Parents of YouTube child stars say new safety rules will lose them money

Changes that YouTube is considering to protect children aren’t going over too well with some parents whose kids star in the site’s videos.

YouTube is considering moving all content that stars children to YouTube Kids, an app that Google, which owns YouTube — created in 2015. The possible move is partly a response to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation into Google over concerns that YouTube exposed kids under the age of 13 to inappropriate videos and illegally collected data from them, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Parents of child stars consider leaving YouTube

Some parents of child YouTube stars worry that moving children’s content off the main site could dramatically decrease the revenue they make on their videos.

Creators on YouTube’s main platform typically earn between $1,000 and $5,000 in ad revenue per one million views on their videos. YouTube has nearly 2 billion monthly users, the company says and is the second most popular website in the world, behind only Google. YouTubers with upwards of 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours in the past 12 months have the ability to link Google Adsense to their account, which allows them to monetize their content.

YouTubers get paid when someone clicks on an ad in one of their videos or watches any one of their videos for longer than 30 seconds. Creators can earn more money through brand-sponsored videos. YouTube Kids has approximately 11 million weekly users. With fewer users, YouTube Kids attracts fewer advertisers and brings in less ad revenue for creators than YouTube’s main platform.

A father of a child YouTube star with almost 2 million subscribers told MarketWatch that on average only 10 percent of the views on his 8-year-old daughter’s videos come from the YouTube Kids app. He asked to remain anonymous for this story.

Some of his daughter’s videos buck this trend, but the ones that do receive much lower ad revenue. “I looked at a few videos that had 90 percent of views come from YouTube Kids. Based on those numbers, revenue would decrease by 80 percent. So instead of $1.00 you’d receive $0.20,” he told MarketWatch.

His videos are mostly clips of his daughter playing with various toys. He declined to share with MarketWatch how much money he currently makes from the channel each year.

He isn’t in favor of the potential change and says it could drive him to leave the platform altogether. “I’d have to see if the time invested made sense compared to the revenue created,” he said.

Young YouTube stars Gabe, right, and Garrett.
Young YouTube stars Gabe, right, and Garrett.Gabe and Garrett/Facebook

Brian — a different father whose sons Gabe, 13 and Garrett, 10, have a YouTube page with approximately 1.7 million subscribers — says he “applauds YouTube for wanting to protect kids from potentially inappropriate content.” But he doesn’t think the change could work in practice.

“It’s not a viable business model for those of us creating good, family-friendly content,” he told MarketWatch. “The revenue generated currently from views on the YouTube Kids app is very low, a tiny fraction of the main platform.”

YouTube says it’s just an ‘idea’

“We consider lots of ideas for improving YouTube and some remain just that — ideas. Others, we develop and launch, like our restrictions to minors live streaming or updated hate speech policy,” a Google spokesperson told MarketWatch when asked about the change.

Transferring all children’s videos to YouTube Kids is one of multiple shifts YouTube is reportedly considering following pressure from the public and the FTC to protect child users. Other potential changes include removing the autoplay feature from children’s videos.

The feature prompts a new video to play automatically when the video someone is currently watching finishes. Some parents worry that it has the potential to lead kids from children’s to adult content without their touching the computer.

Child internet safety advocates want more

“Moving the videos to YouTube Kids is a positive move if it happens,” Donna Rice Hughes, the president of child internet safety non-profit Enough is Enough and a former member of the FTC’s Child Online Protection Act Commission, told MarketWatch. “But it isn’t enough.”

“I would like to see YouTube and social media platforms do real age verification. They say you have to be 13, but anyone can type in a birth date that says they’re 13,” Hughes said. “These companies need to be putting kids’ safety first.”

YouTube said in an early June press release that its site is not for people under 13 and that “accounts belonging to people under 13 are terminated when discovered.”

Hemu Nigam, the former chief of cyber security at MySpace and the founder of cybersecurity advisory firm SSP Blue, also believes moving all children’s content to YouTube Kids is a good move.

“Everyone is focused on revenue, but we need to think of the safety of kids first,” Nigam said. “In the real world, we wouldn’t bring kids to an adult area and then tell them to find the kids’ space or bring them to a kids’ space and say they can go to the adult area whenever they want. So why do we do that on YouTube and on the internet?”

“Kids need to be protected,” Brian, the father of Gabe and Garrett, said. But “it’s a two-way street. Legit creators need a pathway to have the resources to continue making the kids content.”

And even if YouTube does move all of its children’s content to YouTube Kids, it’s possible that minors may still be exposed to inappropriate videos. Earlier in the year, a widely-shared blog post highlighted animated shooting and suicide videos on YouTube Kids.

YouTube says it actively responds to child safety concerns and removed over 800,000 videos for violations to its child safety policies in the first quarter of 2019 alone.

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Written by Yaipoo


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