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Big Changes Are Coming to YouTube — But Will They Really Protect Kids?

In January, YouTube is making sweeping changes to its platform thanks to the Federal Trade Commission’s rules on privacy and children online. The changes are meant to bring YouTube in line with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which protects kids under age 13 on the web. YouTube was found to be in violation of COPPA back in September for, among other things, targeting ads to kids based on their viewing history.

In 2020, however, YouTube will no longer have targeted advertising on what is being called “content made for kids.” Those kid-friendly videos will also no longer have a comments section, a like/dislike button, or social sharing options. This is meant to protect the privacy of the young viewers, but the news is worrying to many creators since things like comments and sharing are reliable ways for them to increase views. While kid’s videos will still let creators earn revenue off non-personalized ads, Youtube acknowledges they may see a decrease in revenue because of the changes.

But there is reasons for parents to be concerned as well. The changes rely on creators to categorize their own videos. While they are subject to FTC fines if they don’t correctly classify their videos, there is concerns that things will slip between the cracks or be miscategorized.

The rules also don’t apply to videos not made specifically for kids but that kids nonetheless wind up watching, like nail art tutorials or video game play-throughs. Those videos will still be subject to the same data collection and targeted advertising. Groups like Common Sense have criticized Google for not going far enough with the new settings for kids, The Verge reports. The general response from Google and YouTube, however, seems to be “It’s within the requirements of the law.”

This is only one growing pain YouTube has faced as the platform has become more and more centered around kids. It’s currently the most popular video site for kids, beating out Netflix and other competitors. While Netflix and other streaming platforms are not above criticism, it’s hard to imagine something like the Momo Challenge hysteria happening on one of their kid’s shows. The more rough-and-ready, DIY aspect of YouTube can yield weird and wonderful things, but also sometimes disturbing and unsafe ones as well. Kids are also increasingly becoming the moneymakers on YouTube as well, but without the child labor law protections that their counterparts get in Hollywood. YouTube still has a long way to go before it becomes a safe place for kids, and, at least for now, neither the government nor Google seems willing to make those changes.

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