US child advocacy groups have requested that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigate Google over complaints its YouTube Kids app intermixes ads with content in a way which “would not be permitted… on broadcast or cable television”.
YouTube Kids, which was launched 23 February, sports a kid-friendly interface and features pre-approved content such as National Geographic Kids, Thomas&Friends and LeVar Burton’s Reading Rainbow.
However, a number of child and consumer protection groups, including the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the Center for Digital Democracy, and the Consumers Union, have issued a joint letter to the FTC requesting it probe YouTube Kids over claims it utilises unfair and deceptive marketing techniques, according to Reuters.
It reads: “The videos provided to children on YouTube Kids intermix commercial and other content in ways that are deceptive and unfair to children and would not be permitted to be shown on broadcast or cable television.”
The app, which is aimed at kids under five years old, also came under fire for implementing branded channels from the likes of McDonalds and Fisher Price, which allegedly served as toy sale platforms.
YouTube told Reuters: “We worked with numerous partners and child advocacy groups when developing YouTube Kids.
“While we are always open to feedback on ways to improve the app, we were not contacted directly by the signers of this letter and strongly disagree with their contentions.”
Another point of contention from the group was that it was unclear whether toy unboxing videos – where kids unwrap new toys for the first time – were legitimate or in actual fact promotional content.
The push back comes as children below five are for the first time provided access to services which open up to them the content they want to see.
On the other side of the coin, running without any ads is Nickelodeon’s app for pre-schoolers, released in March, which includes education-based series such as Blue’s Clues, Little Bear, Ni Hao, and Kai-lan.