Google gets called out for questionable YouTube Kids advertising



In February Google launched a new app called YouTube Kids. This app is specially made for kids to watch YouTube videos, and for parents to feel safe about the videos their kids can find. YouTube Kids highlights videos from top children-focused channels such as Dreamworks, Sesame Street and Thomas & Friends. Sounds great, right? Not everyone is happy about it.

Consumer groups are upset about the way YouTube Kids advertises to children. They claim that the app mixes entertainment and commercials in a way that would not be permitted on regular television. Google says they have a strict screening process for the ads, but the consumer group says they aren’t doing a good job. Here is an excerpt from a letter sent to the FTC:

“Many of the video segments endorsing toys, candy and other products that appear to be ‘user-generated’ have undisclosed relationships with product manufacturers in violation of the FTC’s guidelines concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising.”

Have you had any experience with the YouTube Kids app? Have you felt the advertising is not suitable for children?

YouTube Kids | Google Play Store

[via Star Tribune]

Joe Fedewa
Ever since I flipped open my first phone I've been obsessed with the devices. I've dabbled in other platforms, but Android is where I feel most at home.

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  1. I was surprised how often advertising appeared, but nothing was unsuitable. Similar advertising as you would find on Nick or Disney Jr. etc…

  2. when this was first announced I put on here that I wonder what kind of ads would appear and if it would be suitable for children. I remember someone called me an idiot.

    1. They aren’t saying the ads are inappropriate though. It’s a matter of disclosure which, frankly, the intended audience doesn’t care at all about.

      1. inappropriate has a broad definition to some. I do not want to watch videos of toys playing in a mcdonalds. I’m glad you are ok with this. However, I do not take my kids to fast food restaurants. nor do I feel its suitable for my child to watch a video, with subliminal messages implanted in them. I am an intended audience. I do care about that.

        EDIT: To back this up. NBCNews: “One example they cite is a 7-plus-minute video of Disney’s “Frozen” characters who appear as dolls inside a toy McDonald’s, eating ice cream and drinking Sprite.”

        1. Ah!! Okay, so from what you’re saying I am understanding it correctly.

          1. dunno if u are being sarcastic….hope not haha

          2. No, I’m not. I was wondering what the issue was. I read your comment and I was right with my assumption.

          3. sweet! glad you were right =)

          4. I’m mildly curious at how you’re replying so… quickly. Seeing as when I see a reply, and I’m not on the page, I have to view the email, click the link in Disqus, and all this whatnot. It seems as if you have… some Disqus app you’re not telling me of…

          5. haha nope, some times I’m just hitting refresh at the right time! I wish there was an app. that would be great.

        2. Same here. They never eat in McDonalds and I restrict their access to adverts whenever possible. Looks like I may have to remove this app from their Nabis.

  3. They’re an advertising company,no surprises here. GOOGLE’s taking the “Ask for forgiveness later” route,should they ruffle the wrong feathers.

  4. I think the confusion of the app is because it is hard to distinguish between an advertisement and actual content. Plus there are ads before and after most shows which seems excessive even for Google. I also understand that’s the price of free but seems a little underhanded as this is geared towards children. I’ve uninstalled it.

  5. I’ve been trying to understand the terminology used and all, but I don’t think I’m getting it. I’ve read this on The Verge and from my understanding it’s, parents are upset that the ads aren’t saying who they’re from. There will be an ad from McDonald’s, but it wouldn’t say it’s from McDonald’s.

    In other words, there will be toys being advertised, but within that commercial there will be some chicken nuggets. LoL!!

    Am… I understanding the issue correctly?

    1. The example I read about was a 7 minute McDonalds ad disguised as a Frozen video. So kid searches for Frozen, this shows up (it’s not marked as a ad), he/she clicks on it and spends the next 7 minutes watching a McDonalds commercial that just happens to have the Frozen characters in it.

  6. This app is for kids… Do you really think a kid cares that there is a disclaimer or print saying where an ad is from and what it is promoting? No, that’s something an adult would care about. But again, the app is for kids.

    Keep in mind that they aren’t saying the ads are inappropriate… Rather they aren’t disclosing some info… Such as the product review was endorsed…

    So my thought is, who cares? As long as the ads are not inappropriate, I don’t care if my child see such an ad.

    1. Well said. Now which 3 year old will care about disclosure. Yes since my daughter started using it she demands more toys but actually it was the same when she used regular youtube. Overall this app is more safe for kids than regular youtube. You just can’t please everyone. There are more inappropriate ads on TV than this app.

  7. I have no problems with advertising for kids, but it has to be done in an ethical manner. Heck, most ads are done unethically on TV. About 1/3 of the time in a 30 minute block is for ads.

    1. well said

  8. Bring it over here (UK) and I’ll let you know if it’s not suitable


      I’ve been running it on my sons Hudl for weeks with no problems. I’m pretty sure we don’t see any ads either.

      It’s brilliant. He’s not 100% confident in typing yet so the voice search function is perfect for him.

      1. Thanks for sharing, is this a link for the apk to side load it?

        1. Yep. :)

          1. Legend, thanks

  9. My daughter is 3 and already knows to hit skip ad button.

    1. The only positive my boys took from this experience was that they learned how to use voice search. But once they say “Star Wars”, a mountain of LEGO and other ads pop up in the search results.

    2. Lol my daughter is 4 and she’s been hitting that skip ad button a millisecond after it pops up for 2 years now!

  10. “Called out” – rightfully so. I installed the app for my 4 year old boys, and all they’ve been watching was commercials, games ads, toys show-offs. On the day 3 they started demanding a new toy every day. I removed the app eventually, but by the end they were only watching lets-plays and forgot about the games they used to enjoy. I rarely say it, but here it goes – Puck You, Google!

    1. Wait!! I thought the issue was toys would be advertised inside of a McDonald’s, so it was subliminally telling kids to eat at McDonald’s.

      I didn’t know the issue was that there was a commercial. Now I’m REALLY confused. ._.

      1. My problem is that they promised CONTENT FROM KIDS SPECIALTY CHANNELS. Instead, I got 40% of commercials mixed with 50% of show-and-tells and lets-plays, 10% of something else. I have yet to find PROMISED CONTENT!

    2. It sounds like you’re saying that the problem is that the ads were too effective, that your kids actually wanted the things being advertised.

      Is that right? If so, I honestly don’t see how advertising to kids is, in itself, a problem.

    3. It is so horrible that the free entertainment you use to amuse your children forces you to have to say no. How sad.

  11. Its to only get clicks on ads. Its a money thing, and Google knows kids will click on them.

  12. Let’s see, they’re pissed off because the ads are well made and effective? You can’t fault the advertisers for making effective ads.

    If you don’t like the ads, you can always put Netflix on the Android device. They have kids mode, and they don’t have ads.

  13. I installed the app on my 4yr old daughters tablet the day it came out, and she’s never even watched more than 5 seconds of an ad. As soon as the skip ad button pops up she’s on it! She actually hovers her finger over the bottom right corner just waiting for the skip ad button to pop up lol!

  14. Wah! I have to pay attention to what my kids are doing. Wah!!!!

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