A group of children’s advocacy groups have filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission charging that Google’s YouTube Kids App is anything but family-family friendly.

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 The complaint accuses Google of deceiving young children by intermixing advertising and programming.

They also call out the app for having branded channels for companies like Barbie and Fisher-Price that they say say are basically just long commercials.

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The groups also don’t like user-generated segments that show toys and other products that appeal to kids. They feel that those posting the content could have undisclosed relationships with manufacturers.

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Television broadcasters have been under strict rules regarding advertising to children for many years. As someone who used to work in broadcasting, I can tell you that many broadcasters feel that’s why advertisers moved away from kids programs on broadcast TV and why you don’t see Saturday morning cartoons on broadcast television.

Viewing of kids’ programming moved to cable and is now moving to apps. Kids expect to be able to watch what they want on demand, but that free content comes with advertising. Google is accused of violating several rules that both broadcast and cable stations have to live by when it comes to kids, including allowing the host of a children’s show to deliver commercial messages and the strict limit on the amount of advertising that can appear in children’s programming.

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The complaint says Google is actually violating its own rules when it comes to kids. The company says no food or beverage ads are allowed in the app and the groups claim such ads are prominently featured.

The group is demanding the Google change what they are doing and also that the FTC institute new rules to govern apps and online content aimed at children.

So far, all Google has to say on the matter is, “When developing YouTube Kids we consulted with numerous partners and child advocacy and privacy groups. We are always open to feedback on ways to improve the app.” 

~ Cynthia