Kids are weird. To wit: When I was a youth, I could imagine little worse than going over to a friend’s house and watching him play video games for hours. There’s no fun in that, and yet — and I apologize in advance for using this phrase — kids these days will actually spend as much time watching other people play video games like Minecraft or Angry Birds on YouTube as they spend playing the games themselves. There are YouTube videos of people playing Minecraft that have several million views.
I don’t get it, but on the other hand, that is nothing compared to another phenomenon I recently discovered.
I have three-year-old daughters, see, and while most parents won’t admit that they let their children watch YouTube unsupervised, I am willing to accept your harsh judgements, and I will tell you to shove them up your ass. I work from home, there are no days off on the Internet, and sometimes my children fall ill and can’t go to preschool, so I need to preoccupy them for a few minutes so that I can tell you all about the latest Amy Schumer sketch.
But I’m not a monster. I don’t let them watch regular YouTube because that place is a garbage can full of garbage. They watch “YouTube Kids,” an app specifically designed for toddlers, which only allows them to watch videos that are age appropriate. I’m not suggesting that they are quality educational videos that will enlighten them and fill their souls full of warmth, wit, and intelligence. I’m merely suggesting that these videos won’t traumatize them for life.
There’s a lot of PBS Kids on there, some Disney channel stuff, nursery rhymes, and annoying child-friendly earworms that my girls will sing for hours. It’s also touch-screen friendly, so they surf around, searching for familiar songs, and cute animal videos.
But if I’m not watching them closely, they will invariably slink away to a dark corner of YouTube Kids, a place that no adult should ever know about, a place known as the unboxing channel.
For those of you unfamiliar, as I was until very recently, unboxing is exactly what it sounds like: There are hundreds of videos that entail watching people remove toys from their packaging. For reasons that I cannot begin to comprehend, toddlers are drawn to watching well-manicured fingers unwrap toys. Here’s one that has been seen 102 MILLION TIMES (compare that to the most recent Star Wars trailer, which has been seen only 42 million times):
I would wager that the majority of those 102 million views came from toddlers because I refuse to allow myself to believe that adults would have any interest in watching a pair of disembodied hands remove Angry Bird candy from shiny plastic eggs. But then again, I have read YouTube comments, and I have learned never to put anything above a YouTube viewer.
For kids, I honestly don’t know if it’s better or worse than stumbling upon clips of Five Nights a Freddy’s or trailers for Human Centipede 3 on regular YouTube. I mean, at least childhood trauma builds character! I guess I get it, though: To a three year old, this must be like vicariously living through another person’s Christmas morning. When my daughters are watching, their faces light up. They’re so completely enthralled that it breaks my heart a little when I have to take the iPad away and quickly change it to Jake and the Neverland Pirates. DON’T YOU SEE, GIRLS? THESE VIDEOS WILL ROT YOUR BRAIN. Here, watch a Disney cartoon instead, and no, I don’t understand why all the girls in Disney cartoons have giant eyes and small waists. THAT’S NOT IMPORTANT RIGHT NOW.
Unboxing is lucrative business, too. Did you know, for instance, that the highest paid YouTube star in 2014 was an unboxer? There is a woman who earned nearly $5 million dollars last year by opening Disney collectibles. THAT’S HER JOB. SHE UNWRAPS THINGS FOR A LIVING. It’s insane, and no one really knows about this profession, because who could possibly believe that such a profession exists? Who thought one day, “Hey! I’ll record myself opening this Frozen figurine of Elsa and post it to the Internet!”
Whoever it was is a wealthy, millionaire genius now, and is there anything that epitomizes the American Dream more than making millions by opening toys?