by Harold Chizick, CEO, ChizComm and Beacon Media 

As we enter the fourth quarter and the most critical time of year, there is a heightened awareness and concern in the industry regarding how brands reach consumers in an ethical way that protects the privacy of children. In the wake of YouTube having to pay a record-setting $170 million to settle allegations by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the New York Attorney General for Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) violations, many in the toy industry are left asking, “But what does this mean for my business?”

Shifting regulations and crackdowns aren’t new to the toy and entertainment industry, especially during the key holiday buying period. Although YouTube isn’t going away, it’s not invulnerable, and the scrutiny will continue into the paid influencer space as we’ve anticipated and have already started to see happen. 

We are hopeful that the changes being promised by Google, YouTube’s parent company, will deliver on the stricter standards necessary, and at the same time believe that it’s important to start looking beyond the YouTube ecosystem for alternative ways to engage our audiences that are safe and effective.   

It may seem like a time of uncertainty … but things change. Technology, players, and rules change, and our understanding of how people use digital media continues to evolve. 

This is a watershed moment in the shifting digital media landscape and its implementation of stricter COPPA compliance rules and regulations. Consumer activism will become more demanding, Mom and parent groups will begin to advocate for more transparency around products and the purchases they make. Further, where and how often information is being presented to their children will become a larger part of the conversation. This demand will put even more pressure on the FTC to implement harsher consequences that enforce greater safeguards protecting children from data collection at every level across digital networks. 

How you navigate this change is the secret to success.

Is turning away from digital media or dropping YouTube the answer? No, certainly not. YouTube will remain a powerhouse and will continue to be where kids consume content. As industry leaders, it’s on us to use the platform, and all other digital platforms, carefully and responsibly to protect the children our products and services are designed for. It’s also on us to hold our partners and media platforms to the highest of standards.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a crystal ball — all we can do is look at history and use it as an indicator to best predict what changes are coming. Google is too smart to turn away from the power of kids, and they are not going to turn a blind eye to public criticism. Competitors will also see the opportunity to step up their game and try to win back a bit of market share from the behemoth. And in the end, we may be left with a healthier competitive market with more options than we’ve ever had before.