The first time I saw a YouTube video of a grown man narrating the act of unwrapping a Kinder Surprise egg, I thought I’d entered the Twilight Zone.
Was this some strange parody parading as a video for children but with a joke aimed at parents? The ridiculousness of it all baffled me.
But I soon learnt this is totally a THING! There are zillions of these types of videos on YouTube. Last year alone over 40 million hours of unboxing videos were watched.
For kids (yes there is adult unboxing too!) that’s just watching people unwrapping blind packs of collectibles and novelty toys and unboxing bigger toys. There is even a guy using one of those claw arcade machines to try and catch toys and blind packs that he had obviously put in there himself.
How is this entertaining viewing???
Then there’s the toy “review” videos. Which is essentially kids playing with toys. Or there are kids being filmed playing with dolls with some of the most mind-boggling dialogue.
As a parent it’s really disturbing watching your kid sit and watch another kid play with toys, rather than actually playing with them themselves.
I partially understand the attraction of watching videos of people playing computer games such as Minecraft because kids can get ideas for different builds, but that’s about where my comprehension of it all ends.
By way of social research (and to ascertain if my kids are weirdos or not) I asked around other parents to see what they thought. The answer was a resounding: “I don’t get it!”
Phew, at least my kids are normal. Or at least as weird as everyone else’s kids.
I tried to find psychological evidence around why kids, particularly toddlers and younger children, find these types of clips to entertaining and if they are potentially damaging, but couldn’t find anything concrete.
However I did read one interesting observation that kids watching other kids play with toys isn’t really so weird. After all, don’t adults watch other adults play sport? I guess on some level adults watching a bunch of complete strangers playing a game of football on TV could be the adult equivalent to my daughter watching other kids play Barbies on YouTube.
There is also the link between unboxing videos and everyone’s childhood favourite “Show and Tell”. We all like the anticipation of surprise and the subsequent reveal. Curiosity is part of human nature. And some very smart people are using digital platforms to capitalise on this and make millions of dollars.
While the idea of my kids watching this sort of content still makes me a little uneasy, it does seem relatively harmless.
In lieu of any substantial evidence about potential negative effects of exposure to this sort of content on young minds, keep in mind the following:
- Like all screen time, it’s probably best to keep a cap on the amount of YouTube clips your child views. Here’s some ideas on managing screen time.
- Consumerism is addictive and most of these types of things are basically advertorials for toys.
- YouTube is a rabbit warren and often leads to different content to the initial search, which is probably how your child stumbled across these videos in the first place. Stick to the YouTube kid app which has parental controls and some filters to keep out undesirable content.
- Talk to your children about what they are watching and why. Help them become critical thinkers about what they are viewing rather than just passive consumers of content.