YouTube channel owners: Is your content directed to children?

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Under COPPA, how do I know if my channel is “directed to children”? Since the FTC and New York Attorney General announced their September 2019 settlement with YouTube for violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule, we’ve heard that question from channel owners – sometimes called content creators. If you’re a channel owner who shares content on user-generated platforms like YouTube, read on for FTC staff guidance about the applicability of the COPPA Rule and how those covered by the Rule can comply with its requirements.

The FTC action against YouTube and Google

The lawsuit against YouTube and Google alleged that the companies illegally collected personal information from children, in violation of COPPA. According to the complaint, the companies collected that information from viewers of child-directed YouTube channels in the form of persistent identifiers that track users across the Internet, but didn’t notify parents and get their consent. To settle the case, YouTube and Google agreed to create a mechanism so that channel owners can designate when the videos they upload to YouTube are – to use the words of COPPA – “directed to children.” The purpose of this requirement is to make sure that both YouTube and channel owners are complying with the law.

A COPPA recap

That provision of the settlement has raised questions among content creators about how to determine if what they upload to YouTube or other platforms is “directed to children.” The answer requires a brief summary of some key COPPA provisions. Passed by Congress in 1998, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act is a federal law that protects the privacy of children under 13. COPPA’s foundational principle is one that most people can agree on: Parents – not kids, companies, platforms, or content creators – should be in control when it comes to information collected from children online.

The FTC enforces the law through the COPPA Rule. In general, COPPA requires operators of commercial websites and online services that are directed to children (more about that in a minute) to provide notice and obtain verifiable parental consent before they collect personal information from kids under 13.

The COPPA Rule defines “personal information” to include obvious things like a child’s first and last name or home address, but that’s not all. Under COPPA, personal information also covers what are called persistent identifiers – behind-the-scenes code that recognizes a user over time and across different sites or online services. That could be an IP address or a cookie when it’s used to serve targeted ads. Keep in mind that an operator also might be collecting personal information through an open comment field on its site or service that allows a user under 13 to make personal information publicly available. For example, think of a comment like this on a child-directed site: My name is Mary Jones from Springfield. I love this video!

How COPPA applies to channel owners

So how does COPPA apply to channel owners who upload their content to YouTube or another third-party platform? COPPA applies in the same way it would if the channel owner had its own website or app. If a channel owner uploads content to a platform like YouTube, the channel might meet the definition of a “website or online service” covered by COPPA, depending on the nature of the content and the information collected. If the content is directed to children and if the channel owner, or someone on its behalf (for example, an ad network), collects personal information from viewers of that content (for example, through a persistent identifier that tracks a user to serve interest-based ads), the channel is covered by COPPA. Once COPPA applies, the operator must provide notice, obtain verifiable parental consent, and meet COPPA’s other requirements. For information on how to comply with COPPA, please visit the FTC’s COPPA page for our Six-Step Compliance Plan for Your Business.

How channel owners can determine if their content is directed to children

Under COPPA, there is no one-size-fits-all answer about what makes a site directed to children, but we can offer some guidance. To be clear, your content isn’t considered “directed to children” just because some children may see it. However, if your intended audience is kids under 13, you’re covered by COPPA and have to honor the Rule’s requirements.

The Rule sets out additional factors the FTC will consider in determining whether your content is child-directed:

  • the subject matter,
  • visual content,
  • the use of animated characters or child-oriented activities and incentives,
  • the kind of music or other audio content,
  • the age of models,
  • the presence of child celebrities or celebrities who appeal to children,
  • language or other characteristics of the site,
  • whether advertising that promotes or appears on the site is directed to children, and
  • competent and reliable empirical evidence about the age of the audience.

The determination of whether content is child-directed will be clearer in some contexts than in others, but we can share some general rules of thumb. First, unless you’re affirmatively targeting kids, there are many subject matter categories where you don’t have to worry about COPPA. For example, if your videos are about traditionally adult activities like employment, finances, politics, home ownership, home improvement, or travel, you’re probably not covered unless your content is geared toward kids. The same would be true for videos aimed at high school or college students. On the other hand, if your content includes traditional children’s pastimes or activities, it may be child-directed. For example, the FTC recently determined that an online dress-up game was child-directed.

Second, just because your video has bright colors or animated characters doesn’t mean you’re automatically covered by COPPA. While many animated shows are directed to kids, the FTC recognizes there can be animated programming that appeals to everyone.

Third, the complaint in the YouTube case offers some examples of channels the FTC considered to be directed to children. For example, many content creators explicitly stated in the “About” section of their YouTube channel that their intended audience was children under 13. Other channels made similar statements in communications with YouTube. In addition, many of the channels featured popular animated children’s programs or showed kids playing with toys or participating in other child-oriented activities. Some of the channel owners also enabled settings that made their content appear when users searched for the names of popular toys or animated characters. Want to see the FTC’s analysis in context? Read pages 10-14 of the YouTube complaint.

Finally, if you’ve applied the factors listed in the COPPA Rule and still wonder if your content is “directed to children,” it might help to consider how others view your content and content similar to yours. Has your channel been reviewed on sites that evaluate content for kids? Is your channel – or channels like yours – mentioned in blogs for parents of young children or in media articles about child-directed content? Have you surveyed your users or is there other empirical evidence about the age of your audience?

What are the possible penalties for violating COPPA?

The Rule allows for civil penalties of up to $42,530 per violation, but the FTC considers a number of factors in determining the appropriate amount, including a company’s financial condition and the impact a penalty could have on its ability to stay in business. While Google and YouTube paid $170 million, in another COPPA case settled this year, the operator paid a total civil penalty of $35,000.

Isn’t the FTC taking another look at the COPPA Rule?

Yes, the FTC is currently evaluating the Rule in light of rapid changes in technology. If you would like to comment on the effectiveness of the COPPA Rule and whether changes are needed, the FTC has extended the comment deadline to December 9, 2019.

Where can channel owners go for more information?

A look at the factors in the COPPA Rule will help most channel owners determine if their content is directed to children. If you’re still unsure about how COPPA applies to you, consider contacting an attorney or consulting with one of the COPPA Safe Harbor programs – self-regulatory groups that offer guidance on how operators can comply with the law. Visit the FTC’s website for a list of currently approved Safe Harbor organizations. For more resources, visit the FTC’s Children’s Privacy page for our Six-Step Compliance Plan for Your Business.

 
 
 

Comments

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

For example, many content creators explicitly stated in the “About” section of their YouTube channel that their intended audience was children under 13. Other channels made similar statements in communications with YouTube. In addition, many of the channels featured popular animated children’s programs or showed kids playing with toys or participating in other child-oriented activities. Some of the channel owners also enabled settings that made their content appear when users searched for the names of popular toys or animated characters. Read pages 10-14 of the YouTube complaint to see the FTC’s analysis in context.

I have loved using YouTube to help build my career and wanted to share
my talents with my friends and fan. Please don't take that away from me
it means so much to me and I've been working so hard on my content throughout
the years.

Please take this into consideration and do the right thing by keeping out channels safe.

I would suggest Coppa to reconsider gaming content... not necessarily gaming content for kids... most adults also play. including Nintendo games and more.

This is horrible. I am a parent and I am beyond disgusted that the ftc is deciding what is best for my child by taking away wholesome family entertainment. I believe that the FTC is going to get a huge backlash for this. Way to keep crappy and unsuitable entertainment at the hands of every child in the world.

Okay, pages 10-14 of the YouTube complaint actually cleared things up. All those channels were explicitly stating they were for kids, or hosting cartoons whose stated target demographic was under 13.
When I joined YouTube, I thought you had to be 13 to create an account anyway?

You're ruining people's life, there's something called YouTube kids, why instead don't you just make a law which says that the parents must control their children who are under 13? YouTube won't be ruined, anything bad won't happen, remember that you're going to destroy many people's hobbies, many people's life reason, many people loves, interests, and this doesn't make sense, you should protect children's right to have free time, to live, to be happy, and you're literally gong against this.
All of you just ruined everything, and it's not like it's only in America, but it's going to affect the whole youtube.
Be ashamed of yourself.

I understand that YouTube and Google were illegally collecting info from kids, and that his law is meant to stop it, but the rules on how content is judged is very vague, and could lead to many people losing their jobs as a YouTuber. There are other ways to protect children other than this.

OK I would like to chip my thought's in. I am a YouTuber with only 28 subscribers. So that brings 2 things up. 1 I dont go for an under 13 audience. I don't know how my content falls under it since I normally play stuff like Terraria and Crying Suns and XCOM 2. How do I fall under it since technically kids could be attracted to my content but at the same time not.

Me: YouTube is slowly killing themselves, thus you're ruining the lives of millions not just because some people work on YouTube for a living, but because most of us grew up with YouTube so you're basically destroying our childhood and our escape from reality, thus our sanity all because of you, your response?

no popular songs... no colors... no sports... no pets... no games (or video games)... no popular people... no stories... no animation... no jokes.. no fantasy... no snack food or cereal... no books... $42.53K per violation... this is fine...

I’m not happy with that

This entire rule for Youtuber's content really worries me as i have very little money and could not afford to pay off the civil charges. I make mostly gaming content which is why i wish you would be more specific when describing what "Games" are targeted for children. The games that i create content on are varying from games rated for everyone to games that are for more mature audiences. It would help a lot of people tremendously if you were to go more into detail on this. Also i make ASMR content and I am not sure if that would fall under any of these guidelines. Again I ask that you look over and revise your guidelines and make them more descriptive.

I'm an autistic man, and I don't know if my videos are targeted towards kids, or not, I stopped making videos because of this new regulation, and not as many people are visiting my channel, if you ask me, if no one is visiting your channel, then it will be time to Sephiroth Meteor the channel's videos.

What about channels that comment, analyze and review animated movies and series based on image and script quality?

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

For example, many content creators explicitly stated in the “About” section of their YouTube channel that their intended audience was children under 13. Other channels made similar statements in communications with YouTube. In addition, many of the channels featured popular animated children’s programs or showed kids playing with toys or participating in other child-oriented activities. Some of the channel owners also enabled settings that made their content appear when users searched for the names of popular toys or animated characters. Read pages 10-14 of the YouTube complaint to see the FTC’s analysis in context.

I don’t get this, all of my videos are not kid targeted, including washing machines and I don’t know how to set my audience level on my channel and videos!

I'm a content creator on Youtube. My channel isn't even that big but I'm still concerned about all of this. To me this still sounds all misleading. I started making content on my channel on October 2018. I always wanted to make content but never had the courage to start until a year ago. I've been dealing with depression for many years and I saw making content as a creative outlet to help cope with my depression and I still do. I enjoy making content and I've never made my content to be directed towards children, my content is mean't for all ages. I was even starting to censor my videos because the first thing that comes to mind of whenever I upload a video is "what if my nieces see this video". I feel like a better solution for all of this would've been to have Youtube create a software similar to Netflix or to DisneyPlus that if anyone would want to watch videos on Youtube they would need an account but also a strong viable way of showing proof that they are over 18 to watch the videos. That way if kids or teens under 17 want to watch content on Youtube they would need their parents consent to make an account for them and it would also allow the parents to notice and keep an eye on what their kids are watching. I feel like parents now a days don't keep an eye on what their children are watching on the internet and parents should be abit more attended to what their children watch on not just Youtube but the internet overall. I strongly feel that this idea is a way better solution then what is happening at the moment. We need a better solution than a 40K fine and very unreasonable ruling of whats considered for kids and not for kids because there are alot of adults now more than ever that like videogames or collecting action figures or cartoons. Please make a better solution that won't hurt people that enjoy making content because being a content creator is a strong form of a creative outlet and a way of creative freedom. Thank You.

Not For Kids

My daughter and son love the kid content on You Tube, but my issue is the ad breaks between videos having political ads and other content not child friendly. The content producers are more than kids friendly and accessible. The ad breaks on the other hand seem to be geared away from child content.

I strongly agree

so i have a clip of a game, the characters in the recording don't curse but another character in the game does. The game is still 10+ or E for everyone on the ESRB rating. will the video be determined as for kids, or not for kids, or if its not entirely one will it default to the not for kids option? there is no commentary from me in it and its only game audio, the game is quite flashy and fast paced with quite a bit of color which is also confusing. An example like this would help in the future.

Hi my video is for kids

I'm a mom vlogger. I create content about my life as a mother, pregnancy and more. Some of my content has my toddler son in it from vlogs (some to Disney), activities for toddler development and toddler meal ideas. Are those videos considered "directed at kids", despite that I am the one talking to the camera to other parents about these topics and how to do them with their children. The subject matter is about parenting, but that can't be done without talking about my kids.

Second part of the question, I am not monetized nor do I care to be. According to my analytics my audience is 100% over the age of 18. I also leave labels in all of my videos saying my content is not suitable for children (specifically my pregnancy updates). Is my content at risk of being flagged as "directed at children"?

I would like some clarification as to where motherhood vloggers and family vloggers fall in all of this? Is motherhood and parenting content considered "directed at kids". Are travel guides through popular destinations like Disney or Universal Studios "directed at kids" - even though adults enjoy it the same or the travel guide specifies that it's how to reduce tantrums while travelling through Disney with a toddler? What about day in the life vlogs with my toddler, he's a part of my life, so are all my vlogs then "directed for kids" because he is present in them, even though the subject matter may be seen as mature? Toddler activity (not toys, education related) are those "directed at kids" when the subject language is advanced and geared at adults?

Thank you for your time, it's been very confusing as to what happens to family and motherhood content with these laws and I really want to be sure that I'm abiding by whatever laws are put into effect.

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

For example, many content creators explicitly stated in the “About” section of their YouTube channel that their intended audience was children under 13. Other channels made similar statements in communications with YouTube. In addition, many of the channels featured popular animated children’s programs or showed kids playing with toys or participating in other child-oriented activities. Some of the channel owners also enabled settings that made their content appear when users searched for the names of popular toys or animated characters. Read pages 10-14 of the YouTube complaint to see the FTC’s analysis in context.

youtubers are not the ones personally collecting information from children. that has been youtube - the company - all along passing it to advertisers. now they expect us - using near incomprehensible language - to be able to neatly categorize our content as either for kids or not for kids. while at the same time leaving it to the ftc for the ultimate decision. as a creator, i know my intended audience best. my content is not for children. youtube is not a children's platform, despite what they have said of recent - they created youtube kids as the children's platform. and yet, because i post gaming content - and content with "animated characters that may appeal to children" i fear that my content will be categorized as for children. it isn't and never will be. i swear and use adult language in every one of the videos, but is this enough? my intended audience is not children. it never has been children. and it will never be children. but according to youtube, that is for me to decide. according to the ftc, it is not. i have no control over whether or not children watch my videos or might like them. that is the job of parents to monitor their own child's activity. the only thing i have control over in my intended audience, but not even that through this. it's too broad, nearly everything falls into a gray area, which leaves it up to the whims of algorithms and bots which, as we all know, have done a horrible job of categorizing things as it is. this is atrocious and it needs to be changed immediately. it will destroy peoples' livelihoods for things that are not even in their control.

I am a gamer. I started swearing in my videos to prove that my stuff's not made for children and I am planning to delete my channel on December 29, 2019. I don't know what to do Can you help me?

In YouTube what happens with content that contains excessive or not excessive rudeness or violent content but that can be considered as for children in some aspects mentioned or that can be striking for children?

would this affect creators globally since this is a US law?

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

This will not be good for the ftc or youtube reputaton chanels will not take this kindly so please do not go against youtube?

i have a question according youtube videos
if my videos are focused on Yugioh trading card game does that means my videos are made for childrens because some childrens may play yugioh?
this is not irrational?

1 - If the video is about struggle of life of any scientist, actor, politician etc., motivation, teaching about how to make better life, problems creating by social activities like global warming, pollution etc.,?

2 - I still not understanding that what type if stories include COPPA, You mean's Akbar Birbal story, fairy tail, king/queen story that parent tell to their little children, or story that we tell to small children for their entertainment, or what?

3 - I've one video on diabetes for more than 13 year old person but I used small girl pic just to show up happiness in life, that mean my video is under COPPA?

4- I've used in every video, one or two time video clip or pic of small child for 5- 10 second who are not any actor, celebrities, or popular child, a 3-4 month child small video clip but all these are not directed to children,p included in coppa?

My content may appear like it's directed towards kids, but it's actually directed at grandparent age people and more of a general audience. My YouTube analytics/audience show my audience being the lowest number in the 13-17 age range. What do I do? I don't want to lose my community page and comments!

I understand that this is your job and I respect that, but the way your handling YouTube can possibly ruin the lives of creators. Technically it's not their fault, it's Google and YouTube's for not doing anything about the children frolicking around the site. Instead of marking videos, how about we mark users as kids if their under 13. If they are, then they won't be sent targeted ads and their info won't be accessible. I do have a question if this isn't going to change: will channels who aren't getting money from ads be affected by this? I have a channel of my own and I do animations and they have characters that children know but it's really mature and has swearing, blood, and references to mental illnesses. I'm scared that COPPA will most likely fine me even though my channel isn't aimed toward kids (some of my older stuff is since I was a kid myself when I made those). Plus, I'm only a teenager, I can't pay a $42,000 fine. Again, I know your only doing your jobs, but please try to think about the creators who are going to be affected by this.

So I am a bit confused:
If my channel is set for monetization, I will no longer AT ALL make money from ads?

Please, just get rid of COPPA. Why is it is creators fault that the parents aren't able to parent their kids? YouTube content creators aren't in charge of monitoring what your kid watches. Also, to add on, if you want to make ridiculous rules like the ones listed above, at least make them more detailed so we can at least know what were doing. For example, "Visual Content". How am I suppose to know what you are talking about? What kind of visual content? That rule literally classifies every single video on YouTube as kid oriented. Also, even without the rules, and care for the creators, the fine? Is that really necessary? $42,000 dollars PER VIDEO. You do realize that this is an insane amount of money. Lets say that the average YouTuber with about 7,000 subscribers uploaded lets say, 50 videos, and 10 of those videos do not follow these guidelines. This person would have to pay around $420,000 dollars, which they probably don't have since their channel is fairly new. The only way for the creator to avoid this fine is to completely delete their YouTube channel, which makes the creator unhappy, and those 7,000 people who liked their videos unhappy. There is no winning with this law. It makes no sense, and it should be voided completely. It will only HURT the platform, not help it.

I’m confused on if my content is made for kids or not. I love YouTube but I don’t know what to do. I do Gacha, which used cartoon characters which makes it appealing to kids, but some of my videos swear and some don’t. I do t want to get sued but I also don’t want to delete my channel. Which should I choose?

Does it also affects other countries like canada or germany?

Can you examine more on the animation side of YouTube, because if your stating that animation in general is "for kids", your wrong, not all animation is for kids, there are adult-animated shows on cable tv like Rick and Morty and Family Guy, which these shows have both violence and profanity, are these considered "for kids" just because they are a CARTOON? I find it completely ignorant how you can try to ruin all animation on YouTube just because they are considered cartoons, please examine each animated video on YouTube to really know what's for kids and what's not for kids, there are a lot of animation that are not for kids.

And also, a fine of $42, 530 per violation is too much, not every YouTuber can afford that, please lower the price at least below $5,000, and also give us a warning first before you start charging us with something not all of us can be able to pay.

Please take another look at the blog. It does not say that "animation in general is for kids." It has information to help channel owners determine if their content is directed to children. It says:

" 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,
  • (more factors are listed in the blog)."

my channel is equally suitable for all age group. and i can see a new message about children s control. my question is how to follow this policy and how to give respond to this message. i have alredy responded .but still i can see that message again and again

Youtube are not for kids depends on the content. There is a App called Youtube kids, why not let them use it. Please don't pretend that Youtube Kids app doesn't exist. Just admit it. It very difficult for every content creators. They make money out of it, Their passion, work and dreams. The Parents should know how to monitor their kids and not be lazy. We are not babysitters, we make videos what we want. Please don't add the rules in it. It too vague and it needs to be put down.

Here’s the part that I don’t get. If we can’t have child actors in the videos then can we have child animated characters. Like if you make an animated story then there will be children. But what if it’s a sad story or something like that. Kids don’t like things that are sad. So my content is not for kids only reasons are because I make love stories that are LGBTQ related and sad stories not to mention high school stories and I don’t think kids will understand that. But my question is what if we have child animated characters like say a child is six years old but animated in a sad story? That won’t count as for kids right.

the law is not very specific which it does not makes sense even content creators uses figurines which they are not for kids that will mistaken labeled as "made for kids"

FTC, the law you made (COPPA) is too aggressive and will harm creators.

Also, I have a dream of being a YouTuber when I grow up. Why are you doing this FTC? Everyone lives in YouTube. It is everyone's life. I can't accept just letting my dream go away. So stop this law. Everyone is hardworking on their videos for days, months and years. And that is what you are gonna do? You are harming everyone.

Will coppa affect 13+ games like gta or cod or cs:go uploaded on youtube

Hello i have questions that what about gamer and streamers because so many kid also watch gamer and streamers so i would like you to make new option that kids and adults can watch and advertisement or bell icon etc features did not be remove from a gaming channels or a streaming channels
Thanks.

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