September 2019 Newsletter
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VICTORY: Big Changes Coming at YouTube

Last year, CCFC, the Center for Digital Democracy, and our lawyers at Georgetown’s Institute for Public Representation filed an FTC complaint detailing how Google was illegally collecting, using, and profiting off of kids’ data on YouTube. Now, after over a year of putting pressure on policymakers, we got results: the FTC announced a record-breaking fine for Google and a ban on personalized ads on kid-directed YouTube channels.

As FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra explained, Google’s ad technologies allow them to “psychologically profile each user and predict in real time what content will be most engaging and which ads will be most persuasive.” It’s completely unfair to use already-vulnerable children’s likes, interests, location, and viewing habits in order to deliver them even more persuasive ads. That’s why the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) makes it illegal to collect data from and serve targeted ads to kids under 13 without parental consent.

But for years before we tipped off the FTC, Google had been illegally spying on and delivering targeted ads to millions of children. They said YouTube “wasn’t for kids,” and so the site didn’t need to comply with COPPA. Meanwhile, they were bragging to advertisers that YouTube was the best place to target kids! Now, as a result of our campaign, Google can no longer talk out of both sides of its mouth.

The settlement isn’t perfect – $170 million is a record fine, but it’s barely half a drop in the bucket of cash Google made off their illegal, predatory behavior. And industry is already fighting to weaken children’s privacy rules so they can get back to business (that is, the business of manipulating kids).

In the coming months, we’ll let you know about how you can help strengthen privacy protections for kids. And as YouTube makes changes, our child development experts and parent educators will offer advice to families on watching (or not watching!) together. But for now, let’s all take a moment to celebrate what we’ve accomplished together: the number one kids’ website in the world will soon have significantly less surveillance and kid-targeted advertising!

Meet the “Kidfluencers”

YouTube and Instagram are awash with "kidfluencers" – child social media stars whose #sponsored #content sells little kids on everything from toy brands to cereal companies. This kind of advertising is illegal on children's television, but there are no such rules on the internet (yet).

Our own Josh Golin commented on this insidious form of kid-targeted marketing in a new documentary from CBS news. “If you are a child and you are unboxing a toy because you're getting paid to promote it, then your whole video is an ad,” Josh said. “Children don’t have that understanding, and they have it even less when the [unboxer] is masquerading as their friend on YouTube who’s just really excited about opening a toy.”

Action Network Live!

Your feedback has helped us transform our webinars into Action Network Live!, a series of dynamic conversations with experts in kids’ health, development, and tech use. In July, our Interfaith Conversation on Screen Time explored the relationship between children’s spiritual development and their use of digital devices. And in September, author Meghan Gurdon and researcher Dr. John Hutton shared surprising science about books in The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud. The entire series archive is available here.

Don’t miss our next event on October 28! In Driver’s Ed for Smartphones, psychologist Dr. Sharon Maxwell and educator and learning designer Chelsea Maxwell will talk teens, tech, and empowering young people to resist the attention economy. Register here!

Featured Resource

Back-to-school is the perfect time to download the Parent Toolkit for Student Privacy, a free resource from CCFC and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy! Schools store ever-growing amounts of digitized student information – test scores, income levels, SSNs, and even immigration status. But most schools don't have strong policies to keep data safe or prevent it from being shared with third parties. Our month-by-month calendar will guide you through how to use the Toolkit this year to protect your child’s privacy.

Screen-Free Week

Help your community get some screen-free time and space this spring by planning a Screen-Free Week celebration at your school! If your child’s school has never celebrated before, now’s the perfect time to reach out to teachers or the principal to introduce them to Screen-Free Week. (We’ve got some great materials you can share here!) Already have a Screen-Free Week tradition in place? Check out our resources and blog to get some inspiration for your 2020 event, or email us at if you have specific questions. Happy unplugging!

Seeking SFW Volunteers!

Last year, more than 150,000 people attended more than 1,000 Screen-Free Week events around the world – and we want to help even more people get in on the fun! If you want to help us make Screen-Free Week 2020 the biggest and best yet, we’d love to hear from you. We’re looking for volunteers to help us update our event list, coordinate with event organizers, and help promote SFW online and to other organizations. Sound like you? Send us a note at with a little bit about you, your experience, and why and how you’d like to help.

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