Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Time to Turn Off the YouTube, Kids

It's time for bed now. Let's go.

"An ad or a show? Some say YouTube Kids blurs the line; Group wants rules for TV ads applied to children’s video app" by Sacha Pfeiffer Globe Staff  April 21, 2015

Pop quiz: Which of these are commercials?

A video describing what McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets are made of.

A video showing LEGO toys being opened and assembled.

A video in which characters from the Disney movie “Frozen” drink Sprite.

All appear on YouTube Kids, a new free app — described as “kid-friendly content” for “curious little minds” — that mixes ad-like videos with traditional shows. On Monday, a Boston consumer group told federal regulators it’s hard to tell the ads from the programming, so YouTube Kids should be subject to federal rules on deceptive advertising.

The complaint highlights what advocates say is a void in the digital regulatory landscape: how to apply rules for children’s TV ads to content watched on tablets and smartphones.

It’s a mounting concern as online media companies increasingly tailor their advertising to children — potentially a hugely lucrative market — and as a growing number of kids consume digital entertainment.

“In today’s world, it doesn’t make any sense to distinguish between television and other types of screens,” said Josh Golin, associate director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a Boston nonprofit that helped initiate a Federal Trade Commission complaint against Google Inc., which owns YouTube Kids.

“This application is essentially just watching videos,” added Golin, who met in Washington, D.C., with FTC Commissioner Julie Brill, Bureau of Consumer Protection director Jessica Rich, and several FTC staff attorneys. “From a child’s point of view, there’s not really any difference between watching on an app versus watching on television.”

Two-thirds of prekindergarten-age children in the United States use tablet devices, and one-third own their own tablet, according to the advertising consulting firm Communicus.

Even more troubling to consumer advocates is research showing that young children are particularly susceptible to advertising and are not developmentally mature enough to distinguish between ads and other types of media.

Related: Elmo Is a Corporate Whore

That IS really creepy.

That youthful vulnerability is why regulations on children’s TV advertising were introduced by the Federal Communications Commission in the 1970s and have been continually updated since. But several watchdog groups say YouTube Kids, launched by Google in February, violates numerous longstanding regulatory safeguards.

The app has big colorful buttons and can be voice-activated by children not yet able to read or write. It allows them to watch episodes of programs such as “Sesame Street” and “Thomas the Tank Engine” and offers some access to shows by providers such as DreamWorksTV and National Geographic Kids.

It also has “branded channels” ranging from Barbie to Fisher-Price to My Little Pony to McDonald’s and offers “unboxing” videos in which YouTube users film themselves opening toys....



I can still hear something in there....