Do the FTC’s Child Protection Rules Make YouTube Less Safe For Kids??

From censoring “Baby Shark” from Google searches to making it exceedingly difficult to make a living providing healthy kid-centred content, the Federal Trade Commission’s new interpretation of Federal Child Protection Law shows once again that nobody can make a mess like government can.

YouTuber’s Less Able to Make a Living Creating Children’s Content

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is an American federal statute first passed in 1998 that aimed to protect children from exploitation online.  While the statute was passed with the best intention, the bureaucracy at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has struggled to implement the act with clarity and consistency.[1]  In an attempt to catch up with past mistakes, the FTC has recently targeted Google’s social media platform YouTube for marketing to children.

As a result of a 2019 settlement between the FTC and Google, YouTube will no longer curate advertising for children under the age of 13 in any fashion.  Additionally, several other features which set YouTube apart as a social platform are being disabled on any content marked as targeting for kids:

-Comments
-Personalized ads
-Info cards
-End screens
-Stories
-Community Tab
-Notification Bell
-The ability for viewers to save videos, watch them later, or save to a playlist

[2]

As well, popular Content Creators are also already noticing that Google has started to censor “wholesome videos” altogether from searches through its popular search engine.[3]  YouTube executives readily admit that these restrictions limit the amount that Content Creators will make from their productions.  In many cases, the ability for personalities to make a living on the platform is simply disappearing.[4]

COPPA Causing Less Access to Safe Content on YouTube

Tyler “Ninja” Blevins
From Twitter.com

As part of Google’s compliance rules, YouTubers, whether US based or not, now have to decide and indicate whether their videos are designated for children or are for a mature audience.  By labeling their content as kid-safe, they are subjected to the restrictions above.  Penalties for mislabeling content could range upwards of $42,000 in fines.[5]  As a result of the new rules, many popular content creators have already started to swear and discuss mature themes in their videos in order to be considered ‘mature’ content.  For instance, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, the most popular Fortnite content creator in the world, made the change away from the intentional family-friendliness which was a central hallmark of his personal brand.  Other personalities are admitting that they will probably be forced to do the same.  However, as many have pointed out, even though these creators’ content are now mature, the kids are still watching them.[6]

Conversely, as the amount of existing kid-friendly channels making the switch to mature content grows, the amount of new channels creating safe media will naturally begin to plummet.  Creator phenoms such as Ninja have long admitted the only reason they started family-friendly streams and video creation was for good business.  In a bizarre turn of events, it now simply no longer makes sense financially for any new or existing creators to do the same.  The FTC’s new stance on COPPA, ostensibly to protect children, is making the internet less friendly to young-eyes.

Child Protection, or Big Media Lobbying?

Many in the social media universe are beginning to wonder if this regulatory fiasco is partially the result of the lobbying of traditional media corporations who have watched their market-share among young viewers plummet over the years.  Increasing the frustration for small creators is the fact that traditional media are not being held to the same ‘safe’ standards as those being applied to YouTubers.  As the contradictions pile up, some see a possible link between the FTC’s new regulatory stance on YouTube content and the 2019 rise of new family-centered streaming services such as Disney+.  

Kids’ Could be Less Safe Online

The decline of kid-oriented content on YouTube is leaving children watching an increasing amount their favourite personalities in unfiltered videos.  In addition, as YouTube advertising is no longer curated for young eyes, everyone is now exposed to trailers for the latest horror film or alcoholic beverage on what were formerly safe channels.  It is very hard to see how the FTC’s new interpretation of COPPA benefits children in any way.  Demonetizing content, censoring safe material from search engines, and removing all options that differentiate YouTube videos from other media seem to only advantage other forms of media, who are inexplicably not held to the same standard.

If you are located in the United States, you can still have your say by contacting the FTC , signing the petition, or contacting your local Federal Representative.


[1] Bergen, Mark, Lucas Shaw, and Ben Brody. (2020, January 20). YouTubers Are Lobbying FTC to Fight Child Privacy Law Expansion, Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com

[2] Marshall, Carla. (2019, November 12). 11 Things You Need to Know About COPPA and Kid’s Content on YouTube TODAY. Retrieved from https://vidiq.com

[3] Spangler, Todd, (2019, November 2). YouTube Creators Worried and Confused Over New Kid-Video COPPA Rules, Potential Fines, Variety Magazine. Retrieved from https://variety.com

[4] YouTube Creators. (2019, November 12) Understanding COPPA on YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/c/creatoracademy

[5] Spangler

[6] Johnson, Jeremy. (November 2019) Petition: SAVE Family-Friendly Content on YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.change.org

6 thoughts on “Do the FTC’s Child Protection Rules Make YouTube Less Safe For Kids??

  1. Very interesting! I had no idea about this, pretty crazy. I mean, I guess what they’re saying could work for little toddlers in control of a tablet flipping through Peppa Pig videos… but a ten-year-old, who still needs protection, is absolutely going to go into that realm of unfiltered content to see their YouTubers. I think you’re right, it’s definitely not making things safer. This was very well put together and informative. I’m curious to learn more about this.

  2. Shaun, I had heard about the “new” rules, but you really hadn’t thought too much about them. I have a five-year-old and was recently aghast when watching yet another Frozen song on YouTube and the ad that ran was a for a horror film. Admittedly, I was logged in as myself. But I had to quickly turn the whole thing off and explain that it wasn’t an ad meant for her. Thankfully, I was watching with her. This leaves me very concerned about younger children being left to watch things on their own. Is there anything Canadian residents can do? 🙂

  3. Social media has advantages and disadvantages for children. What is important is proper guidance by parents and teachers.

  4. I was having a chat yesterday with my husband about these new rules on YouTube as well. He’s a big consumer of YouTube content, particularly historical content.

    He was saying some of the content creators he follows are jumping to other platforms or bringing things like Patreon into their mix because YouTube is actually limiting their ability to monetize this content because history is not “child friendly”. Apparently, things like war, death, and sickness, no matter how real and educational, are not “family friendly”. So, as a result, they’re not being promoted or able to be monetized in some cases.

    This is a slippery slope. I think it’s going way too far the opposite way, almost “dumbing it down” for the current generation.

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