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

I am a gamer. I started swearing in my videos to prove that my stuff's not made for children and I am planning to delete my channel on December 29, 2019. I don't know what to do Can you help me?

In YouTube what happens with content that contains excessive or not excessive rudeness or violent content but that can be considered as for children in some aspects mentioned or that can be striking for children?

would this affect creators globally since this is a US law?

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

This will not be good for the ftc or youtube reputaton chanels will not take this kindly so please do not go against youtube?

i have a question according youtube videos
if my videos are focused on Yugioh trading card game does that means my videos are made for childrens because some childrens may play yugioh?
this is not irrational?

1 - If the video is about struggle of life of any scientist, actor, politician etc., motivation, teaching about how to make better life, problems creating by social activities like global warming, pollution etc.,?

2 - I still not understanding that what type if stories include COPPA, You mean's Akbar Birbal story, fairy tail, king/queen story that parent tell to their little children, or story that we tell to small children for their entertainment, or what?

3 - I've one video on diabetes for more than 13 year old person but I used small girl pic just to show up happiness in life, that mean my video is under COPPA?

4- I've used in every video, one or two time video clip or pic of small child for 5- 10 second who are not any actor, celebrities, or popular child, a 3-4 month child small video clip but all these are not directed to children,p included in coppa?

My content may appear like it's directed towards kids, but it's actually directed at grandparent age people and more of a general audience. My YouTube analytics/audience show my audience being the lowest number in the 13-17 age range. What do I do? I don't want to lose my community page and comments!

I understand that this is your job and I respect that, but the way your handling YouTube can possibly ruin the lives of creators. Technically it's not their fault, it's Google and YouTube's for not doing anything about the children frolicking around the site. Instead of marking videos, how about we mark users as kids if their under 13. If they are, then they won't be sent targeted ads and their info won't be accessible. I do have a question if this isn't going to change: will channels who aren't getting money from ads be affected by this? I have a channel of my own and I do animations and they have characters that children know but it's really mature and has swearing, blood, and references to mental illnesses. I'm scared that COPPA will most likely fine me even though my channel isn't aimed toward kids (some of my older stuff is since I was a kid myself when I made those). Plus, I'm only a teenager, I can't pay a $42,000 fine. Again, I know your only doing your jobs, but please try to think about the creators who are going to be affected by this.

So I am a bit confused:
If my channel is set for monetization, I will no longer AT ALL make money from ads?

Please, just get rid of COPPA. Why is it is creators fault that the parents aren't able to parent their kids? YouTube content creators aren't in charge of monitoring what your kid watches. Also, to add on, if you want to make ridiculous rules like the ones listed above, at least make them more detailed so we can at least know what were doing. For example, "Visual Content". How am I suppose to know what you are talking about? What kind of visual content? That rule literally classifies every single video on YouTube as kid oriented. Also, even without the rules, and care for the creators, the fine? Is that really necessary? $42,000 dollars PER VIDEO. You do realize that this is an insane amount of money. Lets say that the average YouTuber with about 7,000 subscribers uploaded lets say, 50 videos, and 10 of those videos do not follow these guidelines. This person would have to pay around $420,000 dollars, which they probably don't have since their channel is fairly new. The only way for the creator to avoid this fine is to completely delete their YouTube channel, which makes the creator unhappy, and those 7,000 people who liked their videos unhappy. There is no winning with this law. It makes no sense, and it should be voided completely. It will only HURT the platform, not help it.

I’m confused on if my content is made for kids or not. I love YouTube but I don’t know what to do. I do Gacha, which used cartoon characters which makes it appealing to kids, but some of my videos swear and some don’t. I do t want to get sued but I also don’t want to delete my channel. Which should I choose?

Does it also affects other countries like canada or germany?

Can you examine more on the animation side of YouTube, because if your stating that animation in general is "for kids", your wrong, not all animation is for kids, there are adult-animated shows on cable tv like Rick and Morty and Family Guy, which these shows have both violence and profanity, are these considered "for kids" just because they are a CARTOON? I find it completely ignorant how you can try to ruin all animation on YouTube just because they are considered cartoons, please examine each animated video on YouTube to really know what's for kids and what's not for kids, there are a lot of animation that are not for kids.

And also, a fine of $42, 530 per violation is too much, not every YouTuber can afford that, please lower the price at least below $5,000, and also give us a warning first before you start charging us with something not all of us can be able to pay.

Please take another look at the blog. It does not say that "animation in general is for kids." It has information to help channel owners determine if their content is directed to children. It says:

" 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,
  • (more factors are listed in the blog)."

my channel is equally suitable for all age group. and i can see a new message about children s control. my question is how to follow this policy and how to give respond to this message. i have alredy responded .but still i can see that message again and again

Youtube are not for kids depends on the content. There is a App called Youtube kids, why not let them use it. Please don't pretend that Youtube Kids app doesn't exist. Just admit it. It very difficult for every content creators. They make money out of it, Their passion, work and dreams. The Parents should know how to monitor their kids and not be lazy. We are not babysitters, we make videos what we want. Please don't add the rules in it. It too vague and it needs to be put down.

Here’s the part that I don’t get. If we can’t have child actors in the videos then can we have child animated characters. Like if you make an animated story then there will be children. But what if it’s a sad story or something like that. Kids don’t like things that are sad. So my content is not for kids only reasons are because I make love stories that are LGBTQ related and sad stories not to mention high school stories and I don’t think kids will understand that. But my question is what if we have child animated characters like say a child is six years old but animated in a sad story? That won’t count as for kids right.

the law is not very specific which it does not makes sense even content creators uses figurines which they are not for kids that will mistaken labeled as "made for kids"

FTC, the law you made (COPPA) is too aggressive and will harm creators.

Also, I have a dream of being a YouTuber when I grow up. Why are you doing this FTC? Everyone lives in YouTube. It is everyone's life. I can't accept just letting my dream go away. So stop this law. Everyone is hardworking on their videos for days, months and years. And that is what you are gonna do? You are harming everyone.

Will coppa affect 13+ games like gta or cod or cs:go uploaded on youtube

Hello i have questions that what about gamer and streamers because so many kid also watch gamer and streamers so i would like you to make new option that kids and adults can watch and advertisement or bell icon etc features did not be remove from a gaming channels or a streaming channels
Thanks.

I QUIT YOUTUBE FOR THIS!!!!! I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY COPPA BECAUSE I WENT THROUGH TROUBLE FOR THIS

This new rules don't make any sense. YouTube wasn't intended for kids in the first place when it launched since 2005. And the violation fine is ridiculous. 42,000 dollars is way too far for the violation fine and I mean who could afford it. It would place a lot people in debt and worse making them become homeless. So please think about what you're doing to Youtube. Is not the Youtube creators fault, is the parents failure of not monitoring their kids online activity. I understand you want to protects kids but is the parents job to do that. I just wish parents of this generation that are not tech savvy, be a little more educated on different websites and research the site before they let their kids on the internet. If you do enforce this law, remember you will only destroy not just Youtube but many people lives, forcing them to be drown in debt and end up homeless. Many Youtube creators have family too, would you want to ruin their lives because of parents failure to monitor their kids online activity? No. The blame should be on the parents not YouTube. That's all I have to say. So please reconsider about your decision that you're going to make.

It's a intertainement video only everyone can watch it

My Lego hockey content is directed towarda everyone, and not just kids. Should I mark it as for kids, or not? I'd like that cleared up.

I am saddened by how this will affect creator’s of great content. This will dramatically impair their ability to generate revenue. I would think it would be better to go after those who are creating the in appropriate content and separate them off onto a separate barred platform.

What about crochet doll tutorial channels? The content is about how to create a toy (doll), kids maybe even don't understand how to do it. The process of making the doll is not appealing/attractive to kids. But the thumbnails of the videos are appealing to kids.

what if you make family friendly content on YouTube? Should you mark as the videos For Kids or For Adults?
Examples Like painting , ff comedy , study related etc

Hello COPPA Hello FTC COPPA,FTC I want you to stay away from YouTube you know why because I'm gonna be so nervous and afraid of this otherwise we're gonna call the cops there gonna arrest you and they will throw you in jail that's why because my Channels and my behzad family's Channels in Bahrain are not made for kids so please don't touch Youtube , don't change Youtube into COPPA, don't update YouTube into COPPA and please don't do that thank you for much and thanks for asking.

You can't call the cops on the FTC they are a Gov't organization that regulates sales and commercial organizations so they have the right to this.

So if I played some games concidered "for kids" minecraft for example or made stories from a game that's probably for kids like mario but had swear words and humour that probably would not be appropriate for childeren what would happen to my channel/videos ?

Adding a mixed content option when uploading videos would help many creators. Most YouTube creators have content that is aimed for general audiences for children, teenagers, and adults. Without that option, YouTube creators are stuck in a grey area. If COPPA goes through, kid's channels will be destroyed and YouTubers will make more adult orientated content which will be demonetized by YouTube for not being kid-friendly. Most creators will be confused with all of the rules. Also, the fee of up to $42,530 per violation is too much especially for YouTube creators. Most YouTubers get their money on YouTube through ads and AdSense from Google, which in the grand scheme of things, is actually not that much money. If the fee does go through, most YouTubers will not be able to pay for their families or they will lose a large amount of their revenue. Children and teenagers will always continue to watch online content on YouTube and this is not the right way to best help kids and creators all over the world.

I have been on YouTube for the past 5 years now and while I am a smaller channel than most, I do understand a lot about this new YouTube guideline with COPPA. I am 18 years old and I make music videos with stuffed animals called Webkinz. One of the features that will be removed if COPPA goes through will be comments and notifications. Since I have a small channel, notifications are helpful when my subscribers will be alerted whenever I upload and the comment section of my videos are really helpful when discussing things with other people in this community, who are mostly teenage girls. If I lose the comment section, it will be more difficult to talk with my online peers and improve my channel as a whole. Another thing that bothers me is that there is only two options for uploading YouTube content: "made for kids" and "not made for kids". Most of the other people in this small community, including myself, consists of teenage girls from 13-19 years of age, making music videos and series featuring Webkinz. Our channels are usually kid-friendly but they're not made with kids and young children in mind. The content is aimed at other teenagers or just general audiences. Only having two options puts our channels in a tight spot, much like most other general audience YouTubers.

What about non-monetized channels like myself?

Ok, lets start off with this:
I see that your trying to improve the way of seperating content for different audiences.
But these rules draw the line.

Firstly, doing this ruins millions of careers for people on youtube or other apps. I'm a teen and i wanted to start an animation channel, but i cant due to violence being seperated by cartoons. I'm pretty sure
That im talking for everyone when i say that COPPA will just ruin everything.

Now correct me if im wrong but that'll also ruin people that make tv shows that are cartoon based like rick and morty and cartoons that are aimed at kids but break the rules here.

Now kid content will just be those 'abc 123 learning for kids' everywhere. Some people like me want action, drama, entertainment but now its all taken.

Adult content will most likley be the same but missing the spice.

Your list is also odd, music? Adult content isnt allowed music? Seeing my childhood, im already annoyed about article 13 going around and about but this seems even worse.

so now i will stop seeing those cool youtubers that just want to entertain their audience, ill stop seeing most youtubers due to these effects and i cannot complete my dream of animating something for everyone.

You can do the following to fix this:
Dont do it
Add a mixed section where these rules dont apply.
Remove simple things like music, cmon, its music, 2019 kids dont care

Fix this,
Do it for everyone

My content is directed and suitable for all audiences.

Instead of having content creators decide who their demographic is and potentially risk being sued for up to 42,000$ for making a mistake in that process, would it not be easier and less lawsuit-inducing for Youtube to just cease data collection and personalized ads on accounts whose users are under 13? Because specifying one's age is required to make a Google account, would this process not solve the issue entirely?

Many adults like kid appropriate content too, as some things normally associated with children (like Pokémon) have been around for a while and still have adult fans. How will cases like that be handled? Y’all stated that content that appeals to all ages won’t be hurt, but there’s the problem. Anything directed at kids will always, without a doubt, have teen and adult viewers. The system is fundamentally flawed as either nothing will change, or content for all ages will be harmed.

You have to be over 13 to even be on YouTube. How will this even work?

Hello there. Even if you have told me the good news for the animators, I'm still a little shaken by the news.

So if I understand this correctly, my 12 year old daughter and her friends who are seriously into dressage (horsemanship) watch youtube channels and videos that are created not specifically for children but instead for the entire audience of those who are interested in the sport/hobby/lifestyle are then putting those creators at 'risk' of being fined by the FTC for having watched their content? How on earth are you able to lump together what interests a 10-12 year old might have versus a 7-9 year old much less those even 'younger'. Do any of you law makers have children? Do you not realize that there is a massive difference in interests of the sub age groups of 'under 13'? Also, after having read the entire COPPA details it states that it's to protect against data-collection. Content creators do not collect any of the data you've listed - any information/data that is collected by the 'platform' is never shared with the content creators so how can they be held accountable under COPPA?

Why are youtube creators being punished for parents not being able to parent their kids?

Now, after some time and some light research, I have come to a conclusion that many other commenters may come to. The people that run the FTC are not very caught up with the rest of our current culture. Our current Pop-culture, our current understandings, our current communication systems, and our current way of our world. I say this because,:from what I have heard, some of these people don't even have phones, and I say that without exaggeration. So, knowing that, and a little more, it's reasonable to say that the people running the FTC and revising COPPA don't understand why anything that they say is going to happen, could upset people, and as an example, or rather several examples: Animation, the animation/cartoon/drawing communities, as well as gaming, toy reviewers, food reviewers, toy collectors, or even bronies and furries, all are communities of people and creators, (or "influencers") that all are at heavy risk, and that is because of the "cartoonish characters" that could be associated with their crafts and communities, now, to anyone that knew these things even existed before this comment, good for you, you have seen the internet. But to those of you who did not, I request that you educate yourselves on what those after you or before you are doing with the world around you, and if you are an official in the government, I request, no, nearly demand, that before you even begin, to suggest certain reformations of law, or new creations of law(s), you educate yourselves heavily, on every topic you can that could be even lightly effected by the laws you seek to build, and if that sounds like too much effort to you as an individual, then you should dismiss yourself from the governmental position you possess entirely and immediately.

My videos will be rated E for everyone

Are you aware that there is a separate platform called "YouTube Kids" that is specifically meant for children's content?

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