ANGELES ó The YouTube experience doesnít end for my
kids after I take away their iPads.
follows them everywhere: when theyíre playing with
toys, riding in the back seat of our car or roaming the
because the two have developed a habit of living out
their lives as if thereís an imaginary camera trained
on them, just like their favorite YouTubers.
is making a right turn now," my 5-year-old son Jack
will say as he newscasts the ride to school to a
forget to subscribe," his sister Ella, 6, will
often interject ó again, to no one in particular.
I was their age, Iíd pretend to be a soldier or a
baseball player. Today, kids apparently aspire to be
vloggers, or video bloggers. Itís not enough for them
to watch their favorite shows. They want to broadcast
their lives, banter with commenters and keep their
make-believe view counts high.
a shift from the era of Mickey Mouse or Hannah Montana
ó and one that bodes well for YouTube as it tries to
capture a generation of children who couldnít tell you
what a cable box was for.
year, YouTube launched its first childrenís app,
YouTube Kids. The app, which had more than 10 billion
views the first year alone, comes with stricter
advertising guidelines, parental controls and voice
search that has an uncanny ability to understand kids
(It took me weeks to realize what my kids were saying
when they kept asking to watch a channel with 2.7
million subscribers called CookieSwirlC. I kept calling
it Kooky World Sea).
family and learning space is incredibly important to
YouTube and one that is continuing to grow," said
Malik Ducard, YouTubeís global head of family and
ages 11 and younger are one of the fastest-growing
audiences for digital video, growing nearly four times
as fast as viewers ages 18 to 24, according to EMarketer.
growth has no doubt been perpetuated by the legion of
young YouTube creators who have uploaded playtime
videos, educational tutorials and "unboxing"
clips ó videos showing in painstaking detail how to
remove a new toy or gadget from its packaging.
children are so captivated by unboxing videos that Iím
scolded if I ever attempt to help them open a new toy.
So I surrender the gift, which they put on the dining
table for imaginary display.
boys and girls, welcome to YouTube Toys," my
daughter will say. "Iím Ella and this is my
little brother Jack."
Easter egg hunt time, they do the same with the plastic
eggs, describing to a nonexistent camera the tiny treats
inside each egg they crack open.
watching unboxing videos, my kids stay informed about
the latest toys. I was naive to think cutting our cable
service a year ago ó and all the TV commercials that
came with it ó would insulate them from marketing.
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seems to be no more effective YouTube recruitment tool
or advertising strategy than having kids watch their
used to put on a cape and play Superman around the
house," said Nancy Mramor Kajuth, a psychologist
who specializes in the influence of media. "Now
theyíre pretending to be someone they know from
YouTube. Theyíre learning how to be kids from the kids
occasion, Jack and Ella have asked my wife and me to
help them launch their own not-for-pretend channel ó
perhaps one in which they narrate scenes with their
always decline. We both work and donít have the time
or energy. Weíre also wary of exposing them to some of
the uglier aspects of the Internet, namely trolling.
no Luddite ó I know my kids canít live without
technology. But I still feel more than a twinge of guilt
handing them the devices to keep them occupied when I
have to work, cook or clean up a mess (usually theirs).
have for years recommended no more than two hours of
screen time per day for children older than 2. However,
the proliferation of handheld devices has spurred talk
of revising the recommendation to reflect the reality
that kids use tablets and phones much more.
a delicate subject that requires more research given how
new the technology is. Still, experts say too much
screen time can overstimulate children and make them
disengaged from the real world, not unlike TV.
kids have fun with their screens, thatís great. But
they also need to ride a bike, swim and learn to solve
problems with their Legos," said Mramor Kajuth, the
of young YouTube creators say their children are picking
up a host of skills running a YouTube channel with
millions of viewers.
kids are learning about technology, contracts, how to
deal with deadlines and money management," said
Mike Jones of the Happy Family Show, a channel created
by his children, Christine, 21, Kevin, 16, and Josh, 10.
five years ago, the Happy Family Show largely consists
of the kids holding Barbie dolls and acting out scripted
episodes. A cousin of stop animation, the genre has
mushroomed on YouTube. The Happy Family Show now has
more than 330,000 subscribers and more than 165 million
it wasnít an easy decision for Mike and his wife,
Sarah, to let the children start the channel. They
worried about privacy and trolls. Theyíre careful to
never reveal their address. And they didnít allow the
kids to show their faces in the videos until long after
they started the show.
was hard in the beginning," Kevin said about the
teaches you to develop thick skin," Christine said.
month, the Indianapolis family attended VidCon, a
massive get-together of online video creators held
outside Los Angeles, where they spoke on a panel titled
"So Your Kid Wants to Be on YouTube ó Now
them on stage was Brian Alexander, whose 10-year-old
daughter Presley runs an educational YouTube channel
called Act Out Games.
shield Presley from nasty comments, Brian reviews
everything thatís written under the videos. He
supervises conversations with fans. And heís involved
in the production of all her clips.
been an amazing thing for our relationship," he
said. "Weíre very, very close because of
helpful resource has been a Facebook group for parents
of children on YouTube.
group of about 60 members often trades names of viewers
who are particularly mean so that they can block them.
takes extreme pride in her dedication to the channel.
Sheís created and posted a video every day for the
last three years.
weíre going to miss a day," said Brian, a
Denver-based executive at an education services firm.
"But itís not going to be my fault. Iím doing
everything I can to stay committed."
Brianís 4-year-old son Cooper is starting to appear on
the channel, which has garnered 2.6 million views.
seen us doing this his whole life," Brian said.
naturally, what did Cooper like to play growing up?
Pretending to be a YouTube star.