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Disclosure statement

Jessica Balanzategui does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive sầu funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Swinburne University of Technology provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.

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The commission report cites YouTube’s communication with an advertiser:

We don’t have sầu users that are below 13 on YouTube and platform/site is general audience, so there is no channel/content that is child-directed & no COPPA compliance is needed.

The Federal Trade Commission begged lớn differ & YouTube’s attempts to lớn discipline its children’s content since then has global implications.

Regulating children’s content

Children’s broadcast content – và the advertising that surrounds it – has long been required lớn adhere to certain standards. In Australia, this began with 1945’s List of Principles to lớn Govern Children’s Programs.

The current relevant legislation is the Children’s Television Standards 2009. This bans all advertising during shows for preschool children, và bans some types of advertising including that featuring “popular characters” for older children. Content cannot be “unduly frightening” or “unduly distessing”, và cannot encourage children to engage in dangerous activities.

The standards include criteria for the unique of programming. It must be “entertaining”, “well produced”, appropriate for Australian children, and “ the understanding and experience of children”.

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But the user-generated nature of YouTube content has meant that a complex ecology of new types of children’s nội dung has evolved outside of these quality frameworks.

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More video clip content is watched by children online than on TV. from www.shutterstock.com

Disturbing children’s genres

The issues with children’s YouTube go deeper than the recent fine.

On YouTube, genres have sầu formed over time through an enigmatic combination of human & technical factors. Content creators have sầu been incentivised to exploit the algorithm so their videos appear at the top of tìm kiếm results và in auto-play queues.

Such practices result in “word salad” video clip titles like “Spiderman, Frozen Elsa is Taken by Minions! W/Anna và Kristoff, Pink Spidergirl, Maleficient & Candy. Over time, new children’s genres crystallise, like thắm thiết videos featuring Spider-Man and Elsa from Disney’s Frozen.

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YouTube channel ‘Superhero-Spiderman-Frozen Compilations’ has over 125 million views. https://www.youtube.com

Some of the more concerning children’s YouTube genres include dark parodies of popular children’s cartoons, crudely animated or live-action videos featuring adult performers in cheap superhero or Disney character costumes, & "bad baby” videos where pranks are pulled on “naughty” children.

Public controversies about some of these genres have led to lớn the termination of lucrative sầu YouTube channels. One such channel, Toy Freaks had 8.53 million subscribers and documented a father’s pranks on his children.

YouTube has also attempted lớn demonetise controversial genres by removing ads. Sadistic “prank” content led to criminal sentences of child neglect for parents Michael và Heather Martin of the DaddyOFive channel.

YouTube: The new kids TV

In 2015, in response to the growing popularity of “family entertainment channels” on the platform, YouTube launched YouTube Kids, a dedicated phầm mềm explicitly oriented at children.

The platsize still sat outside of Australian and international children’s content frameworks, although the Australian Association of National Advertisers urged advertisers on YouTube Kids to lớn adhere lớn their children’s advertising codes. These codes however are self-regulated.

This August, in response khổng lồ growing criticism of the types of videos readily available lớn children, YouTube Kids was relaunched as a standalone website which purported lớn ensure a safer platsize.

While YouTube Kids previously grouped together all viewers under 12, the new platkhung allows parents lớn select Preschool (under 4), Younger (5-7), or Older (8-12) categories.

These age-based categories will largely be managed by YouTube’s automated filtering và categorisation systems, but will rely on parental reporting of inappropriate videos that slip through filters. While the children’s TV standards & classification frameworks regulate for age appropriate, quality children’s programming on television, such regulation does not extkết thúc lớn online content.

Murky boundaries

With the fine announced just a week after the launch of the new Kids platform, YouTube announced another raft of platsize updates.

Creators will now be required lớn tell YouTube if their nội dung targets children, & the platsize will stop serving personalised ads with children’s nội dung. YouTube has committed khổng lồ using machine learning lớn more precisely identify child-oriented content.

These new machine-learning strategies will identify children’s nội dung by looking for videos with “an emphasis on kids characters, themes, toys, or games”.

But does this take inlớn trương mục child-oriented genres native sầu to YouTube, lượt thích Elsa và Spider-Man romantic mash-ups and bad baby videos, or popular imagery in YouTube children’s nội dung, like syringes & head swapping?

YouTube has transformed the themes, narrative structures, and aesthetics of children’s genres in ways that even the company now struggles to understand.

For these new measures to work, technological solutions need to lớn be grounded in new understandings of children’s screen genres.

Our cultural & policy definitions of children’s content need to lớn catch up with this new frontier.

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