Have your kids been pestering you more than usual for a new set of Legos or for some McDonald's chicken nuggets? The YouTube Kids app you downloaded onto your phone or tablet may be the culprit.
A collection of children's advocacy organizations recently complained to the Federal Trade Commission that Google's new app deceptively exposes children to too much advertising.
YouTube Kids is an app that provides educational videos and child-oriented shows. YouTube, which partnered with Jim Henderson TV, DreamWorks, TV, National Geographic, and Reading Rainbow, claims that the child-friendly content aims to promote literacy.
Advocacy groups argue that the programming is interspersed with a barrage of commercials for companies like McDonald's, Mattel, and Hasbro, more apt to promote commercialism.
Federal Communications Commission Rules
The advocacy groups assert that YouTube Kids should be subject to Federal Communications Commission rules meant to protect children who cannot easily distinguish between advertising and entertainment.
Networks are not allowed to show ads for products or characters that were featured in a show during or immediately before or after that show. For example, an episode "Lego Adventures" cannot be interspersed with ads for Lego toys.
Networks are also required to clearly separate the show from the commercials. This is why you often hear, "Now a word from our sponsors."
The advocacy groups accuse YouTube Kids of mixing the ads in with content so pervasively that it can be hard to distinguish the two, and contend the practices that have been long banned on traditionally broadcasted programs should also be banned on digital programming.
Advertising's Influence on Children
Undeniably, children are very easily influenced by advertising. While the kids don't spend any money themselves, they are still a very profitable market for corporations, especially in the retail and food industry. In 2006, companies spent $17 billion on advertising to children and reaped almost $500 billion in revenue.
If the FTC determines that the complaint raises valid issues, it will investigate the YouTube Kids app for violations. Google may soon have to rework its programming to comply with FCC rules or scrap the app altogether.