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COPPA's Impact on the YouTube Landscape - Everything about YouTube COPPA Law
FEB 19 2023

Nowadays, the state of technology is simply far too advanced for an average user. We constantly hear about a new scam or cyberattack that can severely affect our personal safety and our finances. 

So, privacy and security are undoubtedly two top priorities in our digital age, and it’s even more crucial for children. With smartphones and tablets lying around everywhere, it’s easy for them to access unsupervised content and expose themselves to harm.

That’s why the US government has enacted the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a law that affects all online businesses and platforms, including YouTube that’s the world’s most popular video streaming website. 

If you’re a regular YouTube user or a content creator, you may ask yourself, “What is the COPPA law”, and “How does it affect me or YouTube in general?” Let’s read to find out.

Understanding The COPPA Law

In 1998, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) tightened its regulations and started taking several measures to better protect kids’ privacy in the digital age. One of these measures was enforcing the COPPA law that did not allow any company or platform to collect, utilize, or reveal personal information about kids under 13.

According to the COPPA law, any company should clearly outline their data collection techniques and get parental consent before accessing any sensitive info about kids. The same restriction applies to advertising because advertisers are not allowed to target these kids without permission from parents. This ensures that parents can make informed decisions about what kind of information their child shares online and provides some peace of mind when it comes to protecting their privacy rights.

The Origins

While the COPPA law has been around since 1998, its impact on YouTube was really felt in 2019, when FTC filed a complaint against YouTube because it had reasons to believe that YouTube illegally collected sensitive, personal data about kid users, something that goes against the COPPA law. 

In addition to a record fine that we’ll discuss below, YouTube started to release a set of guidelines so content creators can determine if their videos are kid-friendly and parents can easily identify safe channels without exposing their children to inappropriate content.

The $170 Million COPPA Violation

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is in charge of COPPA enforcement, issued a $170 million penalty on YouTube in September 2019 for COPPA breaches. This sum is recorded as the highest amount paid for violating COPPA.

The company's major breach was exploiting children under 13's viewing histories to intentionally show them tailored ads on videos. YouTube violated COPPA regulations by tracking this data without parental consent, which is against the law.

In addition to paying a fine, Google is required under the FTC's deal with the business to put a new mechanism on its platform. For YouTube to play along with the COPPA regulations, it must let content providers label their videos as made for kids or not. 

COPPA’s Impact on YouTube Users

The COPPA regulations on YouTube users have had a significant influence on the content they make and post. To prevent possible fines for violation, content creators must now ensure that their videos are appropriate for all ages or just viewers over the age of 18 before publishing them. This implies being cautious about language, topics, and other inappropriate parts that may lead to a warning from YouTube's automated platform or manual inspection procedure. 

If YouTube finds any violations, it'll likely remove the video or even terminate the account because complying with COPPA guidelines is a vital matter for such a giant enterprise that wants to be known for caring about children.

Ad Revenue Hanging in the Balance

For those trying to monetize their channels through advertising, producing age-appropriate videos is particularly important because most companies define an age demographic when launching campaigns, which can significantly lower viewership statistics if not met. 

Also, the majority of well-known video streaming services, like YouTube, forbid making money from videos that are considered inappropriate for viewers under the age of 13. So, YouTubers will surely lose a big part of their potential ad revenue if they don't limit access to their content. To guarantee maximum reach while still adhering to COPPA standards, it is crucial for users to take these aspects into account while developing new material.

YouTube’s Responses to the Law

YouTube responded quickly to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). YouTube introduced age restriction settings and instituted an age verification procedure for viewers under the age of 13 to meet COPPA requirements. This forces YouTubers to specify whether their video is appropriate for all ages or just those over the age of 18 before posting it. If they don't, they will face penalties for not complying with COPPA standards.

Mandatory Age Verification 

In addition, YouTube started implementing its age verification policy by requesting identification evidence from users who are reported as being under 13 years old to access particular videos or services. This helps to guarantee that kids are not exposed to unsafe content on the website and that they may only watch videos that their parents or guardians think are suitable based on the parental consent rules outlined in COPPA law.

YouTube has taken its protective measures one level further by starting an under-13 platform called “YouTube Kids” that only streams videos appropriate for younger viewers. We’ll discuss this more at the end of the article.

It also includes new parental control features like time limits, allowing parents to better track how much time their children spend online watching movies each day. It also includes links to Google's Safe Search function, which doesn't let inappropriate videos show in the main search engine results.

Impact of COPPA on Monetization

Changes in YouTube's monetization policies have had a significant influence on its advertisers. With the arrival of age limitations, advertisers must now specify their target demographic while creating ads, which can significantly lower viewership numbers if not satisfied. Also, most popular video streaming platforms, such as YouTube, do not allow monetization on videos deemed inappropriate for children under the age of 13, which means content creators would miss out on potential ad revenue unless they restricted access accordingly.

Moreover, with the implementation of parental control options and direct links back into Google’s Safe Search feature due to restrictions set up by COPPA laws regarding data collection from minors online, some ads may be blocked or muted meaning that advertising opportunities are further reduced even if an advertiser is targeting an appropriate demographic.

Companies are now more transparent when it comes to gathering personal information from kids online. This is a direct result of the COPPA legislation' heightened compliance requirements. Companies have to get parental consent before collecting any personal data from minors and give clear notice about their policies regarding the collection and use of such data. This allows parents to make educated decisions about the type of information their child shares online and gives peace of mind when it comes to protecting younger users' privacy rights.

Overall, YouTube's changes in monetization policies post-COPPA have had a considerable impact on both content creators and advertisers alike. Before uploading their videos, content producers must take extra care to make sure that the videos are appropriate for viewers of all ages or only those who are over 18. After all, they may risk facing penalties for non-compliance with COPPA regulations. Meanwhile, tighter regulations on these videos have created some challenges for advertisers, giving them fewer options to run their ads. Regardless of the age demographic preferences, this has led to a decrease in views.

How Much Could You Pay in Fines?

 According to the FTC, violating these guidelines might result in a punishment of up to $42,000 per video (for example, posting a video intended for children without labeling it as such). In other words, content creators carry the main burden of meeting COPPA standards and regulations. Of course, besides misleading labels, FTC considers other elements to see if a channel is in violation or not.

The Impact on YouTube Channels

Let's see how YouTube policies can impact your business now that we've discussed the COPPA-based changes. We'll also talk about what you must do to comply. Particularly, although YouTube might file charges against you for wrongly categorizing your videos, the FTC will hold you accountable for COPPA breaches. 

If Your Main Audience Is Kids

Many features will be taken away from channels that explicitly produce content for children and label them as such. With the lack of comments, it will be extremely hard to interact with your audience. Without search or referral traffic, gaining new viewers is equally difficult.

The absence of targeted advertising is the biggest obstacle for many YouTube channels. They may probably see a significant decrease in revenue from videos because a great deal of ad revenue comes from targeted ads.

If Some of Your Videos Are Appropriate for Kids

In this case, the unluckiest YouTubers are those who share videos specifically targeted at children, but others who offer various content face complex regulations. The COPPA standards are unclear and out-of-date for the contemporary web, as we've stated above.

For instance, some of your videos may be about kid-friendly video games like Minecraft. Of course, you would assume that the video should be rated "not for kids" if it contains a lot of profanity.

But the FTC may take one look at the video's caption and thumbnail and consider it child-friendly. They won't know you used explicit words in the video unless they watch it. In this situation, you're basically violating COPPA and run the risk of paying a hefty fine.

In one way, classifying your videos as "kid-friendly" is almost financial suicide for your channel. But you might get into trouble if you label your videos as "not for kids" and the FTC does not agree with you.

We urge you to get legal advice if you post general posts including toys, animations, or other kid-friendly content to cover yourself against possible liabilities.

If Your Audience Is Adults

For YouTubers who upload materials that no one would logically see as "made for kids", these hassles with COPPA regulations won't bother them that much.

You are probably okay to carry on as normal if you can clearly label your videos as "not for kids" and do not doubt that anyone from the FTC won't disagree with you.

How to Comply With COPPA Regulations

While every channel is different and deals with different adult or kid-rated content, there are four general adjustments that you can quickly make so you can protect yourself from trouble.

Adjusting Channel Audience Settings

For certain channels, you may verify whether all videos are intended for children or not. You may verify this by visiting "Settings" in the YouTube Studio, selecting the "Channel" tab, "Advanced Settings," and then selecting the option relevant to your main audience. 

Adjusting Video Audience Settings

Open the "Videos" page in YouTube Studio, pick those that you must change, then click "Audience" to check whether earlier posts are content meant for children or not. Anytime you upload something on your channel, this question will pop up so you won't forget to properly mark your videos. Also, if you've already adjusted the channel's main audience settings, this question will show up by default.

Working with a Reliable Third-Party Expert

According to COPPA, advertisers are not allowed to collect cookies and use retargeting strategies to target children. The best approach is to partner with a reliable third-party expert that knows how to optimize your advertising budget while following COPPA standards.

Consider Contextual Advertising

Contextual advertising may help you run safe and COPPA-compliant video campaigns while also preventing the ads from reaching the wrong demographic or in combination with the wrong material. In the pre-bid stage, you'll be aware of what you're buying, which is an essential step to guaranteeing you have the authority required for maximum brand safety.

Contextual advertising involves a mixture of AI, human input, and natural language processing (NLP). These techniques help businesses promote on a video-by-video (instead of channel) basis. Context-driven targeting has one huge benefit: It saves you from wasting too many videos and earning opportunities because it allows you to adjust your course for every video.

YouTube Kids

It's time to talk a little bit about what YouTube Kids is right now. Children can access YouTube videos designed just for kids in a simple, secure, and entertaining environment by using YouTube Kids. Parental control options in the app help adults with screening any content unsuitable for young children. The parental control options are accessible via the Google account and involve time restrictions, search option restrictions, and other tools.

YouTube Kids almost handpicks videos for kids. Following a few app updates based on user feedback, YouTube now segments kids into "Older" and "Younger" groups." The Younger group consists of children aged 7 and under, while "Older" children between 8 and 12 have a little more access to videos about nature, music, and educational material.

Bottom Line

So, there you have it. This is a detailed story of the COPPA law and how it has changed the life of YouTube content creators and users, particularly kids. But besides these two groups, it has a significant impact on advertisers as well because they cannot decide to target a younger demographic without taking some heat from the FTC. 

Nevertheless, the COPPA law was a necessary measure to protect children from accessing inappropriate content and give parents peace of mind about their child’s safety and mental health.

But, even now, there’s enormous potential for any content creator or business to grow on YouTube with no issues. They just have to be a bit more careful and comply with the latest regulations to keep growing with no problems. 

Of course, navigating the latest changes in these laws and regulations is not easy for an average person. It’s much better to work with a reliable team of experts that can help create world-class YouTube content for kids and adults while complying with all COPPA regulations. 

Luckily, you don’t have to look that far because that’s exactly what we do at Driver Studios. Our clients love us for our fair rates and original work. Our team is a phone call away, ready to turn your YouTube channel around!

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