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

YouTube supports a feature where videos can be marked as "Age-restricted video (requested by uploader)" and if you visit one of those videos, YouTube will refuse to show you the video or page unless you are logged into an account where the age is 18 or older.
Why can't a similar feature be added that allows creators to restrict their videos to people 13 or older (with YouTube doing the same age checks as they do for the existing age-restricted videos) and then the whole "directed at children" issue becomes moot since children wont even see the video in their recommendations or other places they see videos) and can't watch it even if they find it via other means.

I work with Autism...and so many of the creative channels I turn too for my kids... are leaving because of these restrictions? COPPA please consider what you are doing to the community? I am so devastated at the loss of materials I am already losing for my children. I understand you are trying to help...but honestly..?

My content is all about vehicles so i dont think tjis will harm children

I don’t think YouTube and the content creators should get punished like this. All these laws should be on parents to make sure there kids are not doing bad stuff. YouTube should just say no more 13 and under. All the kids and parents that think it’s stupid will just make an account that’s older and no one gets hurt. What’s next Instagram, Snapchat, this whole thing is stupid. There just tracking your online data. It’s not like they are recording your location and looking at you threw the webcam. When I go on the internet I expect to be tracked. I make gaming and animated videos. I’m not targeting kids but now to prove I’m not kid friendly I’m gonna have to curse like a sailor. I don’t think that’s right but there’s not really any choices.

How are we supposed to say our directed audience? And if we can, how can we say that we're directed to all ages?

I have been using the internet since I was a little kid and my parents were responsible for making sure I was safe. Once I got old enough they let me make my own decisions and judgement. If more parents were like mine, COPPA would not need to exist. If parents were more responsible, content creator’s livelihoods would not be a risk. I have multiple friends who either considered closing their YouTube channel or flat out close it. They, like me, don’t want to get fined $42,000 for a false claim. The terms of what is kid’s content is vague especially since animation, sports, music, animals etc. can be shared by both children and adults. I love what I do on YouTube and I do not want all it to go to waste. YouTube as a corporation has been violating COPPA for years and now content creators are going to pay for it, I see this as unfair. I hope the FTC re-considers their actions.

I create videos on YouTube that uses cartoons and music every now and then but it's never created for kids. What I do is create base on what interests me and my community, would I be fined for these kind of creations?

My concern is for the YouTube creators that are artists, crafters, homesteading, and those who use items such as toys to create DIY decor from Dollar Tree products, YouTube has a diverse community of artist who uses their hobbies that involve miniatures, Barbies and the like as adults I know I still enjoy seeing what these creators come up with for inspiration. I do hope the members of the FTC would actually look at the videos before any final decisions are made because there are two options for creators to submit videos and many of the homesteading channels are family-oriented. Being 62 and mostly homebound YouTube is my escape to learn new ideas, make friends.

I am a crafter/DIYer, although my intended audiences are mature, I also have viewers 13 and under who are trying to follow my tutorials whether they are appealing to children or not. Am I violating anything by uploading those crafting DIYs? Kindly clarify what "appealing to children" really means. If I am creating something for parents or adults to make like a home organizer or home decor for a nursery or kid's playroom or bedroom, is that considered appealing to children since the video may contain child-friendly characters or toys? This will certainly have a negative impact on my earnings if I mark all those projects as intended for kids. I am speaking for myself, but I know we have a ton of DIYers like me posting on YouTube on a regular basis. Many of them are Stay at Home Moms and rely on the earnings they receive from their channels.

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.

Lets say , i make fortnite and minecract content but i dont make it for kids . Does it mean because the majority of people playing these games are kids , i will have to set it "for kids content"?

Why would you consider changing the law from "Child Directed" to "Child Attractive"?
That's gonna basically terminate everyone on YouTube. EVERYONE! Child attractive will apply to basically anything.

Please do NOT make this so harsh, YouTube isn't telling us the whole side of things.
Please, Save our lives.

The regulations mentioned "child models'. How will this impact family vlogs, instruction craft videos targeting teachers, and homeschool videos that will obviously at some point have children in them?

C.S. Lewis said; "A book worth reading only in childhood isn't worth reading then."

From what I have seen this law dangerously ignores the existence of "all-ages" or cross-generational content. Not all animation is for kids, though this law seems to assume it is. Then there are animated programs with children as their main audience, which ALSO have appeal for adults, who enjoy remixing and creating with them. Then there's music and drawing with wide appeal. YouTube channels on how to draw are important to both children and adults.

The vagueness and broadness of this law endanger a creative society, along with the livelihood of artists, animators, and musicians who can make a living on YouTube and other platforms. And it assumes a government role in standards that should be set by parents who are doing their job. Please fix it.

I hope Coppa gets good. I never heard that the creators get to decide what money to pay. Please let me know.

Love YouTube

I believe that the proposal to fine creators for their animation that “may” be guided to children seems a bit ridiculous. From what I’ve read, most of the subject matters and pieces of content that is trying to be regulated can fall into many other categories that just simply makes this proposal too vague. As for this regulation, I just believe that the content can be pertained to a variety of demographics, adults can have found memories of these “colorful and vibrant” animations that may be subjected to them, but from an outside perspective may seem like it’s guided to children. To simply put it, this “regulation” is way to vague and needs a bit of clarification before it ruins what I want to watch and forces me to watch what the regulation wants.

I believe that the proposal to fine creators for their animation that “may” be guided to children seems a bit ridiculous. From what I’ve read, most of the subject matters and pieces of content that is trying to be regulated can fall into many other categories that just simply makes this proposal too vague. As for this regulation, I just believe that the content can be pertained to a variety of demographics, adults can have found memories of these “colorful and vibrant” animations that may be subjected to them, but from an outside perspective may seem like it’s guided to children. To simply put it, this “regulation” is way to vague and needs a bit of clarification before it ruins what I want to watch and forces me to watch what the regulation wants.

As a avid YouTube viewer, I want to know if ALL of my personal choices are going to be taken away from me without my consent. I enjoy a diverse array of things on YouTube, and I subscribe to channels like true crime, the paranormal, comedy like Jeff Dunham, and nature/animal rescue. This law sounds like the ONLY thing which will be allowed on YouTube after January 1st is children's programming. Am I to lose my right to watch what I please just because I am an adult?

If my channel is just talking about roller coasters, do I have to mark my videos as kid friendly?

I don’t feel that this new policy will change in children. It’s very easy for a child to create a new email and lie about their age. This policy will do nothing but hurt the children and content creators like myself in which I cannot afford $42,000. I don’t even get paid for my own videos. Most content and non content creators know that adults likes topics that are just as satisfying to children such as toys, kids movies, highly saturated videos and animation. I believe that the best way to keep children from watching mature content is to make people sign a google account and put in their social security number. That way the children has to ask their parents for their social security number and there’s no possible way that the parents can just hand it to their kids and not ask why. It’s the same as people under the age of 18 needs to show their identification to be able to see an R rated movie. Please consider this idea, I really think that having us enter our social security number makes more sense instead of flagging content for stereotypical reason.

If this policy goes through I believe that this will not only hurt the content creators but the general audience as well. People will be afraid to upload a content to YouTube because I myself and others will be afraid to be fined $42,000 for a stereotypical reason. What will make YouTube safer and easier without anyone losing their content is to have people got to their google account and enter their social security number. That will give the advantage of telling the government important information that verifies how old the audience is.

This wont work due to google getting sensitive i formation such as social security numbers and those who do not reside in the US.

As a viewer of Crafting videos, all of my channels that I enjoy fall into one of these child friendly catagories. If you make it so I can't search, or comment or ask questions, it takes away from the experience totally. By these rules as they are currently worded, You tube and other video platforms will only be adult in content. How does that stop children from seeing them? While, the videos that are more wholesome and family friendly- will no longer be found. Only violent and adult content will be promoted? That is not protecting the targeted audience! Review your guidelines and amend this ruling!

Why You destroy YOUTUBE? Let parents do their job!

Well i can tell you that by your own definitions users which you call channel owners but are not because they don't own the channel you-tube technically does. Don't even fit into our overly broad and unconstitutional, and not even legally written as a lawful legal law. So that would mean it was a regulation or code which means only your employee's would be subject to such a thing. Don't be surprised when you guys gets sued. But what do i know i only say this as a parent, as someone who has ran a youtube channel, and as a scholar of law. Oh yeah by the way the lawsuit was on behalf of parents right? So how come none of use have seen anything from it? Even in Ny state where i live? Oh i know because its just another way to steal money for your own pockets. The truth may hurt but its still the truth.

Hello, I am a crafter that does mainly sewing and crochet work. I do paper crafts but more for adult themed . I am honestly confused on how to mark my videos so I took them all down. Until YouTube and FTC can decide what is able to be "kid friendly" and not I do not know myself. I make pretty boring videos for a young child . Most of my audience is around 30 and above that I try to reach. However, My videos do not have language and usually if its music I post classical or none at all. I am hoping that FTC and YouTube can make a "General Age" tab and not just for kids or not . At least General Audience wold insure that you do not have viewers under 13. I also think that if you do not have an account or some type of "Adult" with a credit card you should make it where you can not see YouTube content . If you go to FB you can't see any content unless you log in . Another idea would be for you guys to have a YouTube App like YouTube kids for Adult audiences and an APP for teens and pre teens. I know it sounds like a lot but if you made different apps for each age section might keep younger kids off the adult platform and still make it able for Adult channels to have gamer channels and crafting and such . Just some ideas I was wanting to toss your way. So many are scared leaving YouTube and this platform is therapy for a lot of folks and by doing this and such harsh regulations it's making people afraid to post or come to YouTube. I believe in protecting our kids but at the same time punishing the adults and others who use YouTube is not fair either! Thanks.

What will happen to gaming channels? What will happen to Minecraft and other games? I want note information please.

I have some vintage collection barbie videos, made for 80´s women, the videos shows some zoom and general characteristics about the barbies, the barbies are old models from 80´s not in public sale for now-days kids, the purpose of the videos is show again these dolls to the women who had this particular dolls, in a nostalgic way, my concern is: Do I have to set this videos for children?, because, the dolls are no longer in the market, just by collectors in some adult sites like ebay or so, the barbies are not telling a story, just showing the doll, I have no children subscribers in fact I have only 74 and all are adults... so, Do I have to set these videos for kids?

Thank you for rethinking and changing the law, but the only thing that is bothering me is the animates characters part. Many people who do animation use animated character and these arent always for kids. Besides this these are Much more fair then before.

They mentioned that. I think they said that they understand the use of animated characters. I think when they speak of “animated characters” think less animated channels (IE jaidenanimations, Odd ones out, domics) and more the animated characters you see in a weird babyshark compilation video.

Am I understanding that the content creators will pay a fine, even though they are not the one's collecting the targeting infiormation about the viewer? How can this be when the content creators have no say in how that information is collected?

Thank you. I don’t know why so many people missed this point.

it's not the creators on YouTube's fault that parents don't watch their kids.
I watch Scale Model Ypu Tube sites. Please don't yake this away from us
Scale Modelers

What if I want to animations/animation memes? Some appeal to kids, some don’t. What if I do both types?

I think you should have like a ''Everyone'' option for this update because mostly my videos are rated for everyone

My channel is about movie reviews and there is a review of JOKER, which I'm sure you know is an R-Rated movie, but there is no bad language in the video other than maybe 'bloody' so what do I do? I'm more concerned about the type of movies I rate. I'm not going to do horror, the exception being IT on my channel, which has put me off rating horror movies on the channel but not comedy horror like Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead for example, so I need help on what to label the videos if the movie I'm rating is a 15 or potentially above. Thank for your patience reading this.

I think you should let the fine go to 1k so that people aren't that worried and stop the disconnection with viewers and creators.

Please reconsider

I’m honestly devastated. You’re literally forcing two awful choices on content creators. (A) Delete your channel by reason of the mind numbing fear that someone at the FTC might deem your content as “directed toward children”, even though you know 100% that it is NOT. Or (B) Keep your channel, but live in fear every single day that you will be fined/sued for $42k, which will ruin your life, all because you are sharing your hobby of paper crafting and doing tutorials for journals and handmade cards. This is wrong and so unfair. Please consider making specific changes to this law to help protect the content creators just trying to live, work hard, enjoy their life, share their art, and express their passions. You have made it almost impossible to understand and you have instilled fear and panic in millions of people. This is doing no good. Please reconsider your unclear, vague, “no one-size fits all”, grey area, flawed law.

Youtubers need to make make videos whenever they wanted as long as they make good content. There was a restriction mode button in the right of the profile in the very bottom just not to see inappropriate content just in case a child watches a video. If children are 8-12 they can use the Youtube kids app because kids can watch any appropriate content they want. The internet is a wild west and all of it is negative, people are okay with negativity. Negativity sells and it works before YouTube came around Trey Parker and Matt Stone had made a cutout Christmas video and it became a viral hit then the show South Park came along and it has became on of the most popular shows of all time without South Park these inappropriate YouTube channels made for adults should've exist. As for the teenage demographic teenagers are okay with some inappropriate content they are not stupid for the most part when I was a kid and they were kids in elementary schools we are learned about bullying and how to solve a problem from bullying.by ignoring them. Only teens and adults can watch anything on YouTube (not children) and let the creators make videos they wanted. COPPA is not a good idea and it will kill the website, but also forcibly censorship and very Orwellian.

What about If The person has misused The system and he is outside The US well he Steel has to pay The penality of 42530 dollar or well The channel of The creator well be closed

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

What do we do?

Wow.
This will be the end of joy for children around the world.
No video for Children, because it can't make some money for the creator.
My son will be sad too.

When children watch they learn from the video it combines Christian record funny and discovered activities that are not familiar

I am not a youtube creator. I am a parent of children 2 to 18 years of age. Myself and husband watch youtube all the time. We have a list of our favorites youtubers that we live to watch. My children have their favorite youtubers. My two year learned her ABC's by 18 months because of what I let her watch she signs and loves learning to babybum and other learning shows. My 16 year old loves watching youtubers game and play games he is into. Keeps him motivated to get into the gaming industry to be a game creator himself. I like watching do it yourself creators cooking videos and then I have my other favorite shows are watching paranormal investigators. There are some many different Bears doing so many different things I had so many different values to our lives and I would hate to see them not be able to create no more not be able to make videos anymore for us. There has to be a way or we can make this better for everybody so no one loses anything

Would I get fined if I posted that my video was not for kids but was really child friendly? If so, I would not be able to pay thousands of dollars for one uploading mistake. I have college to pay for, and all I want to do it make videos for fun!

I believe it's best to hit the pause button on these updated regulations. Just about everyone I've spoken to about this has never heard of COPPA and about half are not even familiar with the FTC and what it does. The word needs to have a better chance of getting out to everyone possible. I can't believe a handful of people can and could effect so many thousands of creators and viewers alike. But hey we have Disney + now... Not a monopoly at all

In my opinion, treating content creators the same as website owners is the wrong approach. A website owner owns the domain as well as everything on the site. The only thing that a content creator 'owns' is the video, and YouTube's TOS already states that they may remove videos if found to be violating the law. In other words, YouTube is a service provided to both content creators and viewers, and the possibility of the FTC fining the creators for wanting to share their passion for Pokemon, Disney, or another 'kid-friendly' property with a general audience comprised of both kids and adults is very concerning to me for personal reasons.

As a graphic designer, I have portfolio pieces on YouTube that could be considered kid-friendly. I cannot afford to restrict who views them, as a potential employer might not be able to view these videos due to how YouTube is handling the content restrictions. I understand that the FTC is not directly involved in how YouTube enforces COPPA regulations, but if I cannot share my portfolio videos on a worldwide platform like YouTube, it will negatively impact my career. There are others like me who rely on YouTube and other online platforms to share our art with the world, and our art often cannot be boxed in to just 'kid-friendly' or 'adults-only'. I cannot afford to pay a large fine if my videos are found in violation of COPPA. Please review and expand on COPPA so that creators like myself will not be negatively impacted.

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.