Do your homework on children’s media

Posted 4/19/2009
by Ericka Wood, Marketing Director

Any legal information in this blog post is not to be considered legal advice and is for informational purposes only. In your quest to comply with applicable laws and regulations, please consult with your legal counsel.

You’d think that targeting a very specific demographic would make managing and publishing online video easier. You know who the audience is, so selecting content, advertising, and designing the experience should be simplified, right?

Not when it comes to kids’ online video. When customers with children’s content talk to us about using our system, they have specific issues that needed to be addressed. Some issues are UI-related: can our players be adapted for young hands and minds that needed easy-to-find-and-use controls? Other requirements are absolutes: our system has to allow the publishers to comply with their legal counsel’s recommendations for entertaining children online.

The issues

There’s a lot to be aware of when you’re showing children’s programming, so stay up to date on the rules, as legislation can change at any time.

  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations prohibit deceptive advertising practices, and the FTC recognizes that children may have limited ability to analyze media. For example, a child may not be able to tell the difference between an ad and an online game.
  • The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) applies to web sites that knowingly collect personal information from children under thirteen. The act governs several activities including but not limited to the posting of privacy policy statements, notices about the site’s information collection practices, and parental access to their child’s personal information.

You’ll find that COPPA doesn’t just apply to children’s sites—it applies to any publisher who finds they also have children in their audience. If you collect information that reveals a user’s age to be under 13, then there are additional requirements, including the need to obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting personal information from that child. In addition, review and be aware that COPPA applies to sites in other countries that collect data from U.S. citizens under age 13.

  • The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) is the children’s arm of the advertising industry’s self-regulation program, evaluates child-directed advertising and promotional material for truthfulness, accuracy, and adherence to laws. Check out their resources for guidelines on advertising and child-oriented online programming.

Designing for kids

In addition to adhering to the applicable laws, creating web video interfaces for kids adds another layer of challenges. Younger kids have less patience, aren’t as likely to scroll pages, and can be easily distracted by other page elements outside the player. Okay; you could say that quite a few adults have these issues as well. But they happen to a greater degree with children.

Some things to consider when designing a kids’ broadband player:

  • Watch that metaphor. It may be obvious to an adult that the transparent arrowhead superimposed on the still player image is where you should click to play. But for young kids, you may have to animate the arrow, or label it “play now!”
  • Guide them. If you provide video search, you need to present the search methods and results based on kids’ behaviors. Give them instructions and examples on how to search and provide search term spell checking. And make sure the search results include labeled thumbnails that clearly represent the found videos.
  • Keep it simple. Fonts should be basic, and graphics and navigation elements functional and not too abstract.
  • Remember Piaget. The presentation and content should be appropriate for the targeted age group’s developmental level. This is a tough one, as a site may be trying to target several age ranges. In this case, consider creating different portals and players based on age and topic focus.

There are a lot more issues around designing players for children. Check out the current research and review other sites’ UI and players for ideas.

thePlatform covers the bases

So how do you solve these challenges? Customers showing kids’ content have found that our media publishing system (mps) and Player Development Kit (PDK) gives them the best tools for creating kid-friendly players.

  • For advertising, one option you may choose is to place storefront buttons and banner ads outside the player. The media publishing system helps you control how and when ads appear.
  • Design big, bright custom player buttons that make it easy for younger children to interact with your players. You can keep tweens engaged by offering games while the content is rolling.
  • If you plan to localize players, use the PDK to build one player with the look and branding you want. Then you can easily build off the same design for other global players.
  • Use geographic restrictions to block foreign users in order to avoid triggering other countries’ laws.

Finally, keep your young audience engaged with compelling material and great presentation. The PDK is made for this. Check out the impressive players our customers developed, and you’ll get the idea. Makes you want to be a kid again, doesn’t it?

HIT Entertainment’s Fireman Sam

HIT Entertainment’s Bob the Builder

PBS Sprout’s The Sprout Sharing Show

4Kids’ Viva PiƱata


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