YouTube Kids seemed like a great idea when it was first launched, with the promise of a child-friendly version of YouTube that parents could plonk their kids in front of for some appropriate, curated TV time.
However, it seems that it didn’t quite work out that way. An FTC investigation found that Google’s algorithmic selection of videos had a tendency to lead kids away from safe content from time to time, instead pointing them at stuff that really isn’t suitable for kids anywhere.
As if that weren’t bad enough, Google was also collecting data on the kids watching habits, and used that information to drive targeted advertising. That’s an even bigger no no, and violates some key laws in the US designed to prevent precisely this behaviour.
The US Federal Trade Commission is reaching settlement stage with Google over these behaviours, and it’s rumoured there’s going to be a $150m to $200m fine (USD). This amount – roughly equivalent to two or three months YouTube ad revenue – is unlikely to be much of a deterrent by itself to the search giant, but hopefully it will be enough (with the negative publicity to boot) to get Google to change the ways it runs the YouTube Kids service.
Just last week, Google released an update to the YouTube Kids app which segregates content into that suitable for 5-7 year olds, and that suited to an older 8-12 year audience. However, if your kids are any like the kids I know, they’d rather watch videos of people play video games like Mario Odyssey or Super Smash Brothers.