Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 6.37.08 amThe act of unboxing has become so big that the word recently received a place in the Oxford Dictionary who define it as ‘An act or instance of removing a newly purchased product from its packaging and examining its features, typically when filmed and shared on a social media site’. But what does that actually mean? And how are these videos affecting your kids?

‘Unboxing’ videos are the biggest thing on YouTube! Millions of kids around the world logon to watch someone take a new toy out of a box and play with it. These videos receive hundreds of million views each month!

Ryan ToysReview is king of the unboxing videos. This YouTube channel has over 2.5 million subscribers and over 4 billion video views. It consistently achieves top two status of most watched YouTube channels each month. Amazing figures given that it was only launched just over a year ago. For the month of April this year it achieved 645,242,671 views, just missing out to Justin Bieber in first place who scored just one million views more.

Why the videos are so popular

The popularity of these videos is surprising to many adults, but research shows us that from a kid’s perspective, the appeal is obvious.

The videos feature something that children are really interested in- toys and playing. A child might even own some of the goods themselves, which means the connection is even stronger.

There is mystery to some of the unboxing videos. Kids love surprises. As any kid on Christmas morning will tell you, guessing what’s inside the wrapping is half the fun. It will also likely conjure up happy memories for the children of receiving a present themselves.

Last of all, some of the videos feature child presenters – children enjoy watching their peers on the screen, and they get pleasure from watching others open presents.

Entertainment or ads?

An important question for parents is whether these unboxing videos are really just advertisements disguised as entertainment? And if we should stop kids watching them?

Some toy manufacturers now sponsor unboxing video channels, supplying hosts with their latest merchandise in the hope that kids will pressure their parents to buy them.

The producers of these videos also make money from the ads that pop up while they’re playing, as well as from YouTube’s payment system. Unboxers can earn between $US2 to $US4 for every 1000 views. It is estimated that FunToyzCollector, receives somewhere between US$2 million to US$13 million a year in advertising revenue alone.

Should kids watch these videos?

The fact is that these videos are a big, lucrative business that target children as their audience. On the one hand, children’s TV has had advertising for years. Kids can usually tell the difference between their TV program and ads, however these videos blend content and advertising making the manipulation less obvious.

The majority of the content children interact with online should be high quality- that is content that promotes creativity, problem solving and meaningful communication. These videos generally don’t fall into that category so ensure your children’s screen content is not dominated by unboxing.

Also importantly, given the very strong money making aspect of these videos it’s important that parents spend time with their child helping them to understand that while the videos are fun, that people are making money from them – that it’s their job to make kids want to watch the videos. Teaching kids critical literacy and why different things are online is an important new understanding for children to develop.

On a final note

Using the videos to stimulate new play ideas is a way to a counter the poor content. Watch a video with your child and then use the video to stimulate your child’s imagination of a new way they could play with their toys. The idea is not to buy new toys but to play with their current toys in new and exciting ways. It’s a great way to stimulate lateral thinking, problem solving and to share a great bonding time together.

This article was originally published at Kidspot