When the YouTube Kids app was announced six weeks ago, it seemed like a nice, safe way to ensconce your child in a fuzzy walled garden of Sesame Street and a certain friendly Tank Engine. But according to a complaint filed in the US with the Federal Trade Commission, it’s exposing kids to a “hyper-commercialised” environment with basically no safeguards.
The complaint has been co-signed by a dozen prominent Stateside consumer groups, who are lining up to pile hate on the Google app. The problem seems to be the overt commercialisation: not only are adverts playing immediately before and after videos (something required for children’s shows on TV), but hosts outright endorse products to kids in videos.
Given that adults probably struggle to distinguish between unbiased opinions and paid-for shilling on YouTube, the complaint seems to have merit: it’s long been established that kids are more susceptible to advertising, a problem that’s been addressed for broadcast media with a host of regulations designed to protect children. Especially in an app specifically targeted at the kiddies, you’d think Google would be more careful.
For its part, Google is keeping tight-lipped for now: a YouTube spokesperson told media outlets: “When developing YouTube Kids we consulted with numerous partners and child advocacy and privacy groups. We are always open to feedback on ways to improve the app.” [Guardian]