The title of “Most Popular Babysitter in the World” once belonged to television. Now YouTube is Kid-Watching King. But today’s kids aren’t just viewing. They’re creating content and a few are attracting millions of followers—on a site not meant for kids at all.
Researchers at the Pew Institute are studying the kids-and-YouTube phenomenon. Their research shows that most parents (81%) allow children 11 or younger to watch YouTube. YouTube’s own rules state: “If you are under 13 years of age, then please do not use the service.” Yet millions of youngsters watch YouTube cartoons, science experiments, and other videos anyway.
Of the top three YouTubers in the world, two are kids. Five-year-old Anastasia Radzinskaya has the number three spot. “Nastya” was born in Russia with cerebral palsy. Her parents started her YouTube journey by posting videos of her progress with the disease.
Soon, what started as videos of playing with toys and pets became a global sensation. In just one year, the Like Nastya YouTube channel raked in $18 million. Nastya’s visit to a petting zoo with her dad got 767 million views. All those viewers have earned Nastya advertising contracts, merchandise deals, and other perks.
Eight-year-old Ryan Kaji is 2019’s biggest YouTube sensation. His Ryan’s World channel has 23 million subscribers. Target and Walmart carry clothing and toys branded for Ryan’s World. He has a TV show, a cereal, and more.
Ryan’s channel began when his parents took video of him, at age three, “unboxing” presents for the camera. Squeals, giggles, and comments like, “Oh, look! There’s more!” delighted viewers. Today, Ryan reviews toys. He is the world’s most-watched toy reviewer. Ryan’s stamp of approval can mean increased sales for a company.
Think you could be the next Ryan or Nastya? You might want to re-think that. Kids’ YouTube success may be short-lived. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is investigating violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
Google is YouTube’s parent company. Every time someone views an ad on YouTube, Google collects data, including location and search history—without consent. That’s against the law when the viewer is under 13. All those ads aimed at kids on Nastya’s and Ryan’s channels may be illegal.
So Google is making changes. It’s banning ads that target kids. Search engines could stop placing kid channels in the top results. Google also plans to limit income from children’s channels.
U.S. Senator Edward Markey pushed the FTC to examine YouTube’s privacy policies for children. Of YouTube, he says, “I think the day of reckoning has arrived.”
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out. — Proverbs 10:9