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Google’s YouTube Kids App May Not Be So Kid-Friendly After All, Says Parent Groups

A new YouTube app was just recently launched by Google that is geared towards children, but is it really as kid-friendly as it was designed to be? Not according to several consumer groups who are filing a complaint against the tech company. They will be asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the app as they are saying it is quite deceptive to children because of all the advertising that occurs during use.

The Google app, which was released in February, features both cartoons and learning shows. But according to CNN Money, the problem comes in with the advertising that these groups say are blurring the lines between the actual content and the ads that kids see when they play. Google claims that everything has had the stamp of approval from YouTube. However, the parent groups are saying that the app is violating their policy.

Those groups, including Consumer Watchdog and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, have argued that it would be illegal if these ads were on television and not online. They advocate that the restrictions should include digital media as well. The concern is that kids have a difficult time trying to distinguish between the app and the ads, which gives them a distorted view of the program they are using. They say that they may have a hard time distinguishing between the two. Dale Kunkel is assisting with the complaint and he explained why Google is under fire for this app.

They are mixing entertainment and advertising in ways that have already been ruled unfair and deceptive to children […] It is just that the precedent is in television, not digital media.

This free Google app features various fun programs that kids love and are familiar with such as “Thomas the Tank Engine,” “Reading Rainbow,” and even “Sesame Street.” The company had toted during its launch that these programs were designed for the younger set to keep them safer. They were also parent-friendly as they come complete with a timer to set how long their kids stay on, as well as other parental controls. Google responded to the complaints.

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.

These ads that pop up with the programs are also tempting kids as they feature McDonald’s ads and the cartoon character, Strawberry Shortcake, who is advertising a food app, according to Fox Business. With the digital age that kids are growing up in these days, the parent groups wants the same rules to apply to online format just like they are in place for television.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you think that the FTC should investigate these claims to protect kids from these ads?

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