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

Why do you make it so you basically have to demagnetize your channel to stay active it's just stupid and making kid-friendly content you basically deleted your Channel or lost all your subscribers

I feel like COPPA particularly discriminates against my type of content creator: military-themed LEGO stop motion animations. The reason being that LEGO is generally associated with kids, but WW2 and WW1 are not. My videos contain gore in the sense of red colored cotton, so not that explicit, but it does make very clear that people (or LEGO minifigures) are dying. However the premise of LEGO as a kids toy is very complicating for the process of deeming my content as for kids or not for kids. I feel like a good majority of my viewers are teenagers or at least over the age of 11, but the term target audience does not describe the workings of my channel. I’m very disappointed that YouTube broke a law and is dumping the blame on content creators.

My Grandson is 16, and Autistic. His passion is Trains / Railroads. He has a youtube channel, where he uploads videos of Trains he has recorded with his video camera. It is just the Trains, with his commentary about them, and nothing more. This was something he really enjoyes doing. Actually one of the only things he enjoys doing. His channel is directed to any one who loves trains. He is now taking his channel down, and giving up his one passion, because of this new rule. He is afraid he will be fined $42,00.00 every time he posts a video. Is he subject to the Rule, and is he in danger of being fined/ Or is he Ok to keep posting his Train videos? Thanks, Steve B - NH

My channel is not being monetized। It's good to watch my channel a little। Thanks,

Sir my help to channel

No is dont for Child

Youtube is also double dipping charges from both using Apple's store and then also with google's own store for the same person or family or even multiple children.

I have already applied COPPA. My channel is not for kids. Thanks

what should I do for my channel where the protagonists are children, but is it a sport?

there are so many things wrong with this rule
and the main factor is that youtube shouldnt be accessable to children under the age of 13
in the terms and services of youtube it is stated that a user must be 13 years of age or older to make a youtube account
same exact thing for google

No not for children

Please distinguish between channels made for a wide audience, videos targeted to influence children, and mature content. Many channels appealing to children are also appealing to a variety of ages.

Im 28yrs old. I love Disney and most other popular cartoons and tv shows. With your rules, your saying my favorite channels can no longer include funny nsfw versions of these things cause its for children. Not everything is just for kids and what you need to understand is that this stuff could be for anyone and your rules are vauge.

What if a YouTube Content Creator uploads a video of an M-Rated game, such as Halo or Team Fortress 2, onto YouTube? Is that considered directed at children?

There is no one size fits all answer about what makes a site directed to children. Your content isn’t considered “directed to children” just because some children may see it. But if your if your intended audience is kids under 13, you’re covered by COPPA and have to honor the Rule’s requirements. The COPPA Rule sets out additional factors the FTC will consider in determining whether your content is child-directed. The blog lists some of the additional factors, including:

  • the subject matter,
  • visual content,
  • the use of animated characters or child-oriented activities and incentives.

Let me get this straight. Youtube was collecting information about children illegally, and was fined. But then afterwards, the FTC decided to update the COPPA law based on the illegal information. From what I am reading, I am assuming that would mean you would have to collect more information to see whether the person watching the video is under the age of thirteen in order to be able to find out whether the channel is considered directed to kids. Which is technically not fixing the problem. Unless I'm wrong about this whole thing and I'm misunderstanding something. Even if I am, I suggest that this law should be reviewed because, if this law is released like this, a lot of content creators will be effected. People will delete their videos and channels and the people who watch videos will also leave Youtube, seeing that their favorite channels are gone. Youtube will probably go out of business. I also have another suggestion. Please explain more about what is or is not directed to children. While some channels do specify if they are directed towards children, others are made for both adults and children. Because the description of what may be directed towards children is so vague, people who wouldn't be effected are worried about their content and are deleting their channels. It would be really nice if we could know more on what to avoid doing in order to not get fined or get our channels taken down. Thank you for reading this, and I hope you take my comment, and other people's comments, seriously. We are all very concerned about this law and hope that we are being heard.

You may not realize it but, (and if I was in your guys' shoes I wouldn't either because of all the children needing protection on the internet) this does in fact ruin some channels, there are some channels that're not directed towards kids, yet they have these things in their videos, will there be an update of some sort to this to fix those problems?

This pretty much goes against the first Amendment, freedom of speech.

It's bad to get in trouble for a channel that you make music on gosh this don't make sense but ok.

I happen to upload videos on rythmn game, it has animated characters, duh. Most games do, thought just because it can be played by children doesnt mean that I am aiming for them. I dont want my video mixed with nursery rhymes or COD. I feel like creators are being into a category 90% of them dont belong in.

This video is also for children

Dear FTC
I have already made a comment at regulator.gov but I want to make another one. I am a viewer but I am interested in becoming a creator. I just want to say thank you for allowing us to give feedback and allowing us to make a difference. I have a comment on kids channels, because a lot of adults and teens watches it, I believe that they should be trated as mature audience and they don't deserve to have those features taken away. Thank you

This isent right

This channel video not for childrens

For those of us still concerned about the grey areas. For content that includes: coloring for adults, drawings, paintings, and studio drawing or animation for artists, sewing, knitting, crocheting,
paper crafting, scrapbooking, working with wood or resin, or clay or sculpting. Whether it's a artists or a crafter who are working on or prepping for a vlog video about these subjects, I ask, can certain subjects like these videos actually be helpful towards adults rather than targeted at kids to help adults reduce their stresses and anxieties?

Please Clarify The Rules Of COPPA, These Rules Are Way To Vague For Content Creators Such As Me. Or There Should Also Be A Warning Before You Give Someone A 42,000 Dollar Fine.

What about channels that aren't directed towards kids but they watch them anyway?

I made a this Question
What does it mean for COPPA if they come after me if I mark all my videos not for kids

This isn't fair we're all kids at heart!!!!!!!

You tried to make it clear, but i still don’t understand how does gaming fit in with this, gaming could be considered a childrens past time even though mostly teens and adults play them

How does it apply to minors?

If you say not for kids even if it is ok for kids can you still get in legal trouble?

Don't you think that the people making these laws should probably know something about the internet? I mean, I watch "cartoons" that are NOT meant for children at all and if they're getting hit with 42,000 dollar fines then... That's not right...

The only thing is, some small channels don't have all this money! Are you suggesting they quit to save themselves the headache?

If my channel covers video games and covers some E rated, mostly T rated and some M rated stuff. How does the FTC look at that type of channel? Is it for kids or not for kids? Also do youtube analytics help with proving whether or not my channel targets kids? i would very much like an answer as I am in great need of this information.

I went to be make video for education related. That's maths for ncert high school

I always make the best possible videos for kids

This is ridiculous and will ruin the lives of too many

What if a child of the age of, let's say 9, watched a youtube video that is monetized (i.e video game channels) and the child's information is still anonymously taken to direct ads to said child and this child put his/her private info in unknowingly, what would you do about that?

What happened my problem solved

I have a small channel that is not monetised. If I mismark, do I risk a fine?

This is an outrage! Don't ruin peoples careers!

Yes it is made for kids

Dear FTC I do kinda like the rules but I do war animations and it looks like it is for kids but I’m not fully sure and I have another called bloxburg 10 incident I say it’s in between my channels name is what am I doing with my life studios mapping and I would really like a reply please

What if youOnly have a few videos and they’re set to private?

Us creators physically cannot control who watches our videos, yes we can push it towards certain audiences, but we can't stop a kid in a different country from watching a video they are not supposed to. That is the parents fault, not our fault. I upload minecraft videos, I do not include anything that is specifically for kids, but I also do not make adult only content. Most of us creators fall into a gray area. Would minecraft be considered kid content, even though it is a game that is enjoyed greatly by all ages? This is ruining lives, youtubers will lose their entire life over this. Fix your rules with youtube. Heck, try watching some youtube videos for once. You will see that most channels are not directly sent to kids, but are also not for adults. Youtube algorithms cannot detect these kinds of things on their own. Heck standing outside on a nice day could be considered "Bright and appealing colors to children" by an AI. Rant over. Fix your rules.

How do u make the channel a kid friendly channel it taking me to all different information centres and not lettering me jut agree

please tell more about ,, age of models,, we are making horror movie with kids actors :/

I understand that this law is stop children under 13 from having their information collected and what not and it's a good thing, but I really think the entire law does not really take into consideration of the creator who is creating the content. It is more of YouTube basically saying well we don't want to shell out any more money because we did not comply to the COPPA Law before and if we don't comply we will still be hit and we will lose our revenue. Well then it's the responsibility of the content creator to 'properly" mark their video if it's suitable for children or adult, otherwise they run the risk of being fined and having their YouTube Channel shutdown, which if the video is not marked correctly. Really nice scapegoat on YouTube's end. Why if then were the creators were not taken into consideration during this settlement and revised law? The focus was on the children of course for the purpose of the law, but how can hold the creator responsible if it's Youtube's platform not a private website that is owned by an individual. Shouldn't Youtube be responsible for what their site contains just as they do with any other TOS that they require? You expect to really believe that Youtube is going to comply properly with the law? All they care about is their revenue. If it's the FTC's job to see that the organization is complying with the law, shouldn't more be reviewed in regards to how Youtube is implementing a change in order to comply? Didn't anyone from the FTC take into consideration that their are some content to appeases to children as it does to adults as well? For example baking, if I do baking, which the majority of viewers are adult, but their are kids who love to bake as well. What if I did a cake of a Nintendo character and some kid under 13 see it and watches it? I mark it for adults and then its discovered that it's also considered a video for children as well determined by Youtube or the FTC I should be responsible because I marked it wrong, not realizing a kid is going to click on the video to make this cake?

I think there should be an option for a mixed audience or a 3rd option to say this video includes content for both adult and children. I think that's fair. This revised law was pushed out too fast for a short time to give notice to content creators and is gives an uncertainty what is going on. Their are people who their primary and only job is YouTube; its their livelihood, You force YouTube to comply with this law force them to implement another option/way to mark their videos correctly with about having to have anxiety if they do it wrong. Many content creators who have big channels who have over 100k subscribers are weighing in the balance to know how this is going to affect their channels and many are considering leaving Youtube all together. So if YouTube is so worried about losing revenue, channels like those for example who pull in so much revenue they will lose on them. How will anyone benefit from that? This needs to be revisited and two options is definitely not enough when you have content that may spark interest to children as well as the given example above. Another thing, what will stop a child under 13 from making an account that they lie and say they are over 13, how is that going to protect a child from children ads. The main point with this is, parents need to start monitoring their own children's viewing instead of a content creator being responsible for it, or better yet YouTube really satisfying their greed and helping the creator so they are not penalized for their negligence.

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.