As a social media lawyer, I advise a plethora of clients from different brands focusing on a range of target audiences.
For example, some of my clients are YouTubers who share glimpses of their daily lives with vlogs, while others are gamers 🎮 who livestream on Twitch to earn revenue.
However, one of the most at-risk groups of clientele I work with are those who create and share content directed to children 👶 under the age of 13.
WHY IS THIS GROUP AT RISK FOR LEGAL PROBLEMS? 🤔
Social media creators who make content for young children MUST follow a law known as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Passed by Congress in 1998, COPPA provides guardians of children 13 and younger control over what personal information websites collect from their kids.
In addition to regulating what information websites can collect from children, COPPA 📜 provides rules for how they use and distribute it as well.
As a result, all websites that collect data from children under the age of 13 MUST disclose the fact that they’re doing so, and make that information available to the children’s guardians 👨👩👧.
However, COPPA does not only affect websites, but also social media platforms! Unsurprisingly, the platform that has had the most interaction and problems with the FTC regarding COPPA is YouTube.
WHAT’S HAPPENED WITH YOUTUBE? 🤔
Unfortunately, COPPA has become a big problem for a lot of creators – especially those on YouTube.
Most commonly, YouTubers receive COPPA strikes for videos that either the platform or FTC deems mislabeled as “for kids”. That being said, some YouTubers have been known to purposefully mislabel their videos to attract children to adult-rated content 🤦, so the problems are understandable.
As a result of their issues with the FTC, YouTube made a deal with the government in January of 2020. This deal came with some BIG changes for child-directed YouTube videos and channels.
More specifically, YouTube announced their decision to end 🛑 targeted advertising and disable comments – among other changes – on the child-directed YouTube Kids.
Furthermore, the platform identified penalties for mislabeling a video as “safe for kids”. Believe it or not, fines for COPPA violations amount to $42,530 💸 per video – so YouTubers had to take these changes seriously.
In fact, YouTube’s COPPA announcement in January led a TON of child-directed channels to flee the platform!
SO… WHAT SHOULD I DO TO AVOID TROUBLE WITH COPPA? 🤔
Ultimately, all creators who use YouTube or any other social media platform should consult a social media lawyer to ensure their content is COPPA compliant ✔️.
While social media users who create content for kids must obviously follow COPPA’s guidelines, those who do not ❌ direct their content to kids MUST be sure their content is not mislabeled by the FTC.
In most cases, social media creators can determine on their own whether their content could be perceived as appropriate for children. However, this comes with risks as the FTC guidelines on child safety are very vague.
For example, the FTC classifies child-directed content by defining characteristics such as the use of “animated characters” or “child-oriented activities” – whatever that means.
Therefore, even if adults are your intended audience, should the FTC decide your content is too appealing to children, they will fine you 💰 for lacking the “appropriate” privacy settings.
Furthermore, if you create content for children and redirect your followers from social media to a website, you must ensure the website is COPPA compliant as well.
Believe it or not, many influencers don’t know if or how their website collects visitors’ information. If you fall into this category, consult a social media lawyer ⚖️ ASAP to ensure you are not accidentally allowing a third party to collect personal information from children under 13.
Remember, working with an attorney to protect yourself from COPPA violations could not only save your website – it could save your career.