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

Will.the law be a issue for gaming videos directed for kids?

YouTube kids was built to hold video geared towards children. YouTube was not built to be a kid servicing model from the start with the under 13 rule for the main site. The issue is YouTube has to make money to stay in business allowing content providers to have a place to post videos. YouTube kids does not have the ability to generate ad revenue the same way since data is not collected. Target ads generate a huge amount of $$ for amazon, and people creating specific type of videos. If you can’t track users why is Hasbro going to pay big $$ to put ads on YouTube that could show up on a Game of Thrones video? Moving all kids content to YouTube kids is really the solution to comply but then content creators would Then be doing it for fun vs making money. The other issue is without subscribers and comments your uploaded videos really have no chance of trending and you will get lost is the millions of uploads for gaming videos and unboxing family activities.

Can fortnite be for kids under 13.

I make Minecraft, Roblox, and Lego animations and I don’t curse in any of those videos that I make on youtube does this mean I have to make my content Made for kids because those three things I do on youtube have a audience which is for everyone and I checked on creator studio that my audience doesn’t have the under age of 13 so do I still have to make my content Made for kids?

Parents should be responsible for their children, not video owners. I'm very upset with this new system, as I enjoy watching a wide variety of videos, whether it be episodes of 2000s children's shows that I grew up watching, or Thomas videos made by adult fans of the show as I'm very passionate about trains and Thomas in particular. The YouTube Kids app exists for a reason. Please, don't make creators and viewers suffer because YouTube violated COPPA. I completely respect the intent and purpose of COPPA, but enforcing it this way will do more harm than good.

Please can you allow creators to do mixed audiences I cry everyday thinking about how life will be because chad wild clay and grace’s world said they will allow kids under 13 but I’m over 13 and I really enjoy there videos please rethink on making a mixed audience option

Hello there. I'm gonna put entire youtube into submission with my Morse Code Comedy that wasted entire 2021 to 2022. That "suitabe" for everyone and can be comment like dislike. You can not stop me!

I understand the need to protect children. And and I can appreciate that. Children need protecting! Saftey for kids is a priority. But, what about Youtube kids? Its designed for children. The main Youtube platform is for those that are 13+. This is not Youtube's fault. If you're truly worried about childrens eyes, then Youtube kids should be enough. If adults and parents are conncerned of what their kids are viewing, then Youtube should focus of advertising that. I love that fact you want to support the youth. But this is destroying channels. I, for one, have taken down all of my videos in fear it will destroy my life. Just because I may misplace a video.
I love making videos, but charging small and bigger channels is not the best course of action. The harm to these channels will be tremendous. And not in a good way! If you wish to protect the youth then the best course of action would be to chane what viewers under the age of 13 can view. If you do this, it'll change everything! Have them only able to watch videos that can watch videos that dont curse, don't show violent/innopropriate imagry.
I understand that's part of what your doing. But punnishing the channels isn't right. Have Youtube to go over the videos, most likely with there bots (similar to the ones used for copyright). I know they arnt perfect, but if they miscalculate, Youtube are the ones who should be penelised! Have channels still say if their meant for kids or not. But do not penilise them. Unless their content is deffiently not for kids! If it breaks one rule, dont punish them. You can also have bots look over their channels, and place them under a catagory.
In conclusion, I love what your doing! But I don't think your doing it in the right way.

I don't create this video for kids

What about channels about animals? I make videos of my pet mice and never think about who I am targeting. I just make what I like and I am an adult. Most of my audience is adult according to my stats, but there is no way of really knowing how many kids watch my videos. I never make any video specifically for kids, I do not dumb things down for preschoolers, but my guess is that because mice are cute and kids like them, there are a lot of kids watching my videos without me knowing, since no-one under the age of 13 can start a YouTube channel. So what do I do? I live in Canada so this may mean that I have less to worry about as to a law suit, plus I am not a super big YouTuber. I just do not know how to list my channel and my guess is that most YouTubers who post videos about their pets are in the same position of confusion. I really do not want to lose the comment section, so much interesting stuff happens there and I connect to my viewers there. It is so confusing.....for now I have labelled them made for adults, but I have no idea which it really is......

What if your video is private?

I don't think it effects you until it goes Public.... So I'm sure your good! Mine have been private and nothing's changed. So I think your good!

What if my channel shows non violent death in one of my videos? Such as a death from a dieses? Does this now make my video not kid friendly? Or is romance bad too? Not thing intense, but what about gay love? Is this harmful to children? I'm having. A a tough time deciding if my content is kid friendly! These are questions I've had, and I don't think creators should be penalized because their videos show these things. It's just not right. I love you want to help kids! Kids need protecting! But I am not in control of what my viewers are watching! YouTube kids is full of family friendly content. That's it's entire purpose! The main YouTube app is 13+! Your trying to protect ages under 13! That's like saying that since Facebook has some kids, it should be fully kids friendly! If it's the advertising your worried about, then there's much better ways to do so! Such as, not tracking children's data! Simply show adds that are popular to that generation based on what is selling most in us ,uk , ECT! Your trying to protect kids, but taking advertising from kid channels is harmful to the owners of said channel! I took down all of my videos in fear of what may happen if I simply make one little mistake! If you want kids to be safe, have them not be able to join the main YouTube platform if they are not 13+! Instead, have it automatically send them to the kids app. In all, it's a good rule, it just wasn't exucuted correctly.

Will I get finned if I put my video in the not for kids section bug it meets kids criteria? Will it still be out in the kids catagory? Will I be finned because it's technically kids friendly??? Will I be finned because I put it in not for kids but a bit put it in the kids catagory even though I said it wasn't for kids???

What about content that isn’t for kids, but is still animated? Like the Warrior Cats community. It’s notorious for its amazing animators and animations with blood, gore, death, etc.

Or what about major gaming channels, such as Markiplier or Jacksepticeye? They’re popular with kids, but both have said that what they make is NOT directed towards kids. And they swear all the time, too.

And kids often lie on the internet. Nothing’s stopping an 8 year old from doing things that they aren’t supposed to do; lying is a part of that age range! When I was young I lied all the time to my parents and teachers, and most of my friends did too when they where young.

IS THIS THE END OF YOUTUBE?

my friends keep telling me i need to pay a fine if i set my channel not for kids do i get fine for setting my channel not for kids

Hi, im a animator, i posted a animation of a FNAF character, is just a part of a song and it dont include a blood or seizure part, so please dont sue me :'( i would die if that happens to me :'/

Also you would make a ban system not a sue system, if you make a video that isnt for kids and you put is for kids, you should make a bot who deletes that video and makes you cant upload videos for 1 month, please, say to youtube to do that it would be more good, because a $40,000+ sue can leave the person in bankrupt, please think about that :/

Can you please stop this coppa children’s online privacy protection act thing on youtube, because I want to keep this youtube website on the internet for forever. I’m getting very scared about that for me. So can you do that for me please.

Thank youtube all bro or sis

What if I made a video about making a scar. What category would that video fall under?

What about a drumming channel. Because we drum covers to songs that appeal to children, nothing inappropriate happens in the songs or videos. But what about when is cussing in the song. You guys say because there is children in the video, and the acts appeal to children in some cases doesn't count as kid-friendly. So what am I supposed to do with that?

FTC better thinks, that each countries have different laws regarding children’s privacy. Are FTC try To forcing Other countries to agree With COPPA?? Even Other Countries ( like Japan, Australia, Indonesia, India, etc.) already having better solutions for those problems???

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. As a related matter, 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 happened if a channel is not for kids?

what if youtubers like me with under 100 subs? Will they get fined too?

I just wanna know, if your videos aren't directed towards kids but still child friendly, what do you mark it as, for kids or not for kids

What about if u make roblox videos is that consider childerns

The FTC cannot approve particular websites or online services or provide an opinion on whether a specific site or service is directed to children.

My content appeals to a broad audience, but targets mainly an adult audience. As a content creator I have no control over who sees my videos. Youtube often makes errors in content detection, and while they have a right to police their content in the scope of their platform any way they see fit, this ruling has ramifications with real world consequences, consequences that can destroy lives and families. In addition, the vagueness of these terms make such laws nearly impossible for the layperson to follow. While this is acceptable for a private platform, it is totally unacceptable for any government body in the free world, the FTC included, who's purpose is to protect America's consumers from a corporations actions, not punish the little guy over something they had no control over.
For all those in the US reading: If you are fined but made a good faith effort to classify your content correctly, but for whatever reason youtube or the ftc incorrectly flagged your video as otherwise, please dispute it in a court of law or any other way fit. Reason shall prevail.

What about Gacha life?

Drear. FTC if you start Scaring Youtube Creators away YouTube Will lose money as company And Youtube Doesn't Want to lose Money. For older Fans Dbz, Pokemon, And Mario Older Fans Like Those type Shows / Anime. Dragon Ball Z is not target to kids is more for an Older Fan Base People who Play the mario games Are Mostly Adults Who grew up with The Nintendo Entertainment System Talk about the Games.

Is COPPA going to make YouTube delete music such as tracks that channels have uploaded such as Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Dean Martin songs and gaming content such as GTA 5 or La Noire because I want content like that to stay up there till the end of time. People are worried about if YouTube is going to die in 2020 where YouTube would be shut down and out of business. Is that going to happen because people would not like for that to happen at all? I wonder if they are answers to what I am mentioning here.

what if im a lets say 16 year old do i get a fine if my content is not for kids

yes kids can watch my youtube channel it is for everyone to see

It's a Joke !! Nothing has changed on January 1st. YouTube channel owners are llaughing

I have a old account, and i forgot the gmail but i know the name of the channel. I used to upload but now i cant access it and mark the videos, what will i do now?

Consider contacting YouTube to have your password reset.

Youtube: YouTube Isn't for kids!

Also YouTube: We will turn YouTube into YouTube Kids!

Has it been in effect yet

Does that mean I can be fined because Google guides children to my video and then illegally collects their private information? No matter that I have no influence on this traffic at all and I do not collect any child's data? In other words, I will be feed for Google's illegal actions?

Would my channel be considered for kids if my channel is very pro lgbt community and consists of lots of lgbt content?

How do i create it so I can post like confirm its child proof

If I become a youtuber than I would not show any thang bad

What if someone in the FTC thinks that the video is intended for children without knowing the real content of it? Oh and America is not the only place where people watch You Tube! It'll make everything just weirder and more complicated!

The FTC is not labeling content on the YouTube platform.

It for marketing only

Thank you all bro

How about bento box lunches,or just regular school lunches ideas kinda video? Cute but targeting adults,because children will never be able to do them,but still appealing to them because cute..

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