Advocacy groups ask FTC to investigate YouTube Kids app for targeting children with ads

Posted:
in iPhone edited April 2015
Consumer and child advocacy groups, such as the Center for Digital Democracy, today asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether Google's YouTube Kids app violates rules for children's programming.




The app -- available for iOS and Android -- curates YouTube channels and videos considered appropriate for children. The groups petitioning the FTC, however, argue that Google is deliberately targeting advertising at children in a violation of rules conceived to govern kids' TV programming, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

The regulations were put in place in the wake of 1970s research showing that younger children had trouble rejecting advertising, or even understanding that they're being influenced. In 2004, the American Psychological Association reiterated a similar position.

Google uses targeted advertising in both YouTube Kids and the regular version of YouTube to eliminate subscription fees, but some of the ads feature toys or entertainment aimed at children. Kids also includes channels that are actually branded ones for products like Lego or My Little Pony, which means that in some cases a child may be watching a stream that's effectively one long product promotion.

The FTC complaint also casts doubt on the inclusion of unboxing videos. Unofficial unboxing videos are commonplace on YouTube, but it's claimed that the owners of the unboxing channels in the app are undisclosed, and are effectively toy ads.

A YouTube spokesperson told the Mercury News that Google "consulted with numerous partners and child advocacy and privacy groups" while developing the app, but that it's "open to feedback" on how it could make improvements.

Other groups calling for an investigation include Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the Consumer Federation of America, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Children Now, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Consumer Watchdog, Corporate Accountability International, and Public Citizen.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18

  • Reply 2 of 18
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,595member
    Absolutely the proper thing to do too. If Google is going to offer the app then they should make sure the developers/content providers are actually following their rules and not turning a blind eye to it. Kids are much more easily influenced and fooled and putting advertising rules in place if they have no intention of enforcing them is wrong. Nip this early.
  • Reply 3 of 18
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,827member

    Tough to see how you can make an advertising-supported kids TV channel without advertising to kids.

     

    How do kids TV channels do it in the US?

  • Reply 4 of 18
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,980member
    crowley wrote: »
    Tough to see how you can make an advertising-supported kids TV channel without advertising to kids.

    How do kids TV channels do it in the US?

    Some channels do show ads. Many shows for the really young ones are on public broadcast stations that run off viewer contributions, and run ad free. Google makes way more than enough money to omit ads from this programming.
  • Reply 5 of 18
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,108member
    gatorguy wrote: »
    Absolutely the proper thing to do too. If Google is going to offer the app then they should make sure the developers/content providers are actually following their rules and not turning a blind eye to it. Kids are much more easily influenced and fooled and putting advertising rules in place if they have no intention of enforcing them is wrong. Nip this early.

    How exactly is Google violating any rules here? They are offering a free service, which incidentally is not broadcast, the app must be downloaded, and this free app and content must be paid for somehow... Seems to me that weak parenting is at work here. If a parent doesn't like the app, delete it. No one is being forced to use this.

    I'm beginning to think this bizarre "entitlement mentality" that is so pervasive is an actual virus that has infected our population.
  • Reply 6 of 18
    tokoloshtokolosh Posts: 101member
    How exactly is Google violating any rules here? They are offering a free service, which incidentally is not broadcast, the app must be downloaded, and this free app and content must be paid for somehow... Seems to me that weak parenting is at work here. If a parent doesn't like the app, delete it. No one is being forced to use this.

    I'm beginning to this this bizarre "entitlement mentality" that is so pervasive is an actual virus that has infected our population.

    Yup. We let our son have YouTube Kids for a bit but didn't like everything he was seeing on the app. So we deleted it. No big deal, we've moved on.
  • Reply 7 of 18

    Hey, this is Google. They'll sail through this. 

  • Reply 8 of 18
    irnchrizirnchriz Posts: 1,588member
    Whether it's an app downloaded by the parents or a broadcast channel someone has to look out for the kids. You have to take into account the fact that there are a lot of ignorant parents out there that will just sit their kid down in front of the TV or tablet etc and use it as a babysitter. So, for content aimed at kids, there should be full and total oversight without exception.

    This is where companies like Google should be leading by example rather than being out to make a quick buck.
  • Reply 9 of 18
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post


    I'm beginning to this this bizarre "entitlement mentality" that is so pervasive is an actual virus that has infected our population.

     

    More like a bizarre "exploitation mentality", where it's always someone else's responsibility to avoid being exploited.

  • Reply 10 of 18
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,595member
    How exactly is Google violating any rules here? They are offering a free service, which incidentally is not broadcast, the app must be downloaded, and this free app and content must be paid for somehow... Seems to me that weak parenting is at work here. If a parent doesn't like the app, delete it. No one is being forced to use this.

    I'm beginning to this this bizarre "entitlement mentality" that is so pervasive is an actual virus that has infected our population.
    Ads are fine (within reason). Of course the service has to be paid for somehow. It's the way they're presented by some content providers that's a problem.

    Commercials/ads should be clearly distinct from the programming. What some are doing is blurring the lines or even erasing them entirely, using tricks like the characters themselves becoming the ad within the show. That's improper.
  • Reply 11 of 18
    gerardgerard Posts: 43member
    I'm shocked Google allows questionably advertising in the kids YouTube channel! Who are we kidding here? Google is all about making money from offering so called free services...
  • Reply 12 of 18
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,595member
    gerard wrote: »
    I'm shocked Google allows questionably advertising in the kids YouTube channel! Who are we kidding here? Google is all about making money from offering so called free services...
    Well of course they are. Which company isn't about making as much money as they can by whatever means they decided on? What needs to be done here is get an early jump on any issues before they become big ones. Make the lines really clear.
  • Reply 13 of 18
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,108member
    irnchriz wrote: »
    Whether it's an app downloaded by the parents or a broadcast channel someone has to look out for the kids. You have to take into account the fact that there are a lot of ignorant parents out there that will just sit their kid down in front of the TV or tablet etc and use it as a babysitter. So, for content aimed at kids, there should be full and total oversight without exception.

    This is where companies like Google should be leading by example rather than being out to make a quick buck.

    I disagree. It's 100% the parents responsibility.
  • Reply 14 of 18
    irnchrizirnchriz Posts: 1,588member
    irnchriz wrote: »
    Whether it's an app downloaded by the parents or a broadcast channel someone has to look out for the kids. You have to take into account the fact that there are a lot of ignorant parents out there that will just sit their kid down in front of the TV or tablet etc and use it as a babysitter. So, for content aimed at kids, there should be full and total oversight without exception.
    I disagree. It's 100% the parents responsibility.

    Lets agree to disagree, some people are not fit to keep dogs let alone children and if the state doesn't look out for them now they will be stealing cars and mugging people 10 years from now. Its the next best thing to chemical castration /s
  • Reply 15 of 18
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,108member
    gatorguy wrote: »
    Ads are fine (within reason). Of course the service has to be paid for somehow. It's the way they're presented by some content providers that's a problem.

    Commercials/ads should be clearly distinct from the programming. What some are doing is blurring the lines or even erasing them entirely, using tricks like the characters themselves becoming the ad within the show. That's improper.

    It's shady, but then again, something an attentive parent will respond to by deleting the app. What about apps like Kim Kardashian's? I'd be much more alarmed if a kid was using that vile app. Google honestly does not "owe" anything to parents. More people should simply respond by deleting these apps en masse.
  • Reply 16 of 18
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,108member
    irnchriz wrote: »

    Lets agree to disagree, some people are not fit to keep dogs let alone children and if the state doesn't look out for them now they will be stealing cars and mugging people 10 years from now. Its the next best thing to chemical castration /s

    I'd argue that some of the theoretical people you refer to are already in the care of the state in one form or another and THAT is why criminality follows. Their parents are neglectful because dependence on the state and lack of personal responsibility enables them to be neglectful.
  • Reply 17 of 18
    irnchrizirnchriz Posts: 1,588member
    I'd argue that some of the theoretical people you refer to are already in the care of the state in one form or another and THAT is why criminality follows. Their parents are neglectful because dependence on the state and lack of personal responsibility enables them to be neglectful.

    So your solution is to do nothing? Head in the sand and hope it goes away? Move to a gated community, away from the peasants?
  • Reply 18 of 18
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,108member
    irnchriz wrote: »
    So your solution is to do nothing? Head in the sand and hope it goes away? Move to a gated community, away from the peasants?

    You are drawing such conclusions based on what precisely? "Hope it goes away"? "Peasants"?

    Problems exist TODAY and an intrusive state has changed nothing with regard to reducing criminal behavior (if that is now the position you seem to be taking to derail this thread).

    How about sticking to the matter of the Google app instead of taking flights of fancy? This is not about Google creating criminals with advertising.
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