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

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

Please know that alot of thing that kids watch also r what adults watch and sometimes that adults watch the parents let the kids watch so please let the parents block shows if they dont want the kids to watch it.

I feel like these rules will not work and will cause trouble. YouTube was originally meant for 13 and up correct? YouTube kids was made for children and it was the parents choice not to have their kids watch that instead of something that wasn't meant for them. As for appealing to children I'm afraid that will cause just as much trouble as before with parents as anything can appeal to kids but not all of it is meant for kids. There are games kids watch and play that they aren't for them but it still appeals to them because they like it and parents will still get upset and this whole ordeal will probably start all over. I get that you want to protect kids but what it has lead to is punishing hundreds of creators for their content that parents didn't want to keep their children from watching and get upset for not doing their job as the parents. If we have alternative ways of fixing this why are we not using it? I hope you take this into consideration.

I know you "Care" about making sure kids are safe and all but you should fine YouTube not the content creators because some creators are young (under 18) and don't get paid much and can't afford a 42000 $ fine but a multi-billion $ corporation can and should for letting (and being proud of) millions of kids under 13 watching their content.
Also fining a grandma for sending cookies an gift cards to kids/people who put their birth day in. Thanks for saving kids from cookies and free gift cards

I feel that there should be mixed content. It would make things easier.

I understand the reasoning behind COPPA; however, to punish YouTubers with taking away their livelihood is a not the answer. Most of the YouTube content I watch are gaming videos. How are you going to determine which of these is targeted towards children? The age rating on the game? Minecraft? Fortnite? GTA? Who decides?

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.

What about content that isn't directed toward children like for example like M rated video game reviews and or other content such as
E rated video games that apply for everyone of all ages.
Also please update your laws we are not in the stone age with the internet as we once were.
Which I do understand the FTC is just trying to help children which no one here is against such regulations.
But there is some music and games that do appeal to such bigger audiences and this needs to be addressed better.
Thank you have a nice day

I demand fair and equal COPPA Enforcement it must effect Streaming service like Disney plus, Amazon prime and Hulu plus News Sites as well!
Because some schools do issue homework related to current events!!! That means COPPA must include those services as well!!!

The goal of protecting children is critical. However - the new rules impact mom and pop content creators - who do not collect data. The new rules will not prevent the corporate collection of data by Youtube and Google. Individuals who make videos on topics like arts and crafts or cooking, etc. that are not specifically targeted to children - are in a "grey" area - because children may watch these videos if they are interested in the subject matter - even though the videos are not designed for children. Content creators rely on comments to generate revenue. Why would they continue to create content if there is not capacity to earn income? Why are the content creators penalized for the practices of the mega corporations? How are the new rules protecting children? Many people will be significantly affected - by income loss - and children will not be protected. These rules need to be re-examined.

Please you are going to ruin so many people's lives, so many people will go bankrupt because Youtube messed up. Just fine Youtube and make sure they dont take any information from children, but dont punish us who make content and try to make viewers happy. It's not our fault Youtube did this and its not our fault parents let their children watch anything on internet. This will result in nothing if you destroy Youtube the kids can still go and watch other bad stuff. Only people who upload the videos will suffer. Please think about that.

Are you kidding me?! This is horrible and should be cancled. Parents can protect their own kids we don't need some pointless law that will cause people to lose their jobs!

Hey there...Even though I am completely agreeing with protecting children online, these new laws and what is happening is beyond confusing. I myself am a small youtube channel of 2 years, not partnered nor monitized or even earning from. My personal style for my videos is comedy based game play of all types of computer games...I have played mature games and also E rated games that are considered suitable for children. Though the game itself may be safe for children, my commentary isn't...My commentary is comedy based and more appealing for a much more mature audience. This also has me very worried when 'label' is acquired to specify if made for children or no. For my genuine comedic style I have used copyright free music that can be considered as 'child friendly' and also use of cartoon copyright free sound effects as added use in my videos for pure comedic reasons, to be a much more entertaining and enjoyable watch of my content. Though issues of better understanding of whats acceptable and what isn't has been granted to us as content creators, it's still very vague in where the line is drawn. I can imagine that not only myself but many others are wondering the same thing when it comes to correctly specifying if content made in this way, is considered as for kids or not for kids. For example, I've played Sonic the Hedgehog as a lets play for nostolgic reasons and that being said is a child friendly game, does not mean my commentary is suitable. This is where the confusement starts. Is that to be labelled for kids or no? I've played many games that can be considered or even are in infact suitable for children, but I'm an adult and have played them with the persona and maturity as such. I have no objections at all to follow more up to date rules and Terms of Service to abide by law when it comes to something as serious as this, but matters need to be made much clearer to better understand the grounds we as content creators stand on. Content creators have proved over and over again that they will do what is necessary to adapt to new rules and ways. For example, when fowl language was becoming an issue for 'family friendly' content, creators began to stop the use of fowl words for more cleaner content. Creators adapt as I said. As they will with this important matter aswell. I truly believe that above all else, of course, that what is most important in this matter is the safety & respect for children. I would never dream to go against that. But I find myself completely terrified on the unsureness on how to label my content when I know the games I've played or even the style of my content can be considered as child friendly content. All I can ask for is better details on where content such to the likes of mine would be placed correctly without fear of misplacement and then breaking laws. I've always specfied that my content is for a mature audience and even gone to lengths of age restricting and even pre-warnings in my video descriptions or videos themselves.

Please help us understand better to not only support these causes but ourselves.

Thank you for your time.

My channel is directed towards child audiences,
however, most of my viewers have lied about their ages to get accounts on YouTube so they are registered as adults in the system. In this situation, will I be fined if I mark my channel as aimed at children?

Does the COPPA rule goes for gaming channels that deals with different variations of games too?

What about the videos with parents and kids showing places like amusement park which is adult and kids much see it ?

As a citizen and voter, I do not agree with this sort of heavy handed regulation of internet content. I support a free and open internet, where those who are using the internet to do wrong are pursued and punished. Someone who mis-tags content that might interest children is not a wrongdoer, but is engaging in free speech. FTC risks having its authority stripped by Congress, or struck down by the courts, through such heavy handed actions.

This needs to be stopped. Really, do not do coppa on YouTube. Please, on December 10th, a day after the comment deadline, post saying you won’t do this rule! No one will be stressed then. Imagine getting a 42k fine on many videos. Someone will be so stressed, you do not know what can happen. Their are no benefits, whatsoever, but many risks. Please do not do this. Millions of people want this to be stopped.

Personally I think in regard to this law it should be more of a warning first. Like contact that company/youtube content creator/etc. then warn them and give them a set amount of days to correct the infraction (After pointing out what that infraction is). Then they correct the mistake contact the FTC and be like hey we fixed the problem. FTC looks at it again and then says okay or no there's still an issue here. Then if it's not fixed in the allotted time punish them.

A large number of content creators are worried. The blanket definitions of what could be directed towards children are beyond ridiculous. I understand COPPA applies everywhere, not just youtube. However, speaking of youtube specifically, creators have been encouraged for years now to make their content "family friendly". So now there are thousands of channels that will basically be forced out of business because since their content is directed at children and adults alike, they will lose up to 90% of their ad revenue. Here's an idea. How about parents having some responsibility in raising their children if they're so worried about privacy? Better yet. How about deny information gathering except on age verified sites? Fining a creator because someone else used their video to collect information about people who choose to watch it is immoral, unethical, and just plain idiotic. How about going after the businesses that collect, store, and use information about children? Those are the people that are actually committing the offense. We're just entertaining people. We have no control over who watches our videos.

I do have a question about this. What if your video has only one curse word in it. Is it still made for kids?

There is no reason for you to do this. Please reconsider this its very stupid.

Hello, I would like to adress this issue that has risen. I am fully aware that Youtube has made a mistake, but that dose not mean we, as the content creators, should parish. We were not aware of what Youtube did before this. We were on the site, Youtube, to make fun content for people young and old. Youtube also has a kids app for the vewing of kids, but Youtube, not the kids app, is rated for teenagers and up. Therefore me and the rest of the community would like to say, please do not apply this to us, the creators, and if you do, please don't be so vauge. Thank you for reading and for your time.

This really doesn't help as it is far too vague. We need to know, in explicitly certain terms, that content that is for general audiences WILL NOT be in danger. The types of content that need to be safe because they are for all audiences are, but not limited to: video games channels, animation channels, channels that use animated characters, arts and craft channels, lego channels, toy channels, unboxing channels, collectibles channels, 3D art channels, tutorial channels, trick shot channels, etc. If there is ANY doubt as to if the content is for general audiences or not, it's better to rule it to be for general audiences than to punish an innocent person.

The problem with this whole thing is that content creators are being punished for what YouTube did. We are not at fault and SHOULD NOT be held accountable for the wrongdoing of YouTube. Content creators are not the ones collecting data on people therefore we SHOULD NOT be considered to be operators of the site. It falls squarely on YouTube to follow your rules as they are the ones collecting data, not us.

YouTube is also making it harder for content creators by not giving us a general audiences option when we upload content. We know our content better that YouTube or the FTC does because we know who the audience is.

If you truly want to protect children, then outlaw the use of cookies. Outlaw the practice of collecting data. Only then can you truly be sure that no private information is being collected and no content creators will be in danger. It's a win for everyone.

Something I forgot in my other comment is the role of the parents.

Content creators ARE NOT responsible for other people's children. If someone is a bad parent and let's their child go online to watch things that aren't for kids, how is that our fault. That's right, ITS NOT. Content creators SHOULD NOT be held accountable for the bad parenting of others.

"I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

Help me please

There must be a positive healthy way for platforms like YouTube conduct business without the need for anyone's data collection and contextualized ads seems to be the best and safest way. It seems to have worked with TV and the internet has the advantage of having shows accessible anytime from virtually any device today. Data collection is dangerous not only for children, especially geolocation information and people's names.

But there are a few reasons why this should not be a thing like content creators make a living off of these videos and doing this is like saying “look I’m not gonna kill you just shoot you in the legs” and it’s not the content creators fault that parents aren’t monitoring what their children are watching and lastly you are killing a platform that is huge and not to mention the fact not all of these are only things that kids like adults like Pokémon adults like animation too

look's like i'm going to jail because i uploaded a video to youtube.

My hobbies are not just for kids. I love toys, I love games, cooking, art, crafts and a ton more things that this will wipe it! Let parents be parents and make kids use YouTube kids! Punish youtube, they broke the law not us!

it’s not the creator’s fault that kids are getting exposed to mature content, it’s the parent’s faults for leaving their kids unattended on the internet. ugh

I'm still wary about using YouTube after this. I just want to make it clear that many people above the target age of certain shows watch thise aforementioned shows.

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