For some kids, it's not enough to watch YouTube videos
. Some kids want to make them, too. And a growing number of under-20 YouTubers are doing just that – and earning good money. Whether they play "Minecraft", review toys, make music videos, or just rant, they're attracting other kids in droves. With millions of viewers, young vloggers are regularly among YouTube's top 50 most-subscribed-to and most viewed
, becoming nearly as influential and vital to kids as TV
. (Check out "A Parent's Ultimate Guide to YouTube"
for tips on managing your kid's YouTube time.) Like all things on YouTube, kid vloggers come in all varieties. Some, such as tween gamer LTCorbis, are completely independent, self-funded, and self-motivated. Some, such as the seven-year-old star of Ryan's Toys Review, are directed by their parents. Some are part of larger content-creation groups, such as the Fine Brothers Entertainment channels Kids React and Teens React. Most YouTube kids also are multi-platform, cultivating audiences on Instagram
, and Twitter
and even writing books
. It's natural for kids to be attracted to watching other kids. And while many kid YouTubers are safe bets, there are some pros and cons about the entire enterprise.
On the plus side
- Videos tend to be relatively brief, bite-sized chunks of news and entertainment (ideal for kid attention spans and schedules).
- The hosts are interested in the same subjects your kids are, and they look and talk like them, which gives your kids a sense of connection.
- When kids choose their own entertainment, they often don't spend time on stuff they don't like. They tune into specific vloggers, who deliver incredibly relevant information that's tailor-made to their interests.
- The fact that these kids are earning thousands (and even millions!) can make vlogging look like an attractive undertaking to fans. It also can be a creative and educational hobby, but there are some risks. If your kids want to try it, get tips on doing it safely.
On the down side
- Language can be an issue, especially with gamers and any tween and teen vloggers.
- Your kid will see a lot of advertising. Ads are how YouTube and its users make money, and the ads are not all age-appropriate.
- Many YouTubers, especially toy reviewers, get stuff for free in exchange for coverage on their channels. They may or may not disclose that fact. But your kids may not understand that sometimes what they're watching is essentially advertising.
- According to YouTube's terms of service, users must be at least 13 to run a channel. The fact that there are so many kid bloggers makes it seem like younger kids are permitted. Kid bloggers usually state that their parents actually own the channel, but this fact could be lost on your children.
Here are some of the most popular kids on YouTube and guidance on which ages they're best suited for: Ryan's Toys Review
This seven-year-old has been creating toy-demonstration videos (with the help of his mom, who directs and works the camera) since age four. Now, with more than six million subscribers, the videos of Ryan playing with cars, trucks, superheroes, surprise eggs, and Play-Doh are some of the most viewed on the entire internet. Quick take:
Ryan's Toys Review features tons of products, including expensive ones, like kiddie cars. The family donates a lot of the toys to charity, but the "reviews" give the companies lots of publicity. Best for:
Preschoolers and little kids Evan Tube HD
He started with a stop-motion "Angry Birds" video at age eight. Now 12, Evan's videos, featuring unboxing, toy reviews, and food challenges have billions of views, millions of subscribers, and spin-off channels featuring his sister and family. Oh, yeah, and millions of dollars in yearly revenue. Quick take
: Evan's videos are filmed by his father, and they are all family-friendly and fun – if product-heavy. Best for
: Little kids and tweens Kid President
Teen actor Robby Novak portrays the character Kid President on the thought-provoking channel Soul Pancake. Kid President poses innocent, but profound questions such as, "What makes an awesome leader?" He has done TED Talks and has been invited to the White House. Quick take
: Through his many "pep talk" vlogs and musings, Kid President gets kids to think deeply about civic engagement. Best for
: Big kids and tweens Kids React and Teens React
Produced by the internet content-creation team Fine Brothers Entertainment, these series feature kids and teens viewing and commenting on viral videos. Through their reactions and impressions, the audience gets a glimpse into how young folks perceive the world and the people in it. Many of the kids and teens of React (including singer and actress Lia Marie Johnson, now on AwesomenessTV) also have their own channels and cultivate audiences independently of the series. Quick take
: You have to know a little about viral videos and internet trends to really "get" these shows. Kids (and parents) can learn how to view media more critically by watching other kids express their ideas. Best for
: Big kids, tweens, teens EthanGamer
While mostly known as a gamer ("Roblox", "Minecraft", and "Pokémon"), this British tween has branched out into unboxing videos, candy reviews, and toy reviews. Quick take
: If you'd like to find a mild-mannered gamer for your kid, Ethan is your boy. Best for
: Tweens Jacob Sartorius
A singer-songwriter at the tender age of 14, Sartorius also reaches millions of fans on Musical.ly, Twitter, and Spotify. His single "Last Text" amassed over four million views, and he has designs on becoming as famous as another singer-songwriter kid who got his start on YouTube (Justin Bieber). Quick take
: A talented, likable entertainer whose music, while not groundbreaking, is easy on the ears. Best for
: Tweens Mark Thomas
This teen entertainer has mastered the art of cross-platform self-promotion. In addition to his YouTube channel, he has a social media presence under the name Duhitzmark on Twitter, Instagram, and Musical.ly. Kids – mostly girls – like him for his heartthrob looks, sexy moves, and original videos. Quick take
: Adults may not necessarily understand the appeal, but kids go crazy for his stuff, including sexy, grinding dance moves and explicit music. Best for
: Tweens Brooklyn and Bailey
Seventeen-year-old identical twins Brooklyn and Bailey got their start on their mom's beauty vlog, Cute Girls' Hairstyles. They now upload slickly produced videos on a range of subjects from dating to fashion to DIY. Quick take
There's nothing not
to like about these charming blue-eyed beauties – unless, maybe, they're too
perfect? Best for
: Tweens and teens Matty B Raps
This 14-year-old singer-songwriter uploads songs, music videos, skits, and other material to the delight of his two million-plus fans. He launched a cross-country tour based on his YouTube success. Quick take
: Matty B often features his friends (many of whom are girls) on his vlogs, which offer a glimpse into his seemingly charmed teenage life. Best for
: Tweens and teens Awesomeness TV
AwesomenessTV is a youth-oriented entertainment brand, sort of like MTV but web-based (although it had a show on Nickelodeon for a while, too). It features teens and 20-somethings who vlog, sing, and perform on the channel's original scripted series such as "Chat.Like.Love" and "Foursome." Quick take
While stars' individual vlogs are mostly mild, the scripted series can be edgy. Best for
: Teens LtCorbis
LtCorbis is actually a middle schooler named Sophia. She vlogs, tweets, and shows up on gaming sites such as Steam and forums such as Reddit. Her combination of intelligence and expletive-laden rants draws fans, who are enthralled by her off-the-wall observations. Quick take
: Her videos may have some value for gamers, but overall she seems embittered beyond her years. Best for
: Teens Bretman Rock
With his jet-black hair, clear blue eyes, and steady stream of hilarious commentary on life, Hawaiian teen Bretman Rock has makeup tips that seem almost beside the point. He shares beauty techniques – and lots more – on his boundary-pushing channel. Quick take
: For a guy who specializes in makeovers, he's endearingly down-to-earth. Best for
: Teens Jay Versace
This teen got his start doing short, funny skits on the now-defunct video-sharing site Vine. On his madcap YouTube channel, he will do anything for a laugh, such as giving ridiculous advice, wearing wigs, fake crying, and even pranking his viewers. Quick take
: Though he's super silly, he's one of the most adept video editors on YouTube, and he conveys lots of humor through interesting splicing techniques. Best for