Ryan of Ryan ToysReview is a five year old YouTube star, playing with toys for an audience of millions. But, as reported in the Verge, his popularity and financial success raises new questions about the ethics of child stardom.
To be fair, it seems like Ryan’s parents have a good head on their shoulders. As they tell it, it was Ryan who wanted to start reviewing toys on camera after watching similar child YouTubers. They try to limit his schedule so that he can live a somewhat normal life:
His mother told TubeFilter, “We post a new video every day, and we typically film two to three videos at a time two to three times per week. We try not to interfere with Ryan’s pre-pre-school schedule, so a majority of the filming takes place during the weekend, and then we’ll edit while he’s in school.”
But it’s not hard to look at this with a cynical eye. As Brian Popper writes for The Verge, “In traditional film and television productions, rules govern how many hours a day a child as young as Ryan can work. No such rules exist for Ryan’s job on YouTube.” And while you can’t blame a parent for wanting to put away a nest egg for their kid, it’s not just they who benefit monetarily from Ryan’s exuberance for car toys. When Popper spoke to Josh Cohen, an industry analyst and founder of TubeFilter, about Ryan’s channel, Cohen said this:
“YouTube changed their algorithm to value longer watch time. The kids that watch these videos are watching for a longer period of time than a typical viewer watches YouTube. A three or four year old who gives them the iPad, my guess is they are watching the whole video, and YouTube really likes it when they are watching the whole video.” Ryan’s success, in other words, translates into more money for a number of larger corporations.
When you watch Ryan, however, he really is still a kid and his parents playing with toys, YouTube star or not. As Popper writes, “For many parents, life is a constant struggle to balance work with family. If you could secure your children’s financial future simply by playing with them on camera, wouldn’t you?” Check out the rest of his article on The Verge.