YouTube Restricts Features on Child-Directed Videos

YouTube has officially begun implementing changes to its platform to better identify online video content targeted to kids and protect their privacy online, though that protection means severely limiting features for viewers of government-defined kids content no matter how old they are.

While YouTube says it still recommends that parents use YouTube Kids if allowing their children under 13 to use the platform (that presumes parents are overseeing that use), it said this week it will now treat personal information from anyone watching children's content on the main YouTube platform as coming from a child, regardless of their age.

That means for videos made for kids, as determined by FTC factors including "subject matter of the video, whether the video has an emphasis on kids characters, themes, toys or games, YouTube will restrict or disable features including personalized ads, comments, posts, live chat, and much more."

That is according to a blog post attributed to "The YouTube Team".

Related: YouTube Agrees to Change Kids Ad Policies

Back in September, YouTube and parent Google agreed to pay $170 million to settle allegations YouTube violated children's privacy laws, the largest-ever fine for such a violation, with the government saying that YouTube does indeed contain child-directed content.

As part of the FTC settlement, YouTube has to make sure its child-directed content is identified as such so YouTube can make sure it is compliant with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The site must also obtain "verifiable" parental consent before collecting any personal info from kids.

The FTC will conduct a "sweep" of YouTube to make sure it is identifying child-directed content, for which it will be liable.

The YouTube "team" conceded the change will have significant impacts on content creators and pledged to help them navigate the "new landscape."

“These are important changes that will help protect children from manipulative personalized marketing on the number one kids site in the world," said Josh Golin, executive director for the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which called for the FTC to crack down on YouTube's data collection policies. "It also shows that COPPA can still be incredibly effective in protecting children’s online privacy, provided the FTC is aggressive in enforcing the law and holding the biggest violators accountable.”

"Google illegally marketed to children in violation of COPPA," said Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy, another long-time voice for children's online protection. "The company was more interested in building a global business targeting kids than protecting their privacy. The changes Google has made are long overdue but insufficient. It should assume direct responsibility force during children around the world are treated fairly and provided access to quality content."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.