Child advocates and consumer groups say Google is breaking children’s online privacy laws by and allowing ads to target them while they use YouTube. The video-playing website has rules that say it is for age 13 and older, but millions of kids either don’t know about those rules or ignore them. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Young YouTube watchers might be surprised to learn they aren’t old enough to use the video-playing website.

“If you are under 13 years of age, then please do not use the Service,” the site’s terms of use say. “There are lots of other great web sites for you.”

Millions of kids around the world who visit YouTube to watch cartoons, music videos or toy unboxings either don’t know about the rule or ignore it.

In a complaint filed Monday, child advocates and consumer groups asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate and fine the site’s owner, Google, for allegedly violating children’s online privacy and letting ads target them.

“Google profits handsomely from selling advertising to kid-directed programs that it packages,” said Jeff Chester, director of the Center for Digital Democracy, one of the groups that drafted the complaint.

YouTube tracks search history and other data about users so it can tailor ads to them. But the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) bans Internet companies from collecting personal data from kids younger than 13 without their parents’ consent.

The coalition accuses YouTube of violating COPPA and deliberately profiting off luring children into what Chester calls an “ad-filled digital playground” where commercials for toys, theme parks and sneakers can surface alongside kid-oriented videos.

YouTube said in an emailed statement that it “will read the complaint thoroughly and evaluate if there are things we can do to improve.”

— Associated Press