The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a United States federal law, passed in 1998 and effective from April 2000. This law is administered by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
COPPA is designed to protect the online privacy of children under the age of 13 by providing parents with control over what information websites and online services can collect from their children.
Why Do We Need COPPA?
As the internet evolved, it became clear that children were engaging with various websites and services, often providing personal information.
There were concerns about the safety of this information and how it could be used without parental consent. COPPA was thus introduced to ensure that parents are given control over the information collected from their children online.
This law provides a safeguard, ensuring that such data cannot be collected without explicit parental consent.
How Does COPPA Affect Me?
If you’re a parent or guardian of a child under 13 in the U.S., COPPA gives you control over your child’s personal information. It allows you to prevent websites and online services from collecting your child’s personal information without your permission.
If you’re a website owner or operator, or an online service provider whose services are directed to children under 13 or have actual knowledge that you are collecting personal information from children under 13, you need to comply with COPPA.
This includes getting parental consent before collecting, using, or disclosing such information.
How Can I Stay Safe and Compliant?
If you’re a parent, make sure to educate your child about the importance of not giving away personal information online. Also, regularly monitor the websites and online services your child uses and give consent only if you deem it safe.
If you’re a website owner, online service provider, or an app developer, here are the steps you need to take to comply with COPPA:
Provide direct notice to parents and obtain verifiable parental consent, with limited exceptions, before collecting personal information from children.
Provide a reasonable means for a parent to review the personal information collected from a child and to refuse to permit its further use.
Establish and maintain reasonable procedures to protect the confidentiality, security, and integrity of the personal information collected from children.
Retain personal information collected online from a child for only as long as is necessary to fulfill the purpose for which it was collected and delete the information using reasonable measures to protect against its unauthorized access or use.
Do not condition a child’s participation in online activities on the child providing more information than is reasonably necessary to participate in that activity.Notable COPPA Violations and Fines
Please note that the FTC regularly reviews and updates its rules and regulations to ensure the safety of children online, so it’s crucial to stay updated with the most recent guidelines from the FTC’s official website.
The COPPA is crucial in today’s digital age to protect children and give control to parents over their child’s online information. By understanding COPPA, its purpose, and its requirements, you can ensure to comply with the law and provide a safe environment for children online.
COPPA FAQs for Beginners
Q: Who does COPPA apply to?A: COPPA applies to operators of commercial websites and online services, including mobile apps, that are directed to children under 13 and collect, use, or disclose personal information from children.
Q: What types of personal information does COPPA protect?A: COPPA protects personal information like full name, home or email address, telephone number, Social Security number. It also protects other types of information like hobbies, interests, and information collected through cookies or other types of tracking mechanisms when they are tied to individually identifiable information.
Q: How does COPPA define an “operator”?A: Under COPPA, an operator is anyone who operates a website or online service and collects personal information from children, or on whose behalf such information is collected and maintained.
Q: What is ‘verifiable parental consent’ under COPPA?A: Verifiable parental consent is any reasonable effort, taking into consideration available technology, to ensure that a parent of a child receives notice of the operator’s personal information collection, use, and disclosure practices, and authorizes the collection, use, and disclosure, as applicable, of personal information and the subsequent use of that information before that information is collected from that child.
Q: What are the penalties for non-compliance with COPPA?A: The FTC is authorized to bring legal actions and impose penalties up to $43,792 per violation.
As concerns about online privacy increase and the abilities of nefarious parties online continue to expand, the worry over things like websites accessing your webcam without permission naturally increases alongside them. While YouTube is not a “nefarious party” in an online security sense (though a healthy distrust of huge corporations is rarely a bad thing), users understandably still want to maintain their privacy, even from platforms like YouTube.
To give a brief answer to this question, no, YouTube cannot access your camera… unless you allow them to! And you will need to allow them to for certain activities, such as recording shorts through the YouTube app or live streaming directly through YouTube Studio.
YouTube In The Browser
Any reputable browser, such as Chrome, Firefox—or any of the other major web browsers in use today—will explicitly present you with a choice when a website wants to use your camera. We can’t speak for every browser on the market, of course, but if you use an obscure browser, you should be at least knowledgeable enough to stay secure while using that browser.
With the more well-known browsers, however, you will always be asked before a website is granted permission to anything on your device that is not part of standard web browsing protocol. You can revoke these permissions at any time, though the precise steps you need to take to do this will depend on the browser you are using.
So, when using a browser, yes, YouTube can access your camera, but you have to allow it, and you are free to revoke that permission any time you wish.
YouTube will only ask permission to use your camera if you are doing something that requires it, such as live streaming directly through the YouTube site. This is important since requests to access your camera at seemingly inappropriate times could be a sign that your computer is infected with something malicious.
YouTube On Your Phone
Things are a little more straightforward on a mobile device, such as an Android phone or iPhone, assuming you use the YouTube app and do not go through your phone’s browser.
With the app, you will likely be asked for the relevant permissions the first time you run it. If you have previously denied those permissions and now want to grant them, you can take care of that in your phone’s settings.
The scope for requiring the use of your camera for YouTube on your phone is a little narrower since you cannot live stream from your mobile device (though you can set up streams on it), but you can still record shorts through the app in much the same way that Snaps are recorded. Or, for those of you with longer-term memories; Vine videos.
Is YouTube Trustworthy
It’s all well and good talking about how you can grant and deny YouTube permission to use your camera, but is YouTube trustworthy in the first place?
Unlike the aforementioned nefarious parties, YouTube is beholden to a range of international laws regarding what they can and cannot do. There is also a free market aspect to the situation; if YouTube suddenly decided to start filming you randomly without giving you a proper warning and without explicit consent, they would very quickly lose users
All of this adds up to a trustworthy company in terms of safety, though as mentioned above, it is perfectly normal to have some reservations about blindly trusting a corporation. Still, you should not have to worry about YouTube stealing your webcam for malicious purposes.
When on a computer (rather than a phone), especially if the computer in question is a laptop, you may have some warning that your camera has been hijacked. Many webcams these days have a light that is activated when the webcam is recording, and the same goes for certain models of DLSR and other more expensive cameras. If you notice your camera lit up when it shouldn’t be, you should look into that immediately. If you are not currently using a website or an application that uses your camera, your computer could be infected with a virus or other malicious software.
Of course, not all cameras give a visible or audible warning that they are active, and while having a camera that does warn you is handy, the best defence against your camera being used without your consent will always be to ensure that you are being safe on the Internet. Don’t download files from unknown sources, be careful about the links you click, and keep your anti-virus software updated with the latest definitions.
Do I Have To Give YouTube Permission To Access My Camera?
If you are not prepared to grant access to your camera to even a company like YouTube… you don’t have to. There are currently no YouTube services that are only usable with direct access to your camera. You can upload videos and shorts and live stream through third-party streaming applications.
The argument for allowing YouTube to access your camera is one of convenience. If you make a lot of shorts, your fastest and most convenient method will be to grant access to your camera and record your shorts through the YouTube app. The argument is less convincing on PC, where it is often just as easy to use a third-party streaming alternative rather than granting YouTube access to your camera in order to stream directly into YouTube.
While the threat of online security breaches is very real, YouTube is not, nor has ever been, the perpetrator of this kind of activity, and it is a safe bet they will remain so for the foreseeable future. As with most aspects of life online, it is crucial to stay on top of your security, because a missed update here or a questionable download there can be the difference between a secure computer and your bank details being available on the dark web!
If in doubt, revoke all permissions for services like YouTube, you can always grant them again later.
Top 5 Tools To Get You Started on YouTube
Very quickly before you go here are 5 amazing tools I have used every day to grow my YouTube channel from 0 to 30K subscribers in the last 12 months that I could not live without.
1. VidIQ helps boost my views and get found in search
I almost exclusively switched to VidIQ from a rival in 2020.
When I first started I threw things together in Window Movie Maker, cringed at how it looked but thought “that’s the best I can do so it’ll have to do”.
I soon realized the move time you put into your editing and the more engaging your thumbnails are the more views you will get and the more people will trust you enough to subscribe.
That is why I took the plunge and invested in my editing and design process with Adobe Creative Suite. They offer a WIDE range of tools to help make amazing videos, simple to use tools for overlays, graphics, one click tools to fix your audio and the very powerful Photoshop graphics program to make eye-catching thumbnails.
Best of all you can get a free trial for 30 days on their website, a discount if you are a student and if you are a regular human being it starts from as little as £9 per month if you want to commit to a plan.
3. Rev.com helps people read my videos
You can’t always listen to a video.
Maybe you’re on a bus, a train or sat in a living room with a 5 year old singing baby shark on loop… for HOURS. Or, you are trying to make as little noise as possible while your new born is FINALLY sleeping.
This is where Rev can help you or your audience consume your content on the go, in silence or in a language not native to the video.
A GREAT way to find an audience and keep them hooked no matter where they are watching your content.
4. PlaceIT can help you STAND OUT on YouTube
I SUCK at making anything flashy or arty.
I have every intention in the world to make something that looks cool but im about as artistic as a dropped ice-cream cone on the web windy day.
That is why I could not live on YouTube without someone like PlaceIT. They offer custom YouTube Banners, Avatars, YouTube Video Intros and YouTube End Screen Templates that are easy to edit with simple click, upload wizard to help you make amazing professional graphics in minutes.
5. StoryBlocks helps me add amazing video b-roll cutaways
I mainly make tutorials and talking head videos.
And in this modern world this can be a little boring if you don’t see something funky every once in a while.
I try with overlays, jump cuts and being funny but my secret weapon is b-roll overlay content.
I can talk about skydiving, food, money, kids, cats – ANYTHING I WANT – with a quick search on the StoryBlocks website I can find a great looking clip to overlay on my videos, keeping them entertained and watching for longer.
YouTube has had its fair share of horror stories over the years when it comes to dubious content and impressionable children.
Whether it’s sinister hoaxes like the Momo Challenge, which turned out to be completely fake, or incidents like children eating dishwasher detergent, which was very real, there is seemingly never a shortage of reasons for parents to worry about their children’s online presence.
Add to this the general fear of child grooming that has been around since the early days of the Internet, and even relatively minor issues, by comparison, such age-inappropriate content, and it is easy to see why parents might be reluctant to let their children roam free through the pages of YouTube without supervision.
That being said, you can only watch your children’s activities so much. And, while it may be possible to supervise their every move early on in life, there comes a time where it is not feasible to keep an eye on them all of the time without seriously limiting their freedom.
Of course, we can’t guide in general parenting—that’s not what this blog is about—but we can give you advice specifically as it pertains to your children and YouTube.
YouTube’s Policy on Children
Largely thanks to regulatory intervention, YouTube is quite strict about not allowing children unfettered access to their platform. Even to the point that if you register a children’s account (more on that later), YouTube will not allow that account to access the full YouTube service even if you, the parent, want to enable it.
YouTube’s terms of service state that you have to be over thirteen years of age to have a full YouTube account that can access the regular service, rather than YouTube Kids—a moderated version of YouTube. Furthermore, children under thirteen cannot upload videos to the platform.
That being said, YouTube does not demand proof of identity when you sign up for an account, so there is nothing to stop you or your child from creating a YouTube account and lying in the age field.
Still, for a concerned parent, it can help to know that, if you aren’t lying in the age field, YouTube actually does a lot to protect your children. Whether they do enough to protect your children is a judgement only you can make, but they certainly take a good deal of the burden off of you when it comes to moderating what your child watches.
“Made For Kids” Content
Primarily due to the regulations we hinted at above, YouTube is very proactive when it comes to content that is made for children, regardless of who made the content or whether it is declared as made for kids by the uploader.
The main difference with Made For Kids content is that the selection of advertisements that can be served around this content is considerably more restricted.
This is partly due to the fact that YouTube is required to not store personal data for children, which deters many advertisers because they want to target their ads at specific demographics, which can’t be done if you have no information about the viewer.
Of course, there is also the fact that some advertisements are not suitable for a young audience, which further reduces the pool of advertisements that can be played to children.
It is worth reiterating that these rules apply to any videos that YouTube deems to be made for children. Granted, most of the time, they will know this because the uploader declares that it is made for children, but in some cases, YouTube will decide themselves, regardless of what the uploader says.
Things to Look Out For
It’s not hard to find YouTube tips for parents articles that cover the obvious things; violence, sexual content, and generally inappropriate topics.
These are, we feel, quite obvious, and nothing new. Parents have had to be mindful of their children watching inappropriate content since the 1970s, and it is something we are very culturally aware of today.
So we thought we’d go over some of the less obvious—and more uniquely YouTube—things to be mindful of as a parent.
Envy and Depression
Social media, in general, has brought with it a host of new challenges for society. Perhaps one of the least expected of these challenges is depression as a result of envy caused by continually seeing the glossy lives of online personalities.
This phenomenon may be more associated with platforms like Facebook and Instagram, but the premise is no less applicable to YouTube. Essentially, your children see the seemingly perfect lives of their favourite YouTubers day in, day out, and begin to feel depressed that their life is not as good.
In these cases, it is important to stress to your child that what they see on YouTube, even in seemingly honest and personal vlogs, is not necessarily representative of real life. In much the same way that you should explain to your child that Spider-Man is not a documentary, and they shouldn’t try to swing from the roof, you should explain to them that the videos they see on YouTube are crafted, and only show what the YouTuber wants them to show.
Nobody’s life is perfect.
There is a whole niche on YouTube dedicated to children opening packages and demoing toys, which is very popular because children love to see new toys.
Of course, toy commercials have been around for decades, and children seeing a shiny new toy on the television and wanting that toy is nothing new, but it’s a little different on YouTube.
The problem is that these videos typically feature children opening and playing with the toys. To make matters worse, the channels that produce this kind of content are often families and shoot the videos as though their children are getting this unending stream of new toys as part of their everyday life.
Unlike the commercials we mentioned, this can create an expectation in your child that this is how things are. After all, they are not watching an advertisement, but a child just like them, seemingly living their life. It’s only natural for your child to wonder why their life is not full of new toys in exciting hiding places every day.
Again, the trick to avoiding this is to talk to your child and make sure they understand that videos like this are made for entertainment value, and not just filmed during someone’s average day. Many of these channels donate the toys they feature, so be sure to explain that as well.
This one is a little subjective in that different parents will have different views on whether it is a cause for concern or not.
YouTube features plenty of current events in the form of news reports, commentary, and other formats. It is safe to say that the world has not been a particularly happy place in recent years, and with the light of social media shining into every crevice of the world lately, there will always be plenty of negativity to make YouTube videos about.
Being a parent is all about striking balances, and this is one of those times. Where the right balance lies between sheltering your child from the world entirely and over-exposing them to it for you is a judgement you will have to make as a parent.
We are merely warning you that there is a lot of current events content on YouTube, and with the state of the world lately, your child could well be exposed to far more negativity than you would like.
Technically this would fall under those obvious examples we mentioned above—children have been getting injured trying to recreate stunts they have seen on television for as long as there has been television. Still, in light of the uniquely Internet threats that platforms like YouTube have been witness to, it is worth mentioning this one.
Sometimes through malicious intent, sometimes through pure stupidity, Internet “challenges” crop up on a semi-regular basis. These challenges involve people—often children—filming themselves performing some action that can be dangerous to their wellbeing.
These kinds of challenges started harmlessly enough, with things like planking in strange places, doing a particular dance, or eating a spoonful of cinnamon. The Ice Bucket challenge that stormed the Internet is an example of this kind of challenge that actually did some good in the world, raising a lot of money for charity. Unfortunately, as is often the case with dares—which is essentially what Internet challenges are—things tend to escalate. More recent challenges have involved attempting to eat corn on the cob using power tools, and the detergent-eating incident we mentioned above.
The corn on a cob challenge naturally led to several injuries, and the problem with the detergent incident shouldn’t need explaining here.
YouTube Tips for Parents
Being aware of the dangers YouTube can present for your children is only part of the battle—you also need to know how to combat them. Every parent handles things their own way, and, abusive behaviour aside, it is not for us to say who is right in their parenting methods.
That being said, here are some approaches to take with your children to help keep them safe on YouTube, and you can make your own informed decisions as a parent.
And, just to address it, preventing your child from watching YouTube at all is obviously an option, but this is a blog about YouTube, so we’ll be sticking to methods that involve your child still watching YouTube.
Talk to Your Child
One of the most obvious ways to protect your child from many things in life, not just YouTube, is education.
Take curse words as an example. The chances are, you will never be able to prevent your child from hearing curse words, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It is not your children knowing those words that are the problem; it is them saying them.
If you can educate your child to learn not to use inappropriate words, you don’t need to worry about them occasionally hearing one.
YouTube can be approached similarly. Properly educating your child on things like YouTuber’s lives not being as perfect as they look on screen, and not doing dangerous things just because a YouTuber “challenged” you to, will significantly reduce the causes for concern when your child watches YouTube.
Set up a Children’s Account
Google allows you to create accounts for your children that are restricted in several ways to prevent your children from seeing content they shouldn’t be seeing.
One of the main ways it limits YouTube is by preventing access from that account to the full YouTube platform, instead of taking them to the YouTube Kids platform. It is worth noting that the YouTube Kids platform is not available in-browser, so your child will not be able to watch YouTube on a full computer. They will be able to watch it on a phone or tablet, of course.
This account will automatically convert to a full account when your child turns thirteen, so be sure to put the correct date in. It’s also worth reiterating that you cannot choose to allow your child full access to YouTube. The only way a child’s account can access the full platform is if that child turns thirteen.
Create a Family Account
The overly restrictive nature of YouTube children’s accounts may be perfect for younger children, but many parents feel it is too restrictive for older children of around ten years old and up. Still, that doesn’t mean they’re ready to give their children the keys to the Internet.
In these cases, consider creating a single YouTube account that is used by the whole family.
This will allow you to keep tabs on what your child is watching while still allowing them more freedom to access YouTube.
One of the worst parts of YouTube from a mental health standpoint is the comments.
YouTube automatically disable comments on videos made for children, but you can also choose to disable them on any video you upload. If your child starts uploading content—either contributing to an adult-run channel or running their own channel after they have turned thirteen—consider disabling the comments if YouTube doesn’t do it for you.
Much of the negativity on the platform comes from the comments section, and there is little to be gained from exposing your child that.