YouTube for Kids seems great on the surface. It offers content that’s specially catered to children and allows parents to restrict usage, which means it’s perfect for parents who want to hand off a tablet to their children for a few hours. Now the service is under fire from industry watchdogs, who have asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate YouTube’s advertisements.
According to Mercury News, watchdogs are critical of the ads that are being inserted into YouTube for children, and some suggest that marketers are unfairly targeting children with what might be illegal ads.
“This is the opening shot in a new battle with Google, Nickelodeon, Amazon, Netflix, Cartoon Network and others that are trying to cash in on this generation of young children,” Center for Digital Democracy director Jeff Chester told Mercury News. “It’s a battle for the hearts and minds and pocketbooks of America’s kids in the digital age.”
Apparently Google is targeting children in advertisements that use popular TV characters to promote products. That practice is banned on cable TV and has been since the 1970s, Mercury News explained. “[Google] deliberately ignored the well-documented research on children’s developmental limitations when it comes to advertising and programming,” Chester said.
Another aspect of YouTube for Kids that’s under fire is unboxing videos, which are viewed as advertisements for toys instead of valuable content. One complaint specifically calls out a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy unboxing.
It’s not yet clear how the FTC will react to the complaint, but it’s plausible the group will implement stricter rules that are more in-line with what’s required by television networks.