If you’re the parent of a young child, you’ve probably already run into the issue of guarding your child against stimuli that could be harmful. You worry about what kind of books they read, what kind of toys they play with, and what kind of TV and movies they watch. And in this age of the internet, you now also have to worry about what games they’re playing and what videos they’re watching on YouTube.
If you’ve spent a significant amount of time sifting through children’s content on YouTube, you have undoubtedly heard of Ryan Kaji, the face of the $250 million TV and YouTube conglomerate that produces children’s shows about games and toys. While the original YouTube channel started when Ryan’s mom began filming him unboxing and playing with a toy, it exploded after they made a video of Ryan opening a giant papier-mâché egg filled with toys. That video has over 1 billion views to date.
Recently on The Cale Clarke Show, Cale took a look at the “boy king of YouTube” and what his shows say about the state of our society. While it may sound harmless enough, there are some parents who have been staying away from this ever-growing media franchise because of its message and unintentional commentary on modern culture.
Cale read from an article by Jay Caspian Kang about the type of media that our children are consuming. Kang, a father himself, stated that contrary to the opinions of many parents across the country, he is ambivalent about the amount of screen time that his kid gets. However, Kang used to refuse to let his daughter watch Ryan’s World. For years, Ryan’s parents have uploaded a new video of him every day with a new toy. According to Kang, that is just an “avalanche of content that can overwhelm your child’s brain, click after click.”
While this business of putting out children’s content has certainly been profitable for the Kaji’s, who weren’t always so financially stable, one can’t help but wonder what sort of effect it’s having on their family and on Ryan in particular. The very first channel was started when Ryan was three years old. He is now ten. They now manage ten YouTube channels. For seven years, he has been the subject of attention, had a camera pointed at him, and told to play for the audience every single day. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have a normal life outside of the show. He eats meals, he goes to sleep at night, and he goes on vacation with his family. But at what point does the show stop blending into his life? What about school? What about his friends? What happens when he gets too old or burnt out to make content like this anymore?
While this situation is not exactly synonymous with the child star cases of Hollywood, they are growing more similar by the day. And just what have we learned from the child star cases of the past? That it never ends well. You cannot expect a child who is growing up in an environment of lavish materialism and accelerated egocentrism to understand how to live life as a human being. It’s not impossible for children like this to find normalcy, but it is tremendously difficult. Child stars have run into issues like substance abuse, addiction, gambling, exploitation by their parents, exploitation by their managers and agents, and all manner of things. An unfathomable amount of power, fame, and money can easily corrupt the brain of anybody, especially a child.
Cale asked his listeners if they had the opportunity to build this $250 million conglomerate centered around the broadcast of their child, would they do it? While there might be 250 million reasons to do it, there is be one big reason not to, and it should outweigh the 250 million. Taking into account that Ryan’s parents have indeed secured the financial future of their children and possibly their children’s children, Cale posed this question: “Is it possible to pull off something like this without things going off the rails, keeping everything in perspective? Is it a bad idea to post videos of your kid online in the first place? Some might even say this is a form of child exploitation. How many instances have there been of burned-out celebrity kids in the entertainment industry?”
And secondly, should we be letting our children watch this type of content? What does it provide to our children? Is it educational? Is it stimulating to the mind? Is it productive or thought-provoking? Many would argue that no, it’s a mindless show that will stimulate your child with bright colors and loud noises. It acts much less like a TV show, and more like a sedative.
Listen to the full conversation below:
Tune in to The Cale Clarke Show weekdays at 5pm CT