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

Do you know that youtube kids exist in the world.

My YouTube videos made for Adults! Not kids.

You don't know what you are doing to us if you pit the
COPPA rules and FTC we can't do any videos at all
Your going to ruin our internet culture please don't do this! You don't understand what will happen if you add those rules on youtube

Why are you doing this?You will destroy people's job.YouTube will be DONE.Don't you understand that you don't do anything except making it worse?It's not YouTube's fault,it's the parent's fault!THEY bought their children's phones,not YouTube.they aloud their children to do whatever they want! and you destroy YouTube. YouTube did nothing and you still destroy it till there is nothing left.You just want it all destroyed till there is no hope

Why boomers controls this please stop don't do it I want you keep Youtube normal

But what if our channel is "family friendly" YouTube either has options "for kids" Or "not for kids. " There is no "for all ages" Option.

If we just change this up a little bit, this would actually do very good. At its current state, however, this could backfire hard. If we want to keep kids content going, we need to give content creators revenue. Otherwise, they won't be able to make money, and will either shut down or start making more mature content. Kids will most certainly keep watching this, with won't be a win for either side.

How is it governments job to regulate what our children watch and consume on the internet? That should fall under the parents jurisdiction.

I believe a specific age range would help a lot here. I looked through the legal links provided and it seems all examples used were for ages 3-7, so a age range would be quite helpful in making this easier to understand.

(not legal advice so don't quote me on this I'm just a normal dude this is not legal advice) It seems to be if It could air on nick jr or playhouse disney. it's probably coverd by COPPA.

good thing i don't plan to make that type of content.

Can Age Of 13 Or Above Can Run YouTube channels?? Pls confirm

YouTube has so many people making videos for a living. Does taking away innocent people's jobs sound okay to you? These innocent people will go into debt because of this. This is not okay.

As much as this tries to clear things up. It is still very vague. What about toy reviews that are aimed at an adult or older audience. These videos aren't or rather, the products/toys in the videos are not aimed at children, nor would children buy them. They even say on the box these products aren't for children ages 15 and under. Also for cartoons, what about anime? Anime isn't always aimed at children.

YouTube has so many people making videos for a living. Does taking away innocent people's jobs sound okay to you? These innocent people will go into debt because of this. This is not okay.

The language that defines content that falls under "Child Friendly" is far from specific enough and gives a massive grey area to whether a video is friendly or not, depending on the content. Lawmakers need to research the current state of social media and YouTube's platform to better understand how the current language of the law is causing mass panic and is not properly applying to the creators on the platform. Also, YouTube's "Terms of Service" does not allow anyone under the age of 13 to sign-up for the site, so how does this law apply to the individual creators in the first place?

Why is this being done like this, surely there are channels who abuse of their audience demographic but some who are just trying to make a living, this should be put upon the parents not you. Take out COPPA otherwise the consequences will show up

What if a kid is a youtuber and their content is not directed to children

Please Consider to change these rules as most of the youtubers make a living on this youtube platform only. And mention exactly what type of videos will come under made for kids category.

I don’t think the FTC knows that YouTube was never meant for kids because if you go App Store or google play, you’ll see it’s not meant for kids. There’s a thing called YouTube kids, a YouTube for kids. And it’s not YouTube’s fault that they are watching this stuff, it’s the parents fault because they should pay better attention to their children. So this coppa thing is really stupid and it cannot pass. This will wipe out 90% percent of content creators on YouTube. FTC, if you’re reading this, please get rid of this, it’s stupid!

"Appealing to children" could literally mean anything, Also I see no reason why YouTube can't just keep the site age restricted for Children of or below a certain age, it seems harsh punishing of age content creators for violations others have enacted. Please keep family friendly platforms like YouTube Kids as an alternative to punishing millions of YouTube content creators as this decision will also massively devastate YouTubes ability to profit and gain revenue from a slew of demographics above the age of 18.

YouTube videos express the ideas of the content creator. The vague language of COPPA doesn't fully explain what opinions and ideas are kid friendly. There is always a gray line in video content that one can't fully categorize. For example the satirazation of kids movies, adults playing games popular with every age, etc. The $42,530 per video fine will affect many creators that don't have a clear understanding what "child-directed content" is specifically. YouTube is where people go to show off ideas and that might be restricted due to the vagueness of COPPA.

So say one day you got bored and made a video that was targeting more towards 13+ but YouTube says it’s for children and you got fined the $42,530 but the video has really Mature content like Gore and Realistic violence. What if the game you upload of you playing is really not for kids. But you still might get fined? Do you see the problem? what if you don’t have the money? There won’t be any content for anyone to enjoy! It’s not YouTube’s fault for parents not monitoring what their kids watch! I read an article about a girl watching a dude kill himself on YT kids. Why are you focusing only on YouTube? What about disturbing content on YouTube kids?

If your videos are made for kids, transfer it to YouTube kids. If your videos are for teens/adults, no changes are to be added.

Hi, I have a child, he is ten years old, he use YouTube all the time, specially to study for the school, And as a mother I think that the full responsability of what my child do or doesn't do through Internet and specially on YouTube is mine. If parents can not to control their children that is not the creators or YouTube responsability.
The access to information shouldn't be regulated in any way.
YouTube already uses algoritms to target adds, they can use this algoritm to determine what the sponsors do, and not put adds not for children on children videos, and can prevent the recolection of information in those channels, but shouldn't stop a child to ask a teacher through the plataforms for information about a subject he or she is studying, or connect with others or create a comunity through the plataform.
This law should be canceled and teach the parents to be responsibles for their children.

Sure, there is reason to see that children’s privacy needs to be protected. But, just like everything else, YouTube is just like another job. You have to work hard for views, to get monetized by ads. To support family and friends. Bigger Youtubers can hold off due having a lot of money, because of popularity. But Smaller Youtubers, who are probably starting to rely on YouTube money, won’t be able to hold out for long. YouTube already has demonetization laws too. YouTube for kids also exist. If this law was enforced then it would possibly be the end of Youtube, where children directed channels escape to another video network. Then, all that’s left are videos for 13+ , which kids would be possibly attracted to. Then they comment on the video, and the whole thing starts all over again. The plan, if this what is going to happen, is useless. FTC, drop the act and step down. You are clearly making things worse then better.

This will likely kill off YouTube and all of its content creators. Many of the terms here are not defined very well, giving too much power to the FTC with COPPA. You cant say you'll fairly judge videos with rules like this. Parents are responsible for their children, and if they don't like whats being done, MAKE THEM AWARE and have the parents dead with it instead of destroying a site that everyone, including adults, uses. I won't dumb this down - a lot of people rely on YouTube for money so they can keep doing what they love and keep people happy, but with YouTube taking away ads anywhere they can its been hard. Add this to it, and its near-impossible for anyone to do anything on this site without punishment, either by making no money and less people seeing their videos, or by getting fined up to $42,000. Please, rewrite your terms until people are at least not rioting over it, because you will kill off YouTube. What then? What would have been the point if everyone just ends up abandoning the site? People cant afford $42K PER. VIDEO.

This is especially a big, BIG problem if this rule applies to videos uploaded before the rules are set onto the site. People can't go back and edit their 500+ videos, they wont have the time to do that. Look at how many videos someone like PewDiePie has.

Hello!
I wanted to ask a few questions as well as state some reasons why I think changes should be made to the COPPA law.

Reasons why COPPA should be changed:
1) "the use of animated characters or child-oriented activities and incentives" / "the subject matter" / "visual content"
These guidelines are problematic because cartoons/animations, even like "Spongebob Squarepants" which was meant for children audiences, appeals both to the adults and the kids. Also, channels like "TheOdd1sOut", "Jaiden Animations", "sWooZie" and many others make animated videos, but their content is not intended for children! Another problem is that is similar is video games. Video games appeal to children, especially rated E games. But they again appeal both to children and adults and people like "CallMeCarson" or "PewDiePie" make content that is obviously not made for kids, even though they play rated E games!
2) "Language or other characteristics of the site". This whole guideline is a problem! First: there is no language appealing only to children unless you mean that the language is too simple. Also, I can't think of a single characteristic that only appeals to children.
3) 90% of parents would rather for data to be collected about their children that are under the age of thirteen than for all the content that is for kids to disappear off of YouTube!
4) There will NEVER be content that kids aren't interested in! There will never be content that doesn't appeal to children in any way!

Questions:
1)If the video is not child appealing in any way (even swearing/edgy jokes are in the video), but the visual content is a rated E video game, should that video be marked as for kids?
2) Does putting something like [NOT FOR KIDS UNDER 13] in the video thumbnail, title, intro, tags and description of the video, as well as the channel tags, let you mark the video as for adults if the video is definitely not intended for children?
3) Does calling your audience something like "The 9-year-olds" as a joke like "PewDiePie" does count as "competent and reliable empirical evidence about the age of the audience."?

What if the creators simply don’t have the money to pay the fine for a violation?

The ruling is vague and needs clear cut information for content creators. Parents need to monitor what children are doing on the internet. It is not clear who decides what content may or may not be appropriate for children.

This is crazy. Don't make content creators suffer. Parents can deal with what their kids watch. I mean there is a youtube kids for a reason. Besides youtube is only for people 13+ and it's up to the parents to decide if they want their kid on a 13+ platform. For some content creators, YouTube is a big part of their income. So not only will this impact people who watch YouTube videos, this will impact people who create content. Please consider this.

Alright get rid of COPPA please k thanks

please can you stop this because creators like me will be destroyed about these decisions

So swearing and nudity will get the point across if i label my content as teens?

Adding violence, blood, swearing, nudity or other elements to content will not necessarily mean that the content is not child-directed. As described in the blog, the FTC will consider the factors set forth in the Rule to determine whether content is directed to children.

Ok so if you are uplodeing minecraft or other games dise it mean that you will be coverd i am getting scared not knowing

Stop, why you ask? CAUSE JUST PUT IT ON GOOGLE CONTENT CREATORS CAN’T AFFORD A BIG FINE SO JUST STOOOOP!!!!!!!!!!!!

I agree protecting children is important, but this law is vague and extreme. Parents are seemingly being taken out of the responsibility and accountability loop when it comes to monitoring their children and what they watch. Ultimately, the parent is responsible. Maybe parents should be fined instead of content creators.

This really needs more clarification For example I run a small channel showing what myself and my daughter do The intended audience is not children Its aimed at everyone We are a family channel Where is the middle ground here When I started this channel I didnt even give a thought to the age of the audience as YouTube is for over 13 year olds Having said that I am aware under 13s watch YouTube with there parents consent
My channel is not as black and white as over or under 13 Also on the parenting side I would rather my daughter watch appropriate ads aimed at her rather than inappropriate ads that are not child friendly Also I worry that some creators will turn to more of an adult theme and use more bad language which my daughter may come across because of these new rules Coppa is meant to protect children NOT put them at risk Also these new rules takes the consent of parents away What right does the US government have to take away my parenting choices in the UK I personally feel these new rules shows how the US government is over stepping there boundaries Both for creators and parents

Well there goes my animation career on YouTube.

I am glad that the FTC is undergoing the procress of re-evaluating the action against YouTube and Google. Creators should not have their videos labeled as "child-directed" without their consent, and parents have different opinions on what is appropriate for their children.

Do you actually think this would work, this would cause many people to go poor, you would destroy a lot of the economy, cause more adult content to be set free, make people root, and possibly go against the US Constitution. I think you should most DEFINITELY check the Constitution and consider the consequences on people, the economy, and overall what children could be exposed to if this law gets passed...

What about online gaming videos like forntnite minecraft terraria and roblox

No one is liking where Youtube is going on 2020,please leave us alone,this is our career plus the animators suffer for years to get something on youtube and now this?!
Seriously, leave us alone. If parents are complaining about their kids seeing something "violent" they download Youtube kids but it is, they do not complicate us more with Youtube than it already is.

Yeah, and the thing is, by 2020, youtube will be abandoned by then, because if creators might have to pay a total of a "civil" $42,530, they will get too scared and they will leave youtube, THEIR ONLY JOB THEY HAVE! Youtube is a job, not a hobby. Youtubers will go bankrupt if they have to leave their full time job. This is the worst idea ever, this will affect all of Youtube and Google. Also, Susan wanted us to be "family-friendly" but now, THEY WANT US TO DO THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE!!

Iv read these about a hundred times but the question I ask still remains as the content of this subject is vague at best does this cover both monetised and un monetised content. and is their a more descriptive guidelines to follow as this list you currently share is so vague following it would be hard for NASA scientists let alone content creators.

If a Youtuber plays a game for all ages, but does appeal to kids aswell (Such as Roblox, Minecraft, and Fortnite), but the YouTuber makes inappropriate and or uses swear words, would they be fined?

can you please work with these creators this is there lively hood without this they will be out of jobs there content

Please! we kindly ask you to cancel this Coppa law. Because it's going to upset and destroy the creators of YouTube and us on one side

The fine is insanely high. Violating COPPA isn't equivalent to stealing someone's pet or something like that. At least make the fine more reasonable. Youtubers are not made of money. No one has $42,000+ just laying around. A more reasonable fine like $1000 or lower is reasonable and wouldn't entirely screw over someone's life. I myself want to start a channel where I might sometimes play a game more for kids but make jokes using nonkid friendly language. Putting a fine like that on a small channel or even one with 1M-5M subs would probably make them go bankrupt which is totally unfair, especially if their content is only viewed as family friendly by the face of it, but is quite the opposite. Falsely giving people fines because at the face of their content it's viewed as it could be for kids is completely unnecessary and unfair, and not reasonable whatsoever.

You have not addressed anyone who has a family channel, and from what I understand is a family includes children. I know that I watch family channels and because of this, I make general audience videos. These include:

Craft videos
Haul and shop with me videos
product reviews
My trips (which may include a trip to Disney World with my family, that has children under the age of 13 in them).
anything that I do with my family that is for a general audience.

I understand that I may have a young child watching my videos, you address that and thank you for that. BUT, if you think that I have a video that is intended for children when it is clearly not intended for children, I am not paying up to $42,000. Nope, nada, ain't happening. I do not make that much in a year. my channel at the moment has only 184 subscribers, so I am not being monetized anyway, thanks to You Tube's new ruling as of two years ago.

(can you do something about that, too, I still think it is unfair that I need to have 1000 subs. I didn't think so)

A person's child, or in my case, nieces and nephews, are not models, and they are on there because they want to be on there. I do not force anyone to be in my videos. that is why most of my videos have just me in them.
I want to continue to watch family videos, so please do not punish them for having their children in their videos. again, they are not models, so stop with the fearmongering.

You know that there is a thing called parental controls and youtube kids right or just put a warning pop up saying if your kid is under the age of 13 they should not use this app or something

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