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

This COPPA thingy might giving people in danger situation but at the same time safe. Why do i say so? It's because what if people think that his/her video is for adult BUT it's for children, then as COPPA said, he/she need to pay per violation. What if they are children who be a youtuber are they gonna pay to? Yes? That will kill the YouTube BECAUSE, people will be worrying about paying if he/she make a mistake. So my suggestion is:

-Stop the COPPA operation

-Make the law simple

OR

-Don't start the COPPA operation next year until the problem to solve is discoverable

The 1st suggestion is recommended

I respectfully ask that you make your guidelines much more clear on what is deemed children's content. This list of rules is extremely vague. Every channel on topics of POP CULTURE could be deemed as for 'children's content' under these rules, even though 99% of the viewership is coming form adults. Most Youtubers also cannot afford an attorney. I respectfully ask you put a system in place to dispute mistaken claims where evidence such presenting the age analytics of a channel can be used to show a channel is being viewed by adults & not kids. This law is going to ruin thousands of peoples livelihoods the way it currently stands.

As a frequenter of YouTube I have seen the joys of creativity and the abilitty of the YouTube to promote various brands and companies. Unfortunately with these new regulations, I feel as if youtubers will be held to high standards of meeting the requirement of "kid-friendly" content. With the way youtube works, content labled as "kid-friendly", will only be shown to the registered users of kids in that demographic and adults will be unable to watch or contribute to that revenue. This not only departs the adult demographic for parents or consumers to screen those products and gives this authority to a single button, but it prevents the reaching and promotion of these companies and their brands to adults who are more willing to pay for these expenses to appease their children and/or their own personal enjoyment. The definition of "kid-friendly" in this bill also concerns me because it regulates various content and determines them only marketable to one demographic, that being children. Various listings such as DC comics, Marvel Comics, Star Wars, and other similar content is now only considered "kid-frinedly" and must be listed as such, causing youtubers to lose the adult demographic in the process to get the official listing of "kid-friendly". As for a final statement I will note that this will greatly affect the livelihood of many Youtubers. With "kid-friendly" content, comments will be removed for the sake of "safety", but this will unfortunately affect creative feedback and the contribution system youtube has in place for viewers to directly support their creators through donations and such. And finally the livelihood of youtubers is at stake. These people have dedicated their life to the showcasing of brands, but with this potential loss of income, it will spell certain ending for much of the creators, who can't reach the adult demographic because they have to focus on one or the other. I hope you will take this into consideration when deliberating. The livelihood of creators depends on your decisions and I hope you make the correct choice.

does a game's rating factor into if it is made for kids or not?

My channel is not made for kids - we use our channel to market horses for sale, showing the horses ride etc, our kids are riding the horses. Also a few videos of our kids playing etc - that are left on unlisted and send to family members to watch - due to they are not local. On that not a lot of my videos are marked unlisted and I use playlist to sent to potential buyers. Not being able to use the playlist is a big deal for me. Also I do make about 300-500 a month and do not want to lose that. Can anyone please help tell me how to make my videos?

You had created youtube kids so this would not happen, but instead of redirecting kids to youtube kids you put the fear of youtube creators going broke because they made one wrong decision they didn't know how to handle

I would like the FTC to explain to me what 'traditional' activities are directed towards children. I'm 58 years old now, but when I was growing up, building plastic models was something that kids did. You bought styrene glue, paints, etc. to build your kit. Now, you have to be at least 18 to buy the glue and many aerosol cans of paint, and the hobby is primarily an adult leisure time activity. The FTC should attend a IPMS Regional model show and see the ratio of adults to kids attending. Not saying that model building can't appeal to children, but it's typically through parents passing on the hobby to their kids, not watching You Tube videos. Another example is skateboarding. Traditionally when I was growing up skateboarding was a kids activity . Today, you have the annual X-Games on ESPN with professional skateboarders who are by no means children. Does skateboarding appeal to kids? Sure, but not just kids anymore. This net the FTC is casting is so vague as to be all encompassing. Intentionally, I believe. Maybe in time the voice of reason will win out and the FTC will realize its overreach in this area, but until that happens, many creators will be unjustly harmed because of the murkiness of the guidelines. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see a federal judge issue an injunction preventing the implementation of these new guidelines before the take effect.

I have a comment to say about these rules, I posted a video yesterday of a game I made on my phone, but in the video you can see that it was not aimed at children, and yet they were considered, the video had bad words, and Other things that clearly were not for children, for now it is only this video that was considered directed to the child, I tried to restrict the video to over 18, but no use, please make the rules lighter and clearer.

allow adults watching kids content to post comments and see personalized ads

you said that youtube was collecting data from kids without parental consent. a parent should know that their kids are having data collected. if they don't want that, they shouldn't let kids watch youtube. just add a notification that says youtube collects data for personalized ads, and that if you want your child to watch you need to give your child parental consent. when a parent lets a kid watch youtube, that parent shouldn't care if data is being collected. if the kid is sneaking on to youtube without parent permission, that's an issue, but that's a different topic.
just let parents know that data is being collected and let them decide whether their children can watch youtube.

it's the child's fault if they leak data through comments. i mean, you would have to not care about your data being leaked if you posted this comment: "My name is Mary Jones from Springfield. I love this video!"
just don't reveal information it's common sense

Adults like colors, animations, certain toys and figurines, jokes, stories, pets, sports, games, and ENTERTAINMENT. Creators shouldn't have to change their content to maintain their career on YouTube. It should be the parents of those young kids on YouTube who gave their child a phone at the age of 5 that suffer the consequences.

YouTube creators are flagging adult videos as "For Kids" because they are afraid if they don't the FDC will sue them for up to $42,000 if they do not. This is not being done maliciously but because people are so afraid of being sued that they feel doing so is safer than the alternative. You need to put out a statement specifically saying that Adult themed video games or cartoons should not get marked as "For Kids" due to their use of "Animated Content". You also need to do something to make people less afraid of being sued by you. Your statement that one company was only sued $35,000 is not too reassuring if you happen to be a single mom working paycheck to paycheck.

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

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