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Foreign Policy Analysis
The secret life of kids on YouTube

The secret life of kids on YouTube

Kids don’t watch TV like they used to. Now, they’re watching this. These YouTube videos are some of the
most popular videos in the entire world. – Can you name any kids’ TV shows? – Hmmmmmm. Uh? Kids YouTube is huge. Videos for kids make up some of the most
watched channels on the entire platform. Kids’ YouTube is colorful. It’s wacky. It’s fun. But it’s also kind of weird. Full of hour-long loops of nonsensical songs, repetitive animations straight out of the Uncanny Valley, and giant plastic eggs. Lots and lots of eggs. It’s also a huge business, with
a ton of money to be made. – There’s a whole new world of characters, stars, IP. A whole new era of children’s entertainment is here. Welcome to the wild, weird, and
massive world of kids on YouTube. I’m Molly Rubin. This is Quartz. This is Ryan. He’s eight, and he has the third-most
popular channel on all of YouTube. – Ryan’s channel does between 500 million
and a billion views on a monthly basis. – Wow. And this is Chris, the CEO of, which manages Ryan’s brand. Chris is a former Disney executive who is hoping to build the next generation children’s media empire. And it’s working. — Hey it’s me, Ryan. produces Ryan’s new, hugely successful TV show, “Ryan’s Mystery Playdate”, which premiered on Nickelodeon in April. Chris founded when he noticed the way kids watch stuff was starting to change. — I would come home to my beautiful large screen television and I would witness my kids sitting on the floor, firing up their iPhones to watch YouTube videos. And he says the numbers bear that out – In 2011, 2% of kids aged 0 to 8 possessed
their own mobile device. By 2017, it was closer to 50%. Ryan has over 19 million subscribers
and over 29 billion views. And last year, he reportedly made
$22 million from his channel. And he got there by opening toys. – Ryan is an unboxer. He opens up plastic eggs, called surprise
eggs, to see what’s inside. And usually it’s a pretty cheap toy. Ryan is the most successful kids unboxer, but there are millions of videos,
just like his, all over YouTube. There are eggs. Dozens of eggs. – Hundreds of eggs. Another hallmark of kids’ YouTube is hour-long
compilations of nursery rhymes and other songs repeated over and over and over. Mother Goose, these are not. Johny Johny Yes Papa, about a lying little boy
who constantly spoons sugar into his mouth? 1.6 billion views. The smash hit, Baby Shark, has 2.7 billion views. Doo doo doo doo doo doo. These videos are remixed and put
together in a million different ways to create an endless stream of content. There are tons of versions of the same thing, so there gets to be a sort of uncanny, automated
feel to kids’ videos on YouTube. But why is it like this? One reason is that it reflects what kids love: Opening toys, singing songs. – It’s just a reflection of what kids
love to do, and they love to play. They love to watch other kids play. But more than that, this is what content
looks like when algorithms control it. YouTube serves videos to people through
recommendation algorithms. Get your video recommended alongside
a hit video, and your video could be a hit. And that influences the kinds of
videos people want to make. Creators make videos for the algorithm,
hoping to find a wide audience. But kids, in particular, like watching
the same thing over and over again. So when that recommendation system
gets applied to what kids like… That’s why there are over 5 million results
for “Finger Family” on YouTube. That’s also why titles on popular
videos are giant word salads. It’s search engine optimization for preschoolers. – YouTube really represents that control that kids
have over this new entertainment universe. It definitely is a new universe, and part of what that means is that the business of making kids’
entertainment is no longer exclusively. in the hands of media companies. It’s something that almost anyone can do. — For a while, it was majority was surprise eggs. But a lot of the majority is still toys,
toys that the boys like, toys that my niece likes. Right now, L.O.L.’s are huge, so
you’ll see that on our channel. Melissa’s family just makes videos together as a hobby. Her kids were slow to talk, and the videos
helped with their development. But for some independent creators,
it’s become a full-time job. – Hi I’m Grace from the channel Grace’s World and Grace’s Room. And I currently have 1.6 million subscribers. Grace writes skits using Barbie dolls and
films them against a green screen. – I started making YouTube videos
when I was six years-old. Grace’s very first video was a hit. Now she’s 12, and her videos average
around 4 million views each. And those views translate into real money. – I quit my job. I was a computer programmer. And I made a decision in last January 2017 to quit the job. Grace’s parents both quit their jobs
to help her run her channel full time. Brands like Hasbro and Universal Studios have
approached Grace to promote products. – So the company Moose Toys, we actually work with them a lot. They’re really good to us. Increasingly, channels like the ones Grace runs are
the establishment of children’s entertainment. It’s a unique environment where
kids aren’t just watching content, they’re also creating it. – Oh wow! I always wanted one of these. But it also poses some problems. – The balance of commercialism versus content
is just completely out of whack. Josh Golin is the director of a children’s
media advocacy group. He’s led an effort that’s filed multiple complaints
with the FTC against YouTube about how kids interact on the platform. There are lots of laws regulating children’s
broadcast television and advertising. – Well, you’re not allowed to have any product placement. That means kids shows can’t feature products
they’ve been paid by brands to show. Broadcast laws also banned host selling. – For instance, if you’re watching Paw Patrol, you can’t have a commercial with the Paw Patrol
characters during a commercial break. Broadcast TV prohibits these types of
ads because they manipulate children. – Their judgment isn’t fully formed. They don’t understand that an advertisement is designed to persuade them to do something or want something. There are no laws like this for YouTube, – On the internet, none of these laws apply. In fact, today there’s really only one law
regulating kid’s content online in the US: COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act. And Josh says that YouTube is breaking that law. – What the law says is that if you are going
to collect personal information from a child,. you need to get parental permission. Data collection is extremely important to YouTube
and all free social media platforms. And Josh says what that means is that YouTube
collects data, lots of data, from kids. And he also says that isn’t an accident. It’s part of their strategy. – On YouTube is this idea of a volume, of getting
kids to watch as many videos as possible, so you can collect as much data from them as possible, so you can deliver as many ads for them as possible. But YouTube and its parent, Google, say they
don’t deliberately collect any data from kids. We reached out to YouTube, and in a statement,
they point to their terms of service, which says YouTube isn’t intended for kids under 13. Instead, they say they’ve invested heavily in a
separate kid’s app that is meant for children. The YouTube Kids app doesn’t collect user data. There are ads, but they aren’t targeted. Parents can control what their kids
watch and where they watch it, but many just aren’t. – Do Logan and Quentin watch YouTube through the YouTube Kids app? – They are watching the regular YouTube app. Popular kids videos get literally billions of views. But according to the most recent data, the kids’
app has just 11 million weekly active users. That’s compared to 1.9 billion monthly on YouTube. – It’s not just that “Oh, coincidentally
children are on YouTube.” I think they’re very, very aware that
they have children on YouTube, and they don’t want to comply with COPPA because
it goes against their business model. – If the FTC finds Google is violating COPPA, it could seek a civil penalty per violation, meaning a fine for every single video on YouTube aimed at kids under 13. – We did the math, and it’s probably like $20 billion
or $30 billion that the FTC could fine Google. If Josh and his allies can succeed in getting
YouTube to regulate children’s videos, the world of kids’ YouTube will
probably look a lot different. And Josh doesn’t think that’s so far fetched. – We’re starting to see policymakers say,
“Wow maybe letting Silicon Valley run wild because it was good for the stock
market wasn’t so good for children. – I think we have a chance, we have a moment
here to make some real changes. YouTube isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And for a lot of kids, and parents,
YouTube is a really good thing. – I just see Logan and Quentin blossoming in a way
that they don’t when they play with other kids. And it just makes them shine a little brighter. – I love writing English and writing
narratives and stuff, so, writing the stories is just really fun. But the explosion of kids content on
YouTube raises a ton of questions. – The balance of power and
information is just so lopsided. Google’s algorithm versus an eight year-old, not a fair fight. Kids love YouTube. But YouTube wasn’t built for them. Maybe that’s OK. – But have we really thought it through? I have something in my eye. It was an eyeball. It was an eyeball?

100 comments on “The secret life of kids on YouTube

  1. It's sad that kids don't watch quality shows anymore most kids shows and kids channels aren't good my generation grew up watching dora the explorer and the backyardigans while kids nowadays watch Peppa pig and paw patrol


  3. When I was a kid, I would watch these kind of videos and LOVED THEM. Now I sometimes watch them again (because I’m bored) I just think ‘what?’

  4. All these comments are "my childhood is superior" as if they didn't grow up with the rAnDOm that was 2000s YouTube

  5. A high percentage of TV shows are obviously made for kids' development, especially their social skills and understanding of morals and emotions. None of these videos show any of that kind of content. Nobody can learn those important skills like responsibility, emotional regulation, and the difference between right and wrong from watching dozens of videos about toy opening and nursery rhymes. I'm not saying pure entertainment is harmful for children. I'm just saying that the absence of meaningful content made for them to learn from, definitely is, especially when we live in a world where most of them spend more time on that content than the situations where they have the opportunity to learn it in real life.

  6. Go to memeulous… And that with eggsplain itself…
    Edit:I'm under 13 but mainly yt kids is for toddlers or under…

  7. I admit that my fixation with Pikmin made 6:19 my favorite few seconds of this whole video. Made even more my favorite because Pikmin is so underrated.

    Just had to say that.

  8. I’m just thankful that I grew up watching disney, barney, pink panther etc.
    Kids should watch amazing class cartoons, these videos are just weird

  9. yeah but what about elsagate – bootleg cartoons with mature sexual and violent themes that are recomended to kids

  10. Whew, glad I discovered youtube after I was a few years old. Woulda probably been a completely different person if I had started watching youtube off the bat.

  11. Did anyone watch Pop on tv??like I literally don’t know anyone who used to watch Pop as a kid and I feel very sad that nobody knows my childhood shows because all I used to watch was Pop

  12. What happens when grace grows up and and then realizes that she doesn't want to play with dolls anymore? 😂

  13. They didn't touch on the creepy videos aimed at kids that are based around very crude subjects that kids should not be subjected to (violence, characters filling diapers with pee, partialk nudity, etc.)

  14. Stop giving your children tablets, phones, smart tvs, laptops. Its not right. Its sick.
    And stop giving children youtube channels! Child stars never end up in a good place. This is just clear exploitation of children.
    Just look at daddyofive. Look at Ryan. Oversaturated content. Advertising and product placement are forced into these kids minds.

  15. Learn Colors Foam Surprise Eggs Disney Princess Superhero Daddy Finger Family Song Nursery Ryhmes

    I’m glad I wasn’t allowed on YouTube

  16. What happened to spongebob and mr Rogers and Sesame Street? What world is this new generation living in? 🙁

  17. Even though its modern day as a 12 year old I think I rather would prefer Gumball,Adventure time,Kim possible,Gravity Falls and Spongebob yet we are stuck with this trash. Sometimes I find my cousin watching pregnant Elsa and Spider man like bruh.

    Where did all the actually good shows go?

  18. you NEED to talk about the REALLY weird stuff, the ones about adults dressed up in weird costumes running around doing weird things as well as the weird mickey mouse cartoons about divorcing, pregnancy, death and suicide

  19. these kids:watch weird videos
    us:think thats bad
    us:watched transformers,ninja turtles or something
    our great great ancestors:dont have a single clue what a tv is, kills boars with his bare hands

  20. I wonder why kids are on regular youtube instead of youtube kids.. I mean, you have great videos such as…. Peppa pig suprise egg………… And that's about all I can list.

  21. When I was younger and watched YouTube I didn't like repetitive annoying cringey songs, I actually watched normal YouTube videos, what the platform was meant for.
    I watched gaming videos, funny videos, fact videos and watched videos with my older brother.
    I can name a few channels I watched when I was 7-9 and even watch now sometimes
    SMG4, ExplodingTNT, FBE, cobanermani456, WatchMojo com, DanTDM, Stampy and probably some more I forgot about.
    I also watched some shows on TV, more specifically the Pop and CITV channel. I watched mostly
    Oggy and the Cockroaches, Almost Naked Animals, Totally Spies, Clay Kids, Robin Hood and even Littlest Pet Shop sometimes…

  22. Two kids I used to babysit used to addicted to these kinds of videos.
    I’ve watched a few out of curiosity, since the kids were absolutely engrossed by them.
    I’ve had fever dreams less disturbing and creepy than some of those YouTube Kids videos.

  23. Good job manipulating your users: "11 million weekly users" compared to "1.9 billion monthly YouTube users".

  24. I am so glad I grew up with Lazytown and Octonauts instead of this rubbish that kids are watching on youtube

  25. My son gets 45 minutes of YouTube Kids a day and is now speaking full sentences.

    Also, we sing the songs together without YouTube and he gets so happy and now he sings the songs on his own. Hes learned words, colors, concepts, numbers, alphabets, and animals and it's all from YouTube. The stuff on Disney is not as stimulating as these Youtube videos and not as age appropriate just yet.

  26. You Dumb Ass Kids Back then i watched mickey mouse barney peppa pig and crash and berstein

  27. Pretty shitty and irresponsible of grace’s parents to BOTH quit their jobs. They’re basically relying on her to be the soul breadwinner and she’s just a child. Plus there’s no guarantee that her channel will stay as successful as it currently is. I hate parents who do that shit. Robbing kids of their childhood to leach off of them. Sick. They shouldn’t be parents. They don’t deserve it.

  28. If I’m a parent I would let them watch t.v because that’s what I grew up with and seeing the crappy quality kid videos there are on YouTube it makes me sad that people are not growing up with Nickelodeon shows and Cartoon Network

  29. No one:

    Kids Channels: Elsa Cars 3 Surprise Eggs Unboxing 비디오 플레이 Trolls2 Finger Family Disney Princess Paw Patrol Compilation Nursery Rhymes ChuchuTv

  30. Also the fact that there is stuff like: -“robin and starfire naked hot tub”
    – “Mickey mouse hits Minnie-Minnie mouse cheats”
    And others like that!
    It’s crazy!!

  31. I smell childish adults.
    And I hate it.
    ban children content and force them to watch good videos and not childish videos.

  32. I mean,my sister learned her colors from these videos and her ABC's.

    But like, you can't even name TV show..?

  33. I tried to show my baby cousin an old Mickey Mouse cartoon I liked when I was young, and he only wanted to watch a Mickey Mouse toy review that was recommended in the sidebar.

  34. it’s awful that parents are exploiting their kids for profit by having them make youtube videos. also, parents need to be mindful of what their children are watching. some of these “kids” channels look innocent, but have violent and perverted content that can traumatize young viewers

  35. Started to regret ever going online, just a bunch if assholes looking to take money from whoever. Even getting kids hypnotically addicted to the screen and materialism like every other person to where they cant be without it and free of mind to get views and ad rev.

  36. I don't really see why this is so bad. They are collecting data about what they click on or don't click on. It's not like Facebook where they literally sold private information. Kid's content is weird because it's unregulated and regular people make terrible content.

  37. When I watch YouTube with my cousins, I don't let them watch these. I let them watch episodes of some 90s Disney and Nickelodeon cartoons. Thanks to me, they were hooked on Rugrats when they were little.

  38. im one of the 2% of kids who owns a ipod (a small phone its not the music ipod)and a bunch of other gadgets but i have one thing that couldnt be replaced me and my dad's old tv where i use to watch barney :))

  39. or maybe parents could do their job and supervise what their kids watch, without ruining the internet for everyone else. >.>

  40. I really liked the commentary from what you covered, but I also felt that it at best skimmed the hijacking of the "word salad" search engine optimized stuff, really only mentioning it as a thing done, without giving solid examples of how much that has been abused. Obviously there have been big moves to mediate this in the past year by Youtube, but its still a thing and definitely should've been covered here. Don't contribute to the cover up/ignoring of how severely children on the internet are being abused by people without those children's best interests in mind.

  41. I have a 9 year old who use to watch unboxing videos but it got out of hand and it was all garbage. We deleted YouTube and only allow her to watch YouTube kids. We went through the app and liked and subscribed to things we wanted her to watch and disliked things we didn't to help shape the algorithm (we also did this to Netflix). Parents can at least do this before they hand the iPad over for the first time!

    I also sit and watch shows with her occasionally and ask her why she likes something. I tell her I used to like this or that show when I was a kid and ask her to watch it with me because you can use YouTube for good in this case (kids want to like the things that their parents liked even if at first for curiousity sake). We watch gamers and actually play the games together, too (Minecraft, Fortnight, and I showed her some cheats in Sims 4).

    I get that parents are busy (I myself worked 72+ hours and 2-3 jobs when she was younger) but taking the 10 minutes to at least get YouTube kids and sort the algorithm by subscribing and looking things yourself, it can really be a BIG deal while the legal stuff gets figured out!

  42. Kids creating content with supervision, and kids watching that content with supervision, is totally okay and can certainly be a good thing. But those videos need to be free from commercial content, they need to be free from clickbait, and the kids in them need to be protected from exploitation. And none of this is really happening. As for the creepy, gory, sexual animated ones made by God knows who, and the ones with the adult actors doing very questionable things dressed as Elsa and Spiderman…those need to go.

  43. The animated kids content reminds me of what you see broadcasted in movies set in dystopian sci-fi mega cities. Mind controlling nonsensical content to push products.

  44. ZFG. The kids are screwed anyway. We're handing them a poisoned chalice. Sad I know, true nevertheless. Interesting vid though, thanks.

  45. Glad im watching more tv than youtube. I wouldnt been me if i didnt watch TAWOG (the amazing world of gumball)

  46. To any 5 year olds seeing this:

    GET SOMETHING ELSE TO WATCH! I didn't resort to watching Donald trump pink Johnny Johnny Yes Papa, I watched Dora and other great shows. Now, Nick Jr. Is DEAD just because of these YouTube vids. So Please, Watch some thing on TV That's actually great and educational.

    P.S If you watch Ryan's Mystery Play date, your basically dead to me.

  47. I grew up watching amazing educational TV shows on Discovery Kids, Discovery Channel and yes, also lots of cartoons. I sound like a grandpa, but in my days, kids cartoons had plots and useful teachings for the kids. Plus, shows like documentaries and art shows aimed at kids really complemented my education. I worry what's the future is going to be like if the little kids are being fed only algorithm-generated videos.

  48. I've been watching my little brother because my parents are busy with house work so I am taking the role of watching him he watches that spider man crap I try to change it he gets mad at me and then my older brother comes in the room and he says not to change it but the crap he watches is awful I would change it to sponge bob or paw portal even some times other things

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