YouTube channel owners: Is your content directed to children?

Share This Page

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

This whole thing is absolutely absurd !

Imagine this. You pay your bills by entertaining an audience that is primarily between the ages of 17-24 years old and those thousands of people enjoy your videos, but suddenly you are unable to support yourself or your family because a group of people who know nothing about a platform’s community decide that they believe you are targeting kids by using the word “cool”. Now think about how terrible that would be, and then think about all of the livelihoods you are about to ruin with this terrible legislation. Honestly can’t you maybe just think to hold parents accountable for their poor parenting when Youtube Kids, a platform that exists to protect children, already exists. This is just another example of the incredible disconnection that the FTC suffers from. Everyone behind this should be truly ashamed of themselves.

Although this is a step In the right direction these updated stipulations are still to vague. Can you explain why the responsibility falls on the content creators rather than on YouTube and the parents? After all YouTube allowed for the data collection of minors and the parents are the ones responsible for this minors.

I made video for kid

How can i change my age restriction, my vedio its not made for kids?

Why would the people who lie to YouTube about the viewer being over 13 have any right to complain when YouTube gathers info on the viewer? They entered into a contract with YT and then violated it. It isn’t the videomaker’s fault that the viewer lied. This is sensoring of the arts and is wrong!

Hello FTC.

Please clearly specify what do you mean by child-oriented activities and incentives. You need to provide specific list. Otherwise the wordings of the rule is too broad.

Also please consult YouTube, YouTube creators, parents and YouTube viewers before finalising the ruling. Ruling also should evolve for the best interest of the general public as technology evolves. I hope FTC will kindly understand the modern need of participation of all above parties to make effective ruling.

Also please extend the comment deadline to 01 January 2020.

I believe you should reconsider the coppa guidelines and wait until they are updated

you are ruining my animated dreams for my fellow teens

You guys are taking it WAY too far. Like sucject doesn't matter that much for a story that was slightly changed to make it more family friendly. This law is just really dumb and too strict. I don't even know if i shoukd take you guys seriously at this point. Like you want to shutdowns some good youtubers? Like.. Why.. ?

The way things are classified do not appropriately reflect the reality about the type of content that is available. For example, I have had a channel for the last 10 years teaching adults how to make children's toys using dangerous tools and chemicals that would require direct parental supervision to produce said items. To the naked eye, it would appear that the content is directed towards children since the end result is a toy, but the techniques and tools that are required and discussed are more directed towards an adult with an interest in acquiring the skills necessary to produce one-of-a-kind toys. Your classification system makes it extremely difficult for someone like myself to remain compliant without raising flags. I do believe that before any enforcement is practiced that work needs to be done by the FTC to remedy the predicament they have created. The best way to address this issue would be to eliminate the amendment to the original statute.

How does FTC rules comply to other countries, America law does not stand as law in other countries.

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. 

How exactly is it our problem to watch over the younger audience? Shouldn't this be the parents job to monitor what their kids are watching?

Why is it a content creators problem to worry about the age of the viewers watching? Shouldn't it be the parents monitoring their kids activities on the internet? Also, why not just make a parental controls feature like other major companies (ex. Nintendo) instead of forcing content creators to either leave or change their content.

Hello there!! I need some help, so I make drawings on YouTube that do have some bright colors but I tend to use: Bad words, Things directed twords young teens and adults and Gore in my drawings.

I much rather have all ages to watch my videos because I don't think kids would be so interested in my art skills. If you need references tell me and I'll post it on YouTube and end you the link!

If you want to talk to me, please do it would help a lot! ^^

Thank you!

I'm a little confused on what the statement in the section: WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE PENALTIES FOR VIOLATING COPPA? They mention penalties for companies, but they don't use content creators. Does this mean that the FTC doesn't fine the creator? They just fine YouTube or Google? Some clarity would help on that as many creators would not be able to handle a $42,530 fine for each violation. Another topic I would like to bring us is how much better and clearer this information is to us than in the September 4th press conference. We thank you for hearing our frustration and for clarifying things for us.

There are so, so many craft channels on YouTube that are absolutely not child directed, yet reading this it seems that they would be covered by COPPA simply because they are a craft channel and children like crafts. These are people who either supplement their income with YouTube or YouTube is, in fact, their job. It just seems wrong to punish someone for doing a job because someone else didn't do theirs. I sincerely hope that the FTC reviews the extremely vague wording of COPPA and that an outcome may be achieved that is beneficial to everyone.

These new terms for YouTube are very vague and have little detail over or about them. This is going to affect YouTubers greatly and everyone who has and has been working hard on there channels just to entertain people or make them laugh, why take all that hard work that everyone has worked so hard on. From the stuff thats going on in YouTube now some youtbers who have been on youtube for a long time have actually quit youtube. This is taking peoples jobs away, their one job that they probably actually enjoy! Im saying this as i am some what of a youtuber myself and wish to not ne scared all the time that i may get in trouble by this whole thing and get my channel from what ive been told deleted or something like that(or be fined 42k). Let it be known that i do not hate the people that are doing this and making the whole thing, in fact i respect the reason on why this was a thing that happened. But know that this does not just affect the kids and children but this affects everyone who uses YouTube, youtubers and non-youtubers(video watchers). So please dont let this happen this is going to ruin so many people!

Don't do this to us...

you are literally ruining youtube for the people who use it as a source of income

There needs to be a clearer distinction between content creators and YouTube. For example, would it be a violation on the creator if YouTube collects data on viewers of a channel, while the creator doesn't collect data? Also, what type/level of data collection constitutes a violation. For example, would it be a violation to collect the age of the viewers of a channel and nothing else?

The Six-Step Compliance Plan for Your Business has information for you. It says that COPPA applies to operators of websites and online services that collect personal information from kids under 13.

Here’s a more specific way of determining if COPPA applies to you.  You must comply with COPPA if: Your website or online service is directed to children under 13 and you collect personal information from them.

OR

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

OR

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.

OR

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.

Until you guys give more clarity on how or what you will use to judge if content is made for kids, made for general audiences or not made for kids, this does nothing to alleviate people’s concerns. Why this wasn’t all clearly hashed out between yourselves and YouTube before you started threatening to come after individual content creators on YouTube with $42k fines is beyond me and imo shows a real level of irresponsibility on both YouTube and the FTC’s part.

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.

I'm Kinda Confused Cause Childrens pass time Can sometimes appeal to Everyone unless it is really targeted to kids.

Why are the content creators being held accountable for YouTube’s actions? Content creators neither collect the data of user, nor do they have access to that information. YouTube is at fault, YouTube should be punished. This is a flawed and unjust act.

Please, reconsider this decision and clarify the language in the ruling.

As an adult woman (60 years old) living in a major metropolitan area, I enjoy watching YouTube videos that are related to crafting, art, painting, mixed media, knitting, crocheting, bookmaking and paper crafts, as well as those that are nature driven such as eagle cams, bird cams, bear cams, etc., and I also enjoy a variety of cooking channels, along with those that may cover history etc. And there are many more that cross my feed that I consider educational and that allow me to explore different things I may not have been exposed to before. While there is much on YouTube that I am not interested in seeing and that I personally find offensive, I do have the ability to block them and not see videos from those channels anymore.

A major part of my enjoyment of the videos I do watch is reading and/or making comments, which, along with the videos themselves, I consider “continuing education“. And it’s free!

This ruling will seriously impact art, crafting, and cooking channels, as while their content might “appeal” to children, it is not necessarily “directed” towards children. Not allowing comments to be entered or allowing videos to be shared will have a major impact on me, personally, but also a major portion of the population, as well as the content creators themselves. I, and I’m sure millions of others, view much on YouTube as “continuing education“ and enjoy reading other peoples comments or sharing videos with family and friends who are interested in the same subjects.

“Continuing education“ is a very important thing for everyone to pursue. It can also be considered “personal enrichment”. By watching the crafting and art videos I do watch, I am able to explore new avenues of interest, and by watching cooking videos, I am able to learn new methods, techniques, recipes, etc. Those channels absolutely require the ability to enter comments because they allow the community at large to learn from other people, and gives feedback to the creators for their future work.

While the law is appropriate in many ways, there needs to be clarification in how it is applied. Parents should be parents and should be responsible for what they allow their children to view. The law does fail in that it puts the burden on those who have no control over who watches their content.

Another factor that should be taken into consideration is that many YouTube channels offer information or education which may not be physically available through classes or opportunities in viewers communities. I, for one, could never learn all of the things I do via YouTube where I live, and I physically wouldn’t have the time or money to pursue all the things I do on YouTube even if they were available in my community. Also, it’s free! Times for many are hard enough, and having the ability to watch videos of interest enables me to expand my horizons — and the only investment I have to make is my time.

Please, take my thoughts into consideration. I personally have been driven away from Facebook because of the content they allow, as well as the advertisements they accept. While much on YouTube should be “policed”, channels in the categories I have mentioned should not be subject to this ruling. The long-term effect will be that they just disappear, and that means opportunities for further education or personal enrichment will be eliminated, and those content creators could lose a significant portion of their income.

Also, please note that many content creators in the categories I have mentioned are handicapped or disabled, and this decision would particularly affect them financially.

Thank you for your time.

dear FTC,

with the new COPPA rules i dont think you will protect kids but just harm them because you will get 90% less money if you make kids content.
that would mean that there will be less child friendly content beacause there is less motivation.
this would mean that kids are forced to watch more mature content.

i hope you will take this fact in consideration.

Oh yeah, yall definitely getting unfunded next elections

I am asking the FTC to reconsider the burden of the possible 42k fine on creators. Bigger creators who have large audience's and are verified, monetized and part of a YouTube partner programme have more of a means to pay possible fines and even they would struggle.
You are potentially going to put hundreds of thousands of people into serious debt, having to claim bankruptcy, risking people becoming homeless and their families disowning them, you won't be able to collect money from those who don't have it. Especially for those who have abandoned accounts that are now inaccessible, did you know that places like Hotmail delete email accounts if not logged in to after a year? It makes old accounts inaccessible and therefore leaving a lot of people unable to comply. Please reconsider this, instead work with YouTube directly to find accounts that are active and current, they have access to that information. YouTube needs to consider deleting old and abandoned content instead.
The creators are not the bad guy here. Please reconsider.

This is such foolishness I'll be very hurtful to all viewer's who loves everyone channel

This is a gray area that is trying to be shifted into black and white. I understand that the privacy of children is extremely important, but how is this not covered in the terms and conditions of YouTube? Why are you fining content creators? Why are companies of any kind allowed to market to children at all? Reading through this, it seems remarkably easy that a lot of creators will get undeserving fines for no reason. How will you avoid this? Manually reviewing every video on YouTube isn't plausible due to the staggering amount of content. Using an algorithm rarely works wells. This just seems like a mess. Change my mind?

I'm a junk journal crafter... watching you tube videos from my favorite crafters and crafting along with them relaxes me and helps with my anxiety. If and when this law passes, it will not stop children from viewing what they ... they will find a way. Parents are the only ones who can monitor what their children are watching.

Will inactive channels get affected by the Coppa law? I have an old youtube channel that has been inactive for almost 9 years and I don't remember email/password for that channel. I don't want to get fined just because I couldn't login to that channel and delete all my videos. This is really scary.

Considering contacting YouTube to have your password reset.

Why are you placing the burden on content creators alone? Where has advertisers responsibility gone? Where has parent responsibility gone? Why not a rating system, similar to the movie industry? What is about to be implemented by the FTC & YT is very unfair to creators & dangerous to freedom!

Ever hear of My Space? That's where YouTube will go if this law is enacted. It seems to me that parents are becoming more lazy when monitoring their children and expecting others to do it for them.

So sad. I've learned so much from You Tube tutorials. Please make this new law clearer to the craft channels so they can continue with their work. I strongly believe this restriction should begin with the parent but understand they can't be watched 24/7. So make channels 18 and up & if the parent alows the child to watch then it's on them. Please reevaluate this decision.

This is just gonna cause YouTube to shut down! Thanks COPPA and FTC. -_-

There are a lot of us out here who depend on YouTube for information on just about any subject you can think of. There are also others who view YouTube as a source of comfort and companionship due to long term illness or disabilities. I ask you to please look at this law and realize that the wording is far too vague that is forcing many YouTube channels to remove content and even to remove their channels completely. This is not a win, it is a huge loss for millions of people. Please re examine the guidelines before this becomes irreversible.

That was a good joke, guys. Right?

Right now, I am just a viewer of YouTube Channels, but want to start making videos. As content creators, we also have rights! What ever happened to holding parents responsible for their kids?! If a parent can not control what a child watches or does, what makes anyone think that some “law” is going to stop a kid? For decades, kids have lied about their age, for many reasons! Why would you think they will stop, now? It is NOT anyone, but the parents, responsibility to protect their children! Parents have gotten lazy and don’t want to parent their children anymore! They let their kids watch and do whatever they want so they don’t have to deal with their own kids! It has become a very sad, sad world! Start holding these parents responsible!

We as "creators" have no control over what ads appear on our channels just as we have no way of collecting data on anyone, let alone children. Where is the other category You Tube should have called "General Audience"? Why is it the "creators" are responsible when we do not OWN You Tube? Why can't the rules be more clear, precise and accurate? Why can't You Tube be like your on line Bank....you need a password every time to sign in and see content, and you must check a box that says 18 and older. Then the responsibility falls on the parents and not the "creators" There is after all You Tube Kids. So many questions and not enough answers....please help.

I Can make Channel For Adult But Is Animation Channel

The general requirements of "a kid/child oriented channel" are vague, and unrefined, this, is something that I have noticed other comments speak of, and I agree that it does need more of a defined meaning, but I'm honestly more worried about what the creators of such content, that was not intended to be child oriented, but was considered to be, channels like Rice gum, dispite the channels theme, of rap and amount of swearing, it is still shown to have a child audience. Or channels like Drama alert, a channel that covers conflicts between adults over the web, specifically content creators (or influencers whichever is preferred) , still has a child audience, dispite that, it is still as self-described a source for news on the social interactions in online entertainment. Would these channels, despite their intentions and descriptions, with their audience, that they have, intended or otherwise, be considered a child/kid oriented channel? Perhaps not, however there is a group of creators that, while already having difficulties with the algorithms in platforms like YouTube (that promote quantity, over quality), are going to have even more issues with this, animators, one example of a creator that actually posted a video about this subject semi-recently: TerminalMontage, the channel describes itself as, on YouTube, simply the home of an animated parody series, which while being both vague and accurate, couldn't directly be associated with kids, beyond the word, animation. I would actually recommend the video if you don't understand anything the FTC has said about this topic, it is titled "Something about COPPA (13+ Content)." Which to me, is poking mild fun at the ideas COPPA has presented, which is all well and good if it isn't taken serious.
However to anyone that bothered to read this, whether thay be a creator themselves, a nobody like myself, or an official FTC member, I thank you for bothering to listen to the people that have concerns about, whatever it is the government is doing these days, whether public or in secret.

The author of this comment does not endorse the Drama Alert, Rice gum or TerminalMontage channels, or any channels run by individuals that are commonly associated with those channels.

If I may, this changes will harm in a giant manner the likes of YouTube. A lot of people live from uploading videos and the new restrictions are completely unnecessary. "Bright and vibrant colors," seriously? How many adult cartoons/video games contain these, the same goes for pets and children, how many movies do they appear in where it's not appropriate for children and labeled as such. Aside, I know there are a lot of children that watch videos and you want to protect them, but the big majority of people are over 18 years old, and children less than 13 years old do not compose even the 10% of the people who watch this. Restrictions like video games and sports are ridiculous, specially since it's most adults that watch them, not kids. I please ask you to reconsider this, a lot of people will be harmed from this and it will be even worst for children, since dedicated videos for children will lose a LOT of potential quality videos for them. Thank you if you decide to read this, and reconsider the situation.

The real queston is...Will we also be affected in Europe by COPPA? Please let us know as soon as possible

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

Please don't touch the internet ever again. Blame the parents and not the creators on the internet for what they're doing to their child. Here in Asia, we think your laws are completely stupid and unnecessary.

Pages

Add new comment

Comment Policy

Privacy Act Statement

It is your choice whether to submit a comment. If you do, you must create a user name, or we will not post your comment. The Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes this information collection for purposes of managing online comments. Comments and user names are part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public records system (PDF), and user names also are part of the FTC’s computer user records system (PDF). We may routinely use these records as described in the FTC’s Privacy Act system notices. For more information on how the FTC handles information that we collect, please read our privacy policy.