YouTube content creators making videos for children are either about to start working much harder or abandon the platform altogether.

We say this because YouTube has announced changes to content directed at children there is a lot to be concerned about if you happen to be a creator of these kinds of videos.

First and foremost – all creators will now need to mark whether content is Made for Kids or Not Made for Kids in YouTube Studio. For creators that regularly make content for children this action can be set at a channel level.

For those creators who flit between content aimed at children and content which isn’t, the Made for Kids and Not Made for Kids options are available at a video level.

So what happens when you select one of those options?

For the Not Made for Kids content it appears to be business as usual.

For content marked as Made for Kids YouTube said, “From January, we will limit the data that we collect on Made for Kids content to comply with the law. This means that we will disable personalised ads on this content (which affects revenue for creators making content for children), as well as certain features like comments, notifications and others.”

The full list of features disabled when making video content for kids includes:

  • Personal advertising (contextualised advertising will play instead)
  • Comments
  • Channel branding watermark
  • Donate button
  • Cards or end screens
  • Live chat or live chat donations during livestreams
  • Notification bell
  • Playback in the Miniplayer
  • Super Chat or Super Stickers
  • Save to playlist

For channels marked as making content for kids the disabled features include:

  • Stories
  • The Community tab on the Channel page
  • Notification bell
  • Channel Memberships

For those thinking to themselves “I just won’t mark my content as Made for Kids then,” that’s a very bad idea.

The reason these changes are being implemented is because of settlement YouTube recently reached with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and New York Attorney General.

The settlement was worth $170 million and was reached after it was found that YouTube had violated the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA). This is the largest fine under COPPA ever according to The Verge and it means that YouTube has to start taking the law a lot more seriously than it has.

As a result, if your content is not marked as Made for Kids or Not Made for Kids you may find yourself answering to the FCC.

“Regardless of your location, we require you to tell us whether or not your videos are made for kids. If you fail to set your audience accurately, you may face compliance issues with the FTC or other authorities, and we may take action on your YouTube account,” said YouTube in an FAQ.

“We’ll also use machine learning to help us identify videos that are clearly directed to young audiences. We trust you to set your audience accurately, but we may override your audience setting choice in cases of error or abuse. However, do not rely on our systems to set your audience for you because our systems may not identify content that the FTC or other authorities consider to be made for kids. If you don’t set your audience as made for kids accurately, you might face legal consequences or consequences on YouTube,” the platform added.

The question now becomes – What is kids content? This sounds like an easy enough question to answer but are gaming channels such as The Angry Joe Show consider kids content because they review videogames? We hope not because that content is clearly not aimed at children.

What about educational creators and science communicators such as Because Science? Is that kids content because it discusses science and maths?

Even YouTube’s advice to creators is murky at best when it comes to when to label content as Made for Kids.

The video above outlines considerations that should be made by creators but a lot of the time those factors overlap with content that may not be designed for kids. For example, ASDF Movie is an animated series but it isn’t meant for kids despite being animated. It’s just all so confusing and as a creator, very worrying.

And that isn’t going to get better because legally speaking YouTube cannot tell you if content is made for kids. This is because if it were to say content is Not Made for Kids and the FTC comes knocking on your door because it turns out it is Made for Kids, you could turn around and sue YouTube for its bad legal advice.

Something that would help creators a lot is an age restriction system in which how content is rated is stated more clearly. There are systems such as this around and a video from Nerd City in 2018 revealed a similar system is allegedly employed by YouTube. The trouble is the details of how content is categorised are unclear and an unknown entity to creators if indeed it exists at all.

Once again, even if you are not making content for children you will need to declare as much when uploading your video. These rules kick in now but you have until January 2020 to comply with them.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]