November 27, 2019
Hi, everyone, I’ve got two big updates for you today, with an action guide for YOU at the end. This is Anne Elliott from Homeschooling Torah, and I woke up Sunday morning to an email from YouTube, telling us about an important change coming to YouTube, beginning January 1, 2020. It all has to do with several laws about children’s privacy that exist in the United States, in California, in the United Kingdom and the European Union, and even in China. Because the Internet has global reach – meaning anyone anywhere can visit websites, these laws are enforced world wide. The general idea is that people shouldn’t make a website that collects personally identifiable information about kids younger than 13, and in much of the world age 16, because the reasoning is that websites can trick children into clicking things they shouldn’t. Things that could be dangerous, or websites that could trick them into giving away personal information to strangers, or in the case of YouTube, simply targeting them for advertising – all without the parents’ knowing what is happening. In fact, in September 2019, YouTube was accused of doing just this… of installing algorithms that tracked what kids did on YouTube, and then sending them targeted advertising, all without their parents’ knowledge or permission. YouTube settled out of court, to the tune of $170 million in fines! Here’s the thing. One offense is supposed to have a fine of around $42,000. I did the math. That means they only penalized them for an algorithm installed on the browsers of a little more than 4,000 kids. Hmmm. I’m skeptical.
So here’s what the settlement included, and here is why YouTube got off with such a “small” fine: Beginning January 1, 2020, YouTube video creators – like us – will be personally responsible to the Federal Trade Commission, the FTC – and YouTube won’t be. We are all having to go onto our channels and mark videos as “for children” or “not for children.” I just finished marking mine today.
But here’s the problem: If a video is marked “for kids,” then there are 5 things that will happen to that video:
(1) no comments on videos
(2) no info cards, no end screens
(3) no community
(4) viewers will receive no notifications
(5) not able to save to watch later or a playlist
(6) no monetization
Homeschooling Torah doesn’t monetize our channel, although not being able to notify viewers when we make a new video, not being able to have comments, and — the worst in my opinion — not being allowed to put our videos on a watch later playlist or any other playlist – those are tough! Thankfully, only a few of our videos needed to be marked as “for kids,” and most of those were teaching videos for grammar and arithmetic, so only our current customers were viewing those anyway. Our famous Prepositions Song video has had 1600 views – and that’s pretty good, but I think most of those were just our own customers. It won’t show up in playlists any more, so that stinks, but that’s not the REAL reason I’m making this video today.
The biggest problem we are going to face is that a lot of content creators DID monetize their channels. Some of them – an estimated 400,000 of them – are going to lose all ad revenue, which means effectively, many of those people will be out of a job on January 1, with no way to earn any income on YouTube, even though they have invested serious money and tens of thousands of hours into creating videos for kids. Many of them are responding by simply closing down their YouTube channels, or removing any videos that are for kids so that their channels aren’t flagged – and demonetized. And they are hurrying to do this by January 1, which is just a little over 30 days away.
Here’s the problem. We make video playlists for our customers and embed YouTube videos in our curriculum! For instance, our 36-week music curriculum has 44 music videos. In fact, without those videos – and the vast majority of them are clearly made for kids, we simply won’t have a music curriculum. Our American History curriculum has several hundred videos, and a lot of those were clearly made for kids… same thing. What about Geography? World History, 3 years of it? Art… Preschool… and I could go on and on.
So this is what we’re doing. We had a staff meeting, and we’ve been contacting friends who are homeschooling parents or teachers themselves, and we have made a plan to go through the over 1,000 videos embedded on our website between now and January 1, to determine which ones are ESSENTIAL to our children’s learning, which ones are simply supplemental and enjoyable, and which ones were likely made for adults so they won’t be a problem – and then we need to contact the video creators and find out what their plans are for these videos… and in a lot of cases, we’re just going to need to substitute with other learning activities.
That is a LOT of work, and we’ve already put in three very long days to get to this point.
Which brings me to my second point. YouTube isn’t the only website that is being looked at by the Federal Trade Commission, or the FTC, to make sure that the personal and private information of children isn’t being compromised. They will be looking at our websites also, so we got legal advice, read scores of pages of law ourselves, and invested several hundreds of dollars into protection for our websites, just to verify to the federal government, the state of California (who has a new law also going into effect on January 1), and even to the European Union that our activity is legal and safe for kids.
Scripture is very clear, in Romans 13 for instance, that every soul is to be subject to the higher powers, for the powers that are over us were put in that place by YHVH Himself. I don’t like it any more than the hundreds of thousands of YouTube creators who are protesting and could lose their income. It is EXPENSIVE to obey the federal government, and I honestly have no idea how many small businesses can survive.
YOU can help by paying attention to regulations and laws that are about to pass in your state and having conversations with your local politicians about these laws. Are they fair? Are they just? And this is a great thing to do WITH your children, so they can be involved in change.
Having said that, because I do own a website and can see the inner workings of computer software that runs websites, I realize how serious it is to be a responsible parent and watch out for the privacy of my own children. Did you know – and I tested this myself – that you can find out your IP address right now… just Google “what is my IP address?” and in about 30 seconds, you can find out your exact longitude and latitude at this second, and then from there, plug that into an app like Google Earth, and zoom in to see exactly where YOU and your children are located right now? Yup, that’s pretty scary.
But that’s my point. You’re a parent. And according to the Torah, it is YOUR responsibility to take care of your children – not the government’s, not YouTube’s, not the maker of the apps on your phone. Yours. I urge you to become familiar with privacy issues our world is facing right now… and simply, don’t leave your children unattended when they are watching videos, playing on a phone, or surfing the Internet.
As for our website, we will do everything in our power to make sure our curriculum is rich and delightful, even if many of the videos we link to disappear. Can I promise we will have all new curriculum by January 1? I seriously don’t think so, and I hope you’ll bear with us.
If you are on a page of curriculum and see a video that looks like it was made for kids and could possibly disappear after January 1, please feel free to help us find alternatives. You can list ideas, websites, books, you name it, either in the comments below a lesson or just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would greatly appreciate it!
Know that we are working hard. And as for other curriculum we’ve been working on, like Word Power books, Copywork, Science, and more… yes, this is slowing us down. It stinks SO much! I’m as disappointed as you are. My husband, my family, and my close friends have seen me shed quite a few tears over the past few days.
And it’s been really expensive. So much so that our prices are going to have to go up. Not for you, those of you who are currently members of Homeschooling Torah. You’re grandfathered in. But we are calculating the costs of what we need to keep our doors open, and we will be raising our prices to reflect those needs on January 1. If you have friends who have been thinking about joining HomeschoolingTorah but have been putting it off, you might shoot them an email or text message and encourage them to join before the end of 2019 while the price is lower.
Here’s what I think. I think Yah is moving in our world. The icky child predators are being exposed and taken out, and our curriculum is ultimately going to be EVEN better after this. And in our house, we are setting aside the lesson plans we were doing in our homeschool, and it’s all-hands-on-deck as our 10 year old up to our 24 year old, and even extended family, dear friends, and reliable educational experts who love Torah and Yeshua are dropping their own commitments to help us out. It’s awesome. I hope you all feel very loved – because you are.
If you want more information about COPPA and the other privacy laws that affect your children, as well as the case against YouTube that started this mess, you can click the links in this post. Please share this video with others, make your voice known to your legislators, pay attention to your kids and oversee what they are doing online, and let us know if you have ideas for replacing any current YouTube videos with alternate learning activities.
Thanks for listening! Shalom, and thanks for all your support!