings, or buildings from pop culture? What about vehicles or characters from pop culture? What about lego architecture? The list goes on and on.

As for the comments section, you need to create an account which states that you must be either over 13, or at least 16 years of age (forgive me I dont recall the exact wording), for precisely the reason to follow COPPA. If a child lies about their age, it isnt the content creators fault, its either the fault of youtube for not screening, or it's the fault of the parents for not parenting.

Let me ask you this, if a child walks into a movie that's rated 14A, and the child is 13 or below. Os it the directors fault ( on this case the content creator)? Is it the cinemas fault ? ( or in this case youtube) is it the fault of the parent? Undoubtedly it's the parents fault.

Why will you fine content creators who do not collect data on children, when it is youtube that does that. Owning a channel does not equate to a website or web service. It's more akin to to a producer, and director of a movie. YouTube is the cinema, that makes money off of the work of others, and in turn the movies make money off the cinema. The FTC should go after youtube, not individual content creators, again individual content creators are not collecting data from kids, the youtube is.

I worry that the crochet , sewing, homesteading, gardening videos I watch daily will be affected by this. These channels teach different things that could appeal to children, but are not made for children. I started crocheting and sewing at 9 years old, so I could see that would appeal to some. I don't find these videos harmful to children at all. It's teaching a skill that is useful. To put the pressure on content makers instead of the parents is not right in my eyes. Parents need to be held responsible for what their children watch. As a parent I didn't let my children watch certain TV shows, and none were allowed a phone until 16 years of age. None had access to a computer except at school. Which made it hard when teachers gave homework that involved using the computer. I controlled which movies they saw and so on. Content makers are not here to make sure your child doesn't watch their videos, that is the parents job. So to fine the content makers is wrong on so many levels. There needs to be a box for content makers to check that this video is geared towards adults. To much left in the unknown area.

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