If your child is young enough that YouTube Kids is a good, safer alternative to plain old YouTube, does that mean that she might not be old enough to understand the difference between advertising and regular content? Some groups think that’s so, and are making their opinion heard.
Before we jump on the bandwagon criticizing YouTube Kids for targeting youngsters with ads, let us first say that YouTube Kids has solved most of the big problems for kids presented by YouTube:
- YouTube’s age limit is 13, so kids can’t legally join, and YouTube’s rules don’t include safeguards appropriate for kids
- There are no comments allowed, so the risk of cyberbullying is zero
- Children who download the app do not create an “account” or have an identity, so there is no predator risk
- The hand picked content is safe for kids, in that it contains no adult content such as mature themes or coarse language
- Kids can’t upload their own content, so they won’t be prone to attracting creepers
At issue today is a different thing entirely. A coalition of child advocacy groups, including the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy, are planning to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission today, arguing that Google’s YouTube Kids is unfairly targeting kids with advertising. The group goes as far as calling the content “hyper-commercialized media”.
YouTube Kids launched in February, and is rated 4+ (intended for kids older than 4) – my 7-year old likes it. The Android store alone indicates that the app has been downloaded between 1 and 5 million times, so when you add in iPhones and iPads, we’ll assume that the app has between 5 and 15 million users. That’s a big number of 5 – 10 year old kids.
We agree that much of the content on YouTube Kids is thinly veiled advertising – product placements and promotions that are instead labeled as entertainment or educational videos. For example, “Learning Sizes with Surprise Eggs!” teaches a little about sizes, and a lot about Kinder chocolate eggs with toys inside. Kids will want those eggs.
To be clear, though, while we are hopeful that YouTube Kids will do a better job of labeling and limiting the advertising, we think that it is a welcome addition to the under 13 app community, and hope that it isn’t disrupted too much.
There are lots of worse places for kids online than YouTube Kids.
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