What COPPA Means for YouTube’s Rules on Kids Content

By Sal Commisso / February 6, 2020 / Digital Marketing Blog Archives

As most everyday web users know by now, YouTube has rolled out a new system designed to mark specific content targeted at kids, as such.

But before understanding the new rules YouTube is deploying starting in January 2020, it’s important to understand why these drastic changes are being made.

What is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)?

It starts with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) of 1998, which aims to give users more control over what information can be collected from their children across the entirety of the web.

The basics are that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is enforcing that all websites and online services get parental consent before collecting information from kids under the age of 13 (which kind of seems like a no-brainer, but we’ve seen worse).

Google, which owns YouTube, confirmed the new system is a result of a $170 million settlement YouTube reached with the FTC for violating COPPA.

How COPPA Affects YouTube’s Rules

The biggest change YouTube is making is requiring users to designate their content as targeting young audiences or not.

When a video is designated as targeting kids, YouTube will stop serving personalized ads on said content, whether it was designated by the channel operator or the video’s classifier.

Those videos targeting children will also have disabled comments, as well as hidden likes/dislikes buttons and hidden subscription button.

The overall goal is to decrease the amount of engagement on content that is made for children.

Machine learning will be used in addition to help identify videos that “clearly target young audiences.”

Here is what Google lists as “made for kids” at a high level:

  • Children or children’s characters
  • Popular children’s programming or animated characters
  • Play-acting, or stories using children’s toys
  • Child protagonists engaging in common natural play patterns such as play-acting and/or imaginative play
  • Popular children’s songs, stories or poems

YouTube is going to rely on users to designate their videos as made for kids, and if the content is categorized incorrectly, they may face consequences on the platform, according to Google.

The FTC also made it clear that it could go after individual channels legally who abuse the new system. YouTube’s only responsibility is to maintain the system and provide updates.

A court can hold violators liable for civil penalties upwards for $42,530 per violation. This amount could change depending on several factors such as egregiousness of the violation and the number of children involved.

What Do You need To Do?

If the content created is not targeted at kids, you don’t have much to worry about. Simply designate your videos as not targeted at kids and be on your way.

If the content is targeted at kids, then you should be doing your best to prepare for the likely decrease in views and ad revenue. YouTube will continue serve non-personalized ads, which advertisers pay less for.

Start looking for other ways to monetize your content, such as in-video product placement or mentions. Sometimes these types of advertisements are better than traditional pre-roll ads due to the more personal feel given to the viewer.

So … What’s the Big Deal?

The biggest concern we have with the major changes YouTube is making is the gray-line between “for kids” and “not for kids” content.

YouTube videos often cover a very wide demographic, and therefore can be equally enjoyed by both children and adults.

Family vlogging and gaming channels are just two examples that are likely to appeal to both younger and more mature audiences.

What does YouTube recommend you do if you aren’t sure who your content is targeted towards?

Consult a lawyer.

This is a huge issue, especially for those smaller channels that may not even pull in that much revenue to begin with. But will now be forced to limit their audience.

But on the other side, protecting our youth’s privacy from advertisers with malicious intent is also very important.

Whether or not this change is for better or worse it yet to been seen, and time will only tell when it finally rolls out in 2020.