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

frankly I do not see why you have to deactivate the comments then I see no danger in the comments for children

Why COPPA blocks the miniplay on YouTube app while watching

No I don't like it

I JUST discovered this when I tried to save a video tutorial on creating miniatures to one of my playlists. I find the whole issue to be rather absurd. Some of the miniatures are for 'dollhouses', yes, but we're not talking about Barbie here. It is doubtful they would be used as 'toys' based on the materials used, the 'into the mouth' size, and the delicacy of the creations. And except for a prodigy with highly advanced fine motor skills and infinite patience, the creation of these tiny works of art would prove far too challenging.

I don’t know what’s wrong with it because I’m trying to do is make it work in order to make this video made it for kids but I’m sorry for struggle fixing that problems. But thank you for help

I believe that the government should not be parenting the children! Parents should. Also, what if things that appeal to children also appeal to adults, like animated characters.

I have a son who has cerebral palsy , and I upload activities and places he goes ,so he can watch them on our smart tv as he likes to be able to show family and friends what he does , family that don’t live near us , so they can enjoy and see what he has been doing , their is nothing rude or incriminating about my YouTube Chanel , what do I set my mine to ? I am confused Thankyou Denise dent

Please tell me that whether I should keep my channel's content as "directed to kids" or not. Please!
My channel is based on different bases of life. I upload drawing videos, cooking videos, emotional or inspirational stories (in written), speaking english videos etc. I don't upload any bad or sexual or slang videos at all! So, is my channel directed to kids or not?

I have no kids. I have an old account. But i can't use my YouTube. What i can do?

How can I miniplay the kids video if it blocked by COPPA and YouTube?

Yes this is for kids

Hi FTC yes this for all n kids also thanks

Why you’ve turned off these!
I don’t like this!

A lot of YouTube channels have comments and playlists and all other stuff disabled now because of this. I'm 30 years old but I like animations, Roblox, Minecraft and a lot of kids related stuff and I should be allowed to use these services. There should be a way to verify your age when accessing YouTube instead of blocking all content that could appeal to childrens. This is a stupid law.

If there's an animation of a video game in a channel and that animation contains blood,does that animation be for childrens that are under 13 age ?

The updated rules say that if your video has something more intended for mature audiences (blood,gore profanity etc..) it is not for kids, so your video should be fine and apply for “not for kids”

Coppa leave YouTube alone

This is right frustrating. I have encountered quite a few videos in the past week that I cannot save to a playlist or comment upon because they are now "made for kids"..whether their creators intended or not. Most are just public streaming webcams, but one was a movie review for adults regarding a kid's movie. Will channel owners be notified if/when their videos are changed to "made for kids" and will they have any recourse in marking them as "made for everyone" or otherwise before being fined? Lastly, who is ultimately making this judgement? Are we putting our channels' futures in the hands of AI-bots?

why can’t I comment on kid friendly videos

Please hire people who actually understand the internet or modern culture before writing legislation like this. This is so painfully behind the times. It also violated the first amendment even before you all decided to update it in ignorance of the current internet landscape, and now its so egregious I can't even fathom how anyone thought this was okay.

So what about gaming most games that are not made for kids, kids play these day I know they shouldn't that age restriction is there for a reason but what about those games that are not made for kids but kids play them does that count as a kids content ?

  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 is not made for children. It is made for all ages. I am trying to get noticed by adults...not children.

Why the heck are they doing this to people there's a thing called "Youtube kids" why don't you use your brain and eyes to find it

YouTube is our home. It's our happy place. Please don't take it away.

I make content using an app that is for kids (though it really should't be), and my content contains things that aren't for kids. I've seen someone say that this would still be marked as "for kids" because its made directly off a children's app. If you wanted kids to be safe, you should change the system.

We have two choices. Lose what makes us continue uploading or risk getting fined. I get that your trying to make YouTube better for kids, but all your doing is making kids lose their favourite youtubers.

Your intentions are good, but there's no way 12 year olds are gonna watch nursery rhymes in their free time.

"We're content creators, not babysitters."

I feel that this is stupid, for different reasons, what bad things are you going to see on YouTube? Since this platform is constantly changing and it is ruining many things that were good before. I say that since I have been occupying this platform for many years, children who were born in 2000 or before, watched entertaining things and not things like a baby, to be watching what they do is already exaggerated. You will not find anything wrong with youtube, people.

What if parents want to add a "made for kids" video to a playlist so they can just turn it on for their kids to watch? They're not able to do that if the 'save to playlist" option isn't available anymore, now can they? This change isn't very good and it's too confusing and frustrating.

I would like to know why I can’t watch a video that is for kids. It said that the reason was because the Chanel was makes for kids. How do I make it for me to be able to watch the videos?

Oh and I’m only 18 so I think that counts as being a child, right? I’m trying to be rude I just wanna fix this matter on my account.

Hey, uhh, COPPA is kinda good, but
Us videos creator are wild about it...

my channel and my other channel ARENT DIRECTED FOR CHILDREN. YET YOU YOUTUBE KEEP SAYING IT IS.

Sir I am not kid but this kid turn off is on my YouTube channel my question how to turn off the kids options.

Honestly, I just want to continue to watch my regular you tube which are Not X rated at all mostly educational and I can't even save it for future reference anymore due to your stupid children bar thingy? If the parents nowadays pay more attention to their kids wouldn't have such issue? All are self centered. Know how to have kids but don't know how to manage

Hy, i am channel owner I make all the videos about typical urdu language For urdu students What should i do now?

What if you just want videos aimed at both kids and adults? it would be helpful if youtube had a rule like that, like they said in a thingy (i think an email) it said you can have a both option but it isnt there, and untill they add it, i aint uploading >:(

I am not making coppa content

Im not kid im 20 years woman

I have been using YouTube for years I do not have children and I would like this made for kids feature turned off of my phone it's affecting other features that YouTube offers and there's no way I know how to turn it off please make this in clear sight so we have choices thank you.

You can see that you have been in the yobutube

How many times do I have to tell you Barney & Friends are not made for COPPA that means it's not made for kids

now we can't comment on some videos because of this.

How why do Tiffany Rothes videos have these types of blocks? Yeah she does have videos that are aimed towards kids but even her videos that are aimed towards adults are still blocked like this. Couldn't they have only done this with those videos of hers that are aimed towards kids?

How to change made for kids I want to change not for kids

No this video is not kid

This is *way* too vague. I don't know what to do. I just upload random videos sometimes, they're not even monetized, and now I'm at risk for a huge fine... The rules are way too vague and whether content is "for kids" or not is too subjective. This won't solve anything.

Enough careful look at

I need your help can you get rid of YouTube kids

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