The six-week-old YouTube Kids service is a “hyper-commercialized” environment that intermixes advertising and other programming in a way that deceives its target audience, a coalition of privacy and children’s advocacy groups said in a complaint to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
Joining in giving YouTube Kids the big thumbs-down are the Center for Digital Democracy, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. They say the video app, targeted toward preschool children, blurs the lines between advertising and other programming using methods that are prohibited by federal regulations on commercial television.
In their request Tuesday for an FTC investigation, the groups say that YouTube Kids’ programming amounts to an unfair business practice.
The video service, which bills itself as safe for children, is “the most hyper-commercialized media environment for children I have ever seen,” said Dale Kunkel, a professor of communications at the University of Arizona. Some of the practices on YouTube Kids, including program hosts pitching products to children “haven’t been seen since the 1950s,” Kunkel added.
YouTube corporate parent Google defended the service, saying it doesn’t collect personal information and it includes several parental-control features. “When developing YouTube Kids we consulted with numerous partners and child advocacy and privacy groups,” a Google representative said by email. “We are always open to feedback on ways to improve the app.”