Reed Smiths Client Alerts

A bill proposed in California would require platforms subject to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and serving California residents to allow parents to create online platform accounts for children under the age of 13. In addition, the proposed bill requires covered platforms to implement parental controls and restrict the use of certain design features such as auto-play video streaming.

A bipartisan pair of California state lawmakers introduced a bill modeled after the UK’s Age Appropriate Design Code that would impose design and functionality restrictions on online platforms directed towards children. If passed, the Kids Internet Design and Safety Act (KIDS Act) would take effect from January 1, 2024 and would supplement children’s privacy protections in the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) that prohibit the sale of data of children younger than 16.

The KIDS Act requires “platforms” that provide content “directed to children,” and that would already be subject to COPPA (Kids’ Platforms), to implement functionality that allows parents to create an account or profile for their child that identifies the primary user of the account as a child under the age of 13. While the child is logged into this account and using the platform, the child is a “covered user” under the KIDS Act if that child resides in California. A website or online service that prohibits use by California residents under the age of 13, for example through the use of an age gate, is exempt from the requirements of the KIDS Act.

Kids Platforms would include websites, online services, or applications operated for a commercial purpose and directed to children. The term “directed to children” would adopt the same meaning as defined in COPPA, which requires a contextual review of subject matter and content to determine whether the content is aimed at children.

The KIDS Act contains three primary components with respect to covered users. First, Kids Platforms that allow accounts for children under 13 will be required to implement parental controls that allow parents to block and filter content.

Second, the legislation forbids Kids’ Platforms from enabling features that auto-play video without deliberate action from the covered user. This language appears aimed at preventing content from streaming automatically when a website loads or after a user clicks “play” on an initial video. The KIDS Act also prohibits platforms from enabling features that would allow covered users to make purchases, submit content, or communicate with others on the platform without first obtaining parental consent.

Finally, Kids’ Platforms will be required to incorporate visual indicators that identify content as commercial or non-commercial. This is likely intended to help children understand when content is being used to sell a product or service rather than offer mere entertainment.