Kidpreneurs coin it in online toy reviews
UNLIKE most 25-year-olds, Sashalee Findlay loves playing with toys — from the latest Disney princesses to Tsum Tsums and the Power Rangers.
But, apart from the fun of it, Findlay is paid to play with toys.
It’s part of a burgeoning craze among millions of kids who are hooked on the phenomenon of “toy unboxing” — where children and some adults are ruling the YouTube scene with their reviews of the latest playthings.
According to reports, a fifth of the site’s top 100 channels are focused on toys — online kid celebrities are becoming a dime a dozen.
Take six-year-old American sensation Ryan.
This young entrepreneur is the star of Ryan’s Toys Review, which, within a year of launching in 2015, became the secondlargest channel on YouTube — behind Justin Bieber — with 645 million views.
Then there’s Evan, the eightyear-old from the UK who has made more than £800 000 (R13.2-billion) out of the EvanTubeHD channel.
Although children are enamoured by their peers talking about toys, critics have dubbed toy unboxing “toddler crack” and are concerned that the younger set are being exploited by big toy brands.
There’s also the fear that children have easy access to YouTube because of the unboxing videos and could stumble on adult content.
Researchers from the University of Southern California found recently PRO FUN: ’The Very Serious Toy Show’ features on YouTube that “the rapid growth and popularity of toy unboxing . . . across social media platforms is definitely generating some moral panic, but new technologies for children’s media tend to do that”.
They said: “Some people call it ‘toddler crack’ and regulation is obviously needed; but there is also empowerment for children involved and business opportunities that bring families together in a common enterprise.” Findlay, also a Prima Toys creative designer and presenter of The Very Serious Toy Show on YouTube, said she loved the concept — despite her age — and so did her 4 000 followers. “The show is shot at my home. We find that kids can’t really relate to a studio setting, so we made the show quite homely, so that they can see that the toys are something they can play with in their homes,” said Findlay.
South African toy and parenting expert Nikki Bush said children keen to find out their peers’ recommendations formed part of toy unboxing’s appeal.
“Peer recommendation is incredibly powerful; that’s how social media works.
“What we have to bear in mind is that some kids are earning a lot of money. There is a commercial spin to it. There comes a point where it’s not unbiased opinion. Children become internet activists; because you have a following, toy brands will give you toys to review.
“Kids generally hook onto the hype around the toy, versus what’s behind the product in terms of educational benefit. They will talk about the fun aspect of it; they won’t necessarily talk about what’s good for the body and mind.
“There is one other downside to HEY, DOLL: Sashalee Findlay, 25, Prima Toys creative designer and presenter of 'The Very Serious Toy Show' consider — champion unboxers lose their right to privacy very early on in their lives.”
Sankavi Naidoo, 12, is also hooked on unboxing videos, particularly those about the latest worldwide craze: fidget spinners. “It allows me to keep up with all the latest toys out there,” she said.
Veruska De Vita, a Johannesburg mother of two, said toy unboxing clips were her children’s favourite YouTube genre: “These unboxing kids are like celebrities. The format of unboxing videos is quite long and, to be honest with you, boring, but kids love them . . . I think taking that wrapping off and finding surprises inside is half of the fun for them.”
But De Vita conceded the unboxing videos came with a price: pressure to buy the toys the children see. “My girls were talking about Hatchimals and fidget spinners before they had even landed here.
“There are so many concerns among parents about kids watching YouTube because of the risk of them stumbling on something adult. I supervise very closely.”