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

My account is not for children because I have music that swears and it should not be copy writed because I have it in description

MY YouTube channel all creat video is not made for kids

I am afraid what will happen

There must be be a way to activate and verifying I'm a grown up.

This is absolutely ridiculous, it is the parents job, not the site. YouTube is not a babysitter! And $42,000? this largely impacts even the biggest YouTubers!, plus there is still YT kids!

Freedom of information /opinion is essentional : if accomplidhed with a warning for being responsible for interpreting info is your own responsability: should be enough! Why forced censureship if people arenot capable to make their own decisions! Morons? Let's us self decide! Censoring creates a statement! We're excellent capable to judge for ourselves!!!

Thank you

It is for adults

I am not a kid and does not have one so, please can this mode be desactivated thanks.

I'm a person who loves watching cartoons on YouTube. I sometimes upload funny clips to show people how funny they are, letting people know that I don't own the show. Most of the cartoons are kids cartoons, like SpongeBob Squarepants. I love being able to joke around in the comments section with people, and I don't understand why YouTube has to be so safety conscious when there's no need t be at the moment. I honestly don't see how turning off the comments stops child predators, because it doesn't. I personally think that content creators should be in charge of their own comments and decide for themselves whether to disable comments or not. They should be allowed to review comments before the comments are published. I'm a person who wants kids to be safe, but I think that disabling comments is too strict. People should be allowed to have freedom in the comments, but people should also be allowed to report comments if they need to. Not only is this a problem for cartoon fans, this is also a problem for artists of YouTube. Just because someone repaints a doll, doesn't mean the video is for kids.

No,not for kids

my upload videos are for all ages fit for all audiences

What if the video includes people from age of 12 - 18 trying out for a baseball team? It is not intended just for kids under 13 but intended for anyone to watch but just has kids under the age of 13 in the video. Does that qualify?

I want to subscribe to video's but it doesn't let me subscribe to video's.

How can I opt out I'm a senior and I have no children in my apartment

I would like to know why the mini player and the ability to save videos are restricted. What about them infringes on child’s protection laws?

I nota kid!!!!!!

My video hads made not for kids

Im ok with videos being 4 kids but dont take away our precious comments and notifications bell

Like it.. Good luck

We have no kids and have no kids around! We are seniors who like watching and saving classical music, health and devotional shows - you turned off saving to library feature which is upsetting!

Yes I understand

Creators of YouTube are not babysitter!

I don’t like the YouTube kids, so can you please take down the YouTube Kids and not use it anymore?

How do i turn it off

I grow up watching Disney and still enjoy listening to the music and watching the movies so why can I not make a play list of the one I like best0

So what if I post walkthroughs of games. I do both games that are for adults m rated and such. But also I do T rated and even E if it's a game looked forward too. So can I change settings on YouTube to vary between my videos?

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

nice

What will happen to all my favorite creators will they have to quit their jobs or will they have to change their content?

COPPA HOW ABOUT PET VIDEOS LIKE RABBIT AND CUTE BUNNIES? BOTH ADULTS AND KIDS LIKE THEM, NEED SOME GUIDANCE HERE,
I WOULD APPRECIATE IT IF YOU COULD GIVE SOME POINTER HERE AND THERE. THANKS

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

Please help me kids of

If I were to make a "mixed audience" video on YouTube (such as the example of an gaming video with adult humor), if I put a "13+" in my channel description where people will see it am I fine to keep making videos or is that a violation of COPPA?

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

As I live in the UK I hardly think it's necessary that this is applied to my device, AND considering I am over the age of 13 how is it that this is on my YouTube. How can I stop this disrupting me?

What if a youtuber creates Art drawing lessons, Or music teaching lessons, That are aimed at a general audience of art hobbyists, Or learner musicians, Eg: content that could possibly appeal to people of all ages; How to draw things, or just an art entertainment video of drawing a specific thing from start to finish, Examples of Things drawn could be: Marvel characters, Star Wars characters, Examples of music taught to musicians, could be church music, Can a youtuber set these videos as for a General Audience?

I'm Plus 29 Years

My daughter has a children's ministry channel on YouTube.
The only problem I have with this is that her subscribers can't be notified when she uploads a new video.
It seems to me that this restriction is going to reduce her audience. I get that thia is in place to protect her but it also limits her.
Also her channel can only be found if you have the link. How is she supposed to gain more viewers if no one can find her videos? The fact that her channel can only be found by those who already have the link kind of limits her audience.
Another issue is that even she can't see how many subscribers she has. I know thia because I actually produce her channel for her so I have full access to her account.
I fully understand the protection that you are trying to put into place but the restrictions to the channel itself seem unfair to the uploader. If I post her content as not for kids then she is in danger of violating this law yet she loses features that help grow her audience and keep them up to date.
This doesn't seem fair to the uploader. Please consider the amount of restrictions that are now being placed on these accounts and/or videos as a violation of free speech and press. My daughter should have just as much right as I have. Even with the protection in place.
I will gladly keep marking her content in accordance with the law but some concessions should be made on the uploader's behalf.

Is Nickelodeon only for kids? Is Disney only for kids? Is Cartoon Metwork only for kids? Is Nintendo only for kids? How about Pokemon, Mario, Donkey Kong? Because last I checked all these things are for all ages, not just kids. Can I sue Angela Campbell for discrimination for assuming that these things are only for children? Adults deserve engagement as well. Children no matter, as long as their parents allow them to, are going to see behavioral ads. Does Angela J Campbell even acknowledge that?

I am a Sunday school teacher in the UK and I need to save religious songs so my Sunday school children can learn them and then I can send the link to the parents but now I am unable to do so.

Any ideas what I can do now?

I started a new channel and I am very confused that is my videos is made for kids or not I make educational videos about the countries and people like the richest countries and the richest person or the most beautiful countries in the world and children and adult both like these type of videos so I don't know what to do now?

Sir mere all videos made for kids hai

Dear FTC i am a YouTube creator im 18 and i like to know if the rure of COPPA apply to Greece and Europe in general and if i play a 18 rated game would it be for adults or kids ?

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

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