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

What about drawing cute stuff, but the characters are mostly teens?

Please my youtobe account adtiting video on my channel please

This law is killing the Internet. Where is the freedom of expression that we were promised. Why you always censure us, the creators. At the base, all we want is to share what we love with the world. Will also need to censure the film or video game industry because it may interest children and that large companies can collect "data" ? Seriously, stop making laws to break ouf voice and our liberty. It's becoming awkward to live in such a society.

My channel is 4Kids but not lu

Yes my content is made for kids and teens and everyone for all ages

What if we don’t agree on it

Why is there so much rules on yt I can understand some of them

My videos is not made for children.

So I like dark humor, but not too nuch. Is that ok for kids cause I don't wanna get sued

What about gaming channel children or adult

This is going to destroy YouTube. There are many animation channels out on YouTube that's intended audience is not children, but children may watch them. There is not a way to properly regulate what children watch and trying to impose new rules and consequences on those who never even intended their content to be viewed by children is a way to ruin small YouTube channels. Personally I was wanting to start up an animation channel, but now I'm not sure about that because even though my content would not be focused primarily on children, I could be punished for saying what my believed target audience is. Saying 'whatever' in a video does not make it childish or primarily focused towards children. Having bright colors or animated characters does not make its target audience children. (EX: DanPlan, Nevercake, ect.) In passing this you are also passing a metaphorical death sentence to both YouTube itself and the small creators within.

Im new youtubers i have some video that i cook and i have children voice is tha also for children

What about a video that includes writing a document?

FTC please reply to this. I would appreciate it. Don't answer with a cut and paste response please. I seen it all. Answer my questions please. From the top of your head.

Do you guys relaize no matter what, children will see personalized ads? Therefore you are only hurting more creators than you could imagine and it is not fair to them at all.

Think about games for example. Your simple Gameplay videos, The Sims, Roblox, Minecraft, Mario, Donkey Kong, Luigis Mansion, Zelda. All of which kids like? Are they now for kids. Because if not, kids will still see personalized ads. still be able to comment. I mean hell, I was playing GTA and Call of Duty at 10 years old. I liked all sorts of games.

Music? Kids of certain age groups like different kinds of music. From Rap, to Country to all kinds of genre. So kids are still going to see personalized ads.

What about kids/teens who do covers of songs and look forward to the comments to get advice on what song they should cover next or what they need to improve on? Is it now for kids. Because it is incredibly unfair to take all the engagement away.

What about channels like CookieSwirlC, Bratayley, KittiesMamma, Yawi Vlogs, Our Family Nest? Are these channels scrwed with all their features now because of this incredibly unfair enforcement? Do you realize how much you are hurting taking away all the engagement a creator can have?

Bottom line, if a parent lets their child use a mobile device unsupervised then that is their problem. Not yours and not youtubes. These enforcements should never apply to channel owners.

How do I open the survey on mobile

Do you have to pay money if you get monitized

I'm a YouTuber that likes to post occasionally videos of his dog. my content isn't directed towards children but it's available for everybody to see. I am not looking for revenue as my channel is nowhere near on the map to even qualify. Since the YouTube studio app does not have an option to mark your content for the general public and not for kids, does this mean I have to mark my pet videos for kids even though no kids watch my channel?

So. I know about this but you see. Im a Minecraft Animator but IM NOT THAT TYPE OF MINECRAFT ANIMATOR THAT ANIMATE MINCRAFT SCHOOL ((NO!)) I only do Stories, Music Video and MEME Animation (Only in Minecraft Version) I know that my content are Kinda Bit A Children Type Of A Video But. SOME OF MY VIDEO ARE TOO EDGY OR DEMONIC OR GORE SUBJECT FOR THE KIDS. And I don't know which one should I GO for?

My video is about cook

How do I set my channel to made for kids

What about those who collect and review diecasts... like hot wheels, matchbox, NASCAR diecasts and or the diecast racing community that is mainly among an adult audience?

I really don’t like the idea of COPPA. Why do the content creators have to suffer for kid’s parents not knowing how to keep kids safe?!
People are making less money and might quit You Tube because of stupid problems like this. And if this problems get worse, maybe a lot of people could quit and You Tube could actually shut down. You Tube has to take consideration of the channels and people creating content. Sooner or later, there might not even be anymore You Tube because of COPPA’s rules and people quitting because of COPPA. Can You Tube and the FTC please take consideration of the actions they are doing and how it will effect You Tube creators?!

Why can't YouTube add a check box "Not for children under 13" would this not solve the issues?

I've wanted to start posting videos again but now theres a new feature to comply with COPPA. I want to ask if my video is kid friendly but not meant for kids, what do I mark it as?

Ah yes, I'm so glad that I have 42-30k Dollars just lying around at my disposal. This penalty is 100% fair, and EVERYBODY has the ability to pay this fine!

Why can't you let us send millions of dollars over to you? We can do that while preventing YouTube from fining us $42,000 per content. Please we can change our ways for the better. If you can just make a video to make sure that this can help keep the children safe.

I don't like this idea. I'm concerned about the unintentional consequences that will affect the users of YouTube because of the very high fines when you don't "Not for Kids" thing and even if you did, the fine still could happen. That's what worries me.

I think a big issue that's been in the back of my mind is the fact that any kid could easily lie about their age to watch basically anything they want. What i want to know is if there's going to be anyway to prevent this because if not, then this goes to the parents needing to actually parent and see what their children watch instead of not batting a eye.

Mt content is not for kids dnt force me in that

what if someone like an 8-year-old, an 12-year-old or someone in between would say something like "I don't want to use the YouTube Kids app. I'm gonna watch the Original YouTube Because I'm [Insert Age Here] Years old, and this is for 6-year-olds"? would that ever happen?

What about pet channel? I make videos about my pets. I don't swear or or anything like that but I wanted it to be for all ages. I have rabbits, cats, dogs, birds and fish. I make videos like, facts, pet name ideas, routine with my pets, D.I.Y pet stuff.
Would my channel be for kids or adults and will I get finned if I mark it wrong?

the problem lies not with you but with coppa see they will make the decision weather its kid friendly or not and thats the problem no one will no cause they made it so vague on whats kid friendly

This channle like share

What if any content/videos labeled as "not for kids" was inaccessible by the YouTube kids app? That way there is no need for a lawsuit if the video looks like it is appealing to kids and the YouTuber said it wasn't intended for kids since the child will never be able to even see it.

If I upload content such as video games, does it fall into the category of children's content?

No children video

Can not show originally views in my YouTube channel

How do I say if my channel is for adults or not?what if it’s for adults and kids?

That’s what I’m trying to figure out

I have always wanted to be a singer, and do covers on YouTube. Posting on YouTube has always been a dream, and I think it would help. Recently, I was given a brand new, expensive, amazing quality microphone. I also wanted to do speed art on my channel as well. Unfortunately, I can’t tell if my channel is geared towards children or not. If I can’t post, I don’t know what I’ll do with the microphone. I’ve been too scared to post in fear I might get fined once the new Rules go into action. Please, give me and answer... I need to know...

Where is the button to answer the question if your channel is made for kids or no?

I made a video 2 years ago I don't get money its all for fun will I get fine? Should i just delete my channel? I'm so confuse this makes no sense.

How does the internet know if it's a kid under 13 or an adult browsing on a device ? This is laughable to me. There's nothing that asks me my age when I get online.

What about animators and Animation memes? They have music, they are colourful and may apeal to kids, but some animation memes may not be appropiate for kids. What should the animators do???

What if you private the videos that are aimed towards any age? Would that work? Or would we have to fully delete them>

What about gacha life is it not safe for youtubers to use gacha life and upload gacha life music vids or anything what about gacha characters that arnt adults and also will u have to identify in settings whether ur vid is for kids or not how can some know if it is intended for kids or not since some gachatubers just make their vids for anyone like a mixed audience....
I think the coppa thing is way too much and very aggressive...

Why are you doing this it should be towards YouTube itself becuase they put up those adds. So in my honest opinion I am deleting youtube for good and never coming back.

I know your trying to keep kids safe but you are like OVERPROTECTIVE helicopter parents.

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