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Kids on Youtube: Sponsored Content
18/04/2018

Kids on YouTube. There are a million possible routes to explore here, especially since Youtube has faced some pretty tough times more recently.

If you’re a parent it’s more than likely that your kids have at some point watched Youtube videos, and you are more than likely to have been concerned over what kind of videos they have access to in the app - and rightly so. The ongoing issue of kids spiralling into the Youtube rabbit hole and unwittingly finding inappropriate videos targeted at kids is apparently being dealt with by Google (who own Youtube, if you didn’t know), but if you’d like to read some more on the problem take a look at James Bridle’s blog for ‘Medium’, and for a mum-to-mum perspective on how to monitor your kids Youtube viewing, take a look here.

What I really want to explore is the marketing and advertising kids are exposed to on Youtube. As adults watching Youtube, we understand the process of a sponsored video and #Ad. We can see it for what it is and can make an informed decision on a product. Kids, however, don’t understand what a ‘sponsored’ or ‘compensated’ post is, heck young kids can’t even read it never mind understand it, so surely there is something morally wrong with forcing commercial content onto these kids when they don’t know the difference?

Take 6-year-old Youtube sensation ‘Ryan Toys Review’ as an example. Ryan launched his channel when he was only 3 years-old, creating videos with his mum of him opening and playing with new toys. Ryan’s account is one of many that film these unboxing videos, one of the most popular trend is ‘surprise eggs’ opening where people sit and open kinder surprise eggs. Weird, right? 
But Ryan’s content is so popular that he has gathered 13 million subscribers so far, and brought in $11 million last year alone. 

In some cases, Ryan is seen to open hundreds of new toys in the same video. His parents have not disclosed how many, if any, of these toys are sent by sponsors - however often in his video descriptions are links to name-brand products which suggests they are likely you be promotional placements. What could one child possibly do with hundreds of new toys a week, you might ask - but written on the channels about page is a disclaimer stating that the majority of these toys get donated to charity after they’ve been used for filming. Both of these factors, however, are totally irrelevant to Ryan’s 3/4/5 year-old viewers who simply see a little boy who is the same as them, being given hundreds of toys; seeing how ‘great’ they are as Ryan reviews and plays with them; then inevitably ask their parents for said toys.

In a mum's net thread, some parents have complained about these sponsorships saying:

“The Christmas one where they went round a toy shop picking toys to donate was cringe worthy. Especially as it was all sponsored and it wasn't them "doing their bit for charity". I worry that ds thinks all kids get a new toy every sodding week.”

“I keep explaining to my dc that American houses are loads bigger than British ones so we just don't have the space for the toys that Ryan can play with.”

Youtube is filled with sponsored and branded posts, from adult to children content. That is the nature of an advertising funded platform, but when it is content made for children BY children - should this be allowed?

I am sure Ryan (amongst other children making similar content) has been well briefed by his parents about the number of toys he has access to and why they get donated after, but there still has to be a level of jealousy from his young viewers who don’t have that context - and it must be a nightmare for parents! 

Where do you stand on this issue? Should there be further rules enforced on the Youtube Kids platform? Let us know over on our Twitter!

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