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Child advocacy groups accuse Google of allowing 'unfair and deceptive' ads on YouTube Kids

By Jos
Apr 7, 2015
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  1. Google launched its long-rumored standalone YouTube app for kids back in February, promising a safe environment for toddlers, funded by a limited number of family-friendly pre-roll ads and no click-through to websites. According to a coalition of consumer and child advocacy groups, however, the app is exposing kids to a “hyper-commercialized” environment instead.

    In a complaint to the FTC, the coalition argues that YouTube Kids blurs the line between advertising and other programming using methods that are deceptive to children and prohibited by federal regulations on commercial television, with undisclosed links to products they are endorsing. "It's just one, long, uninterrupted ad," said Jeff Chester of Center for Digital Democracy.

    The complaint argues how Google supposedly doesn't accept food and beverage related ads, yet McDonald's has its own channel, which includes Happy Meal commercials and videos explaining the provenance of some of its food items. 

    There are also multiple “unboxing” videos for toys, some of which have undisclosed relationships with the actual manufacturers. The complaint lists five YouTube channels affiliated with Disney’s Maker Studios that are also available on YouTube Kids. "There's no disclosure of who actually owns those channels. They're an ad, in essence, for toys."

    Television content aimed at children has been overseen since the 1970s, but these days kids are watching less content on TVs and more on smartphones and tablets, where these regulations don't apply. It’s also harder to establish restrictions based on ad-to-content ratios online due to its on-demand nature.

    Google was quick to note it doesn’t collect personal information from YouTube Kids and it includes several parental-control features within the app. But they also conceded there's room for improvement: “When developing YouTube Kids we consulted with numerous partners and child advocacy and privacy groups. We are always open to feedback on ways to improve the app.” 

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  2. MilwaukeeMike

    MilwaukeeMike TS Evangelist Posts: 2,750   +1,105

    So what. Seriously. My daughter watches videos that show people playing with dolls and I know other people where I work who's kids like them too. A video of someone playing pretend with an Elsa doll isn't google's fault. Yes, many of these videos review toys... they show what's in the box, what comes with the toy, and they show people playing with the toy, it's probably far more effective than an actual commercial. And if the woman in the video gets a kickback from Disney, who cares.

    What's google supposed to do? Ban any video that shows a toy in a manner that might make a kid want it? Does that mean they have to ban things that look like toys, like a video where someone makes cute little Angry Birds cupcakes?

    I suppose I should be glad that the world is now so safe and secure for kids that Child Advocacy groups are now worrying about youtube videos with toys in them.
     
    OneSpeed and stewi0001 like this.
  3. OneSpeed

    OneSpeed TS Addict Posts: 251   +73

    Uhm, don't let your kids go onto the site if you don't like it.
     
  4. thegroveman

    thegroveman TS Rookie

    It's not about any one ad, but the environment they create. Successful advertising is all about perception, and if Google is influencing how videos are displayed based on payouts then people have a right to be wary. I won't let my children anywhere near Youtube for Kids when alternatives such as Hulu Plus have no advertising at all (my kids are too young to be involved in the "streaming" side of Youtube"
     
  5. MilwaukeeMike

    MilwaukeeMike TS Evangelist Posts: 2,750   +1,105

    yeah, but if your kids watch a movie with Tinkerbell, won't they then start to like Tinkerbell and want the toys? Wasn't the Lego movie just a giant funny commercial?

    These really aren't commercials we're talking about... they're product reviews. Product reviews for kids toys.
    So long as they don't put a Game of War ad before the toy video, it doesn't bother me.
     

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