The Dangers of Toy Unboxing Videos and Influencer Marketing To Kids

Unbox­ing videos are not new to the online con­tent space. This genre of videos start­ed with adults unbox­ing things like new phones, tablets and oth­er tech­nol­o­gy, and has evolved over time. In the begin­ning, these videos fea­tured con­tent geared towards adults and were use­ful because they act­ed as real user reviews of pop­u­lar prod­ucts. Adults could watch these videos and deter­mine whether or not they want­ed to buy some­thing for themselves. 

Today, child influ­encers and their par­ents are using the same strat­e­gy to tar­get kids with toy unbox­ing videos. These child influ­encers gen­er­ate mil­lions of dol­lars in rev­enue for both them­selves and toy com­pa­nies, while teach­ing chil­dren poor habits. The most well-known influ­encer, Ryan Kaji of Ryan Toys Review, gen­er­at­ed $22 mil­lion in 2018, and has grown his YouTube chan­nel into his own line of toys, cloth­ing, and a tv show on Nick­elodeon, all by the age of 9. From the out­side, these videos from such influ­encers seem harm­less and even fun, but they come at a price.

What are Toy Unboxing Videos?

Toy unbox­ing videos typ­i­cal­ly depict chil­dren receiv­ing a new toy and tak­ing it out of the pack­ag­ing on cam­era, often times par­tak­ing in imag­i­nary play after­wards. This type of con­tent appeals to kids for many rea­sons, but fore­most because of the on-cam­era reveal. Chil­dren get excit­ed over the ele­ment of sur­prise they feel as they see the child on-screen take their new toy out of the pack­ag­ing and play with it. This feel­ing of sur­prise and excite­ment has been exploit­ed fur­ther by toy com­pa­nies specif­i­cal­ly design­ing toys and pack­ag­ing meant to be fea­tured in unbox­ing videos. L.O.L. Sur­prise Dolls are a great exam­ple of this, where every pack­age is a sur­prise for the child and includes unknown dolls and acces­sories inside.

With toy unbox­ing videos, kids start to feel like they’re part of the fun, and even though they can’t nec­es­sar­i­ly play with a toy on their own, they’re excit­ed to feel like they’re includ­ed by watch­ing the child influ­encer play with it. These unbox­ing videos gen­er­al­ly fol­low the same for­mat in each upload, so a child knows exact­ly what to expect, and are usu­al­ly less than five min­utes to cater to short atten­tion spans. Last­ly, toy unbox­ing videos often fea­ture char­ac­ters from pop­u­lar brands that fur­ther entice chil­dren to watch.

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Why Toy Unboxing Videos Are Harmful

Unbox­ing videos may seem harm­less to chil­dren on the sur­face, but this type of screen time can be detri­men­tal to your child in under­ly­ing ways.

Pro­mot­ing Com­mer­cial­ism and Materialism

Many par­ents have faced this sit­u­a­tion before. Their chil­dren watch a video on YouTube about a cer­tain toy, and next thing you know, they’re beg­ging for it over and over again. Of course, these effects may seem sim­i­lar to a tra­di­tion­al TV com­mer­cial, but there are some key differences.

Com­mer­cials gen­er­al­ly have about 30 sec­onds or less to con­vey their point and show off their prod­uct to a child, while a toy unbox­ing can in the­o­ry, last as long as a con­tent cre­ator wants. The unbox­ing videos also often asso­ciate get­ting new toys with feel­ings of hap­pi­ness, joy and oth­er pos­i­tive emo­tions. This mar­ket­ing tac­tic is pure manip­u­la­tion and can lead to exces­sive con­cerns over pop­u­lar­i­ty and what’s cool.” When our chil­dren see these videos, they may ask ques­tions like:

  • Why don’t I have any toys like that?”
  • Why won’t my par­ents buy me that?” 

Chil­dren are easy tar­gets and don’t real­ize that what they’re watch­ing is an advertisement. 

Moral Gray Areas

When chil­dren don’t real­ize they’re see­ing an adver­tise­ment, there are some moral gray areas. Many plat­forms require spon­sored con­tent to be iden­ti­fied direct­ly in a video by a host or by a text over­lay, tag in the video descrip­tion, etc. Toy unbox­ing videos gen­er­al­ly do not abide by these guide­lines even when some­thing is tru­ly spon­sored, and con­tent cre­ators sim­ply may not fol­low the rules regard­less. In gen­er­al on most plat­forms, there is a lax enforce­ment of these policies. 

There is also the moral­i­ty issue of par­ents putting their kids into videos sole­ly with the inten­tion of get­ting paid or ben­e­fit­ing mon­e­tar­i­ly from post­ing said videos. Like in the case of Ryan Toys Review, this small toy unbox­ing chan­nel on YouTube led to a mul­ti-mil­lion dol­lar com­pa­ny run by Ryan’s parents.

Last­ly, for our kids, toy unbox­ings look like a stan­dard fun video of peo­ple enjoy­ing them­selves. Our chil­dren stare in awe at the amaz­ing toys these kids have with­out real­iz­ing the fact that at times, they didn’t buy any of them. Often, these con­tent providers received the toys for free from adver­tis­ing deals in exchange for the reviews and pos­i­tive opin­ions pro­vid­ed in the unbox­ing video.

Harm­ful and Mind­less Content

We’ve seen many sit­u­a­tions where a video may appear as one thing through a thumb­nail or pre­view and end up being some­thing else com­plete­ly on the oth­er end. The thumb­nail will look like a pop­u­lar car­toon char­ac­ter video, but ends up con­tain­ing vio­lent con­tent with coarse lan­guage fea­tur­ing the same beloved character.

Even videos that are from pop­u­lar children’s chan­nels may still be harm­ful through teach­ing kids bad and unwant­ed behav­iors. This may be done unin­ten­tion­al­ly, how­ev­er in real­i­ty, kids may pick up things through toy unbox­ing and toy play videos such as vio­lence, toy smash­ing, bad atti­tudes, back talk, bad lan­guage and more.

Last­ly, much of this con­tent also pro­vides lit­tle-to-no val­ue to chil­dren. It doesn’t teach them any­thing oth­er than to admire and want more pos­ses­sions and often can lead to lack of grat­i­tude or thankfulness. 

In gen­er­al, many major plat­forms can­not reg­u­late or per­son­al­ly check every sin­gle uploaded piece of con­tent due to mas­sive quan­ti­ties that are uploaded on a dai­ly basis.

How to Find Quality and Impactful Content for Your Kids

We cre­at­ed Jel­lies because we rec­og­nized there was a prob­lem with the cur­rent state of con­tent and the qual­i­ty of screen time as out­lined above. There is a lot of scary con­tent out there, and we wor­ry about what our kids con­sume and how they are influ­enced. At a young age, chil­drens’ minds are so impres­sion­able, it’s crit­i­cal to take every oppor­tu­ni­ty to fill them with hap­pi­ness and pos­i­tiv­i­ty, while also help­ing them learn and explore the world through their own eyes and opinions.

Jel­lies nev­er con­tains any ads, unbox­ings, or scary sur­pris­es. All of our con­tent is 100% human-curat­ed and vet­ted for safe­ty and secu­ri­ty. We keep all the child influ­encers out, so your kids get the best con­tent possible.