If we don’t act now, Google could singlehandedly demolish long-standing rules that protect children from harmful commercialism.
In February, Google launched the YouTube Kids app for preschoolers, a supposedly child-friendly version of its popular online video service. But YouTube Kids is no safe haven. Instead, it’s what noted media scholar Dale Kunkel calls, “the most hyper-commercialized media environment for children I have ever seen.”
Research shows that young children have trouble distinguishing commercials from programming. That’s why there are laws that require clear separation between advertising and content on children’s television. But on YouTube Kids, it’s impossible to tell where the content ends and the ads begin. Entire channels are devoted to brands like Barbie, Fisher-Price, and Play-Doh. Ads for My Little Pony and Care Bear Toys surround programs based on those characters. On the LEGO Friends channel, LEGO Friends cartoons are intermingled with LEGO Friends commercials and videos of real people playing with LEGO Friends figurines. All of these kinds of advertising are illegal on children’s television.
Kids deserve protection from unfair marketing whether they watch videos on a TV, tablet, phone, or any device. That’s why CCFC and other leading advocacy groups filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requesting an investigation of the YouTube Kids app. Our complaint has made headlines around the world, but now we need your help to ensure that the FTC holds Google accountable.
In addition, “programs” on YouTube Kids include long segments featuring products and brands which appear to be user-generated but the producers of these videos often have undisclosed relationships with media and toy conglomerates. And Google deceives parents by claiming it doesn't accept food and beverage ads when McDonald's has its own channel and the “content” includes actual Happy Meal commercials!
Google may be one of the world’s most powerful corporations but that doesn’t mean they get to lie to parents or make their own rules when it comes to marketing to children. The same rules that exist on children’s television should apply to online viewing.
Our ongoing efforts to protect kids from commercial exploitation are at a critical juncture. Please tell the FTC to stop Google from exploiting kids.