Are toy unboxing videos bad for the kids?

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Are toy unboxing videos bad for the kids?
Image credit: Flickr (CC) / NoirKitsuné

Toy unboxing videos are enjoying massive popularity on YouTube. But some experts and institutions though feel they are bad for kids. Is that so?

For example, in January, the public prosecutor’s office in Sao Paulo in Brazil sued YouTube. The reason – abusive advertising practices towards children, VOX reports.

The prosecutors are feeling that toy unboxing videos is a form of advertising. These types of videos are hugely popular on the Web and especially on YouTube. They are so popular that companies often send their toys to famous channels just for the unboxing video.

In Brazil though it’s illegal to advertise to children 12 and under. And it’s not only children who love unboxing videos. A 2014 Google study shows that one in five shoppers in general watch an unboxing video before they buy a product.

YouTube responds to VOX that ads of all forms, including product placements, have to comply with local laws and YouTube’s own guidelines. YouTube also notes, that the site doesn’t allow users under 13 year old to have an account and bans violators of that rule.

Still, everyone loves toys and even if kids watch unboxing videos along with their parents, even if the videos aren’t paid product placements, they still can have a hooking effect, say critics.

These videos are changing the toy market in general. One of the reasons why surprise packs and surprise toys are so popular right now, is unboxing videos. LOL Surprise for example, aims at YouTube to that same reason.

“When they do an unboxing video of one of our toys, the number of their subscribers go up, and they make money, and they drive interest for us. It’s a circle, and it’s become its own advertising universe”, MGA’s Isaac Larian tells VOX.

“This content is unfair because it’s an ad disguised as a fun video, and the influencers are very very good at making kids feel like they are watching the most fun toy out there,” says Josh Golin, the executive director of the nonprofit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. “It’s also deceptive to parents because they have zero understanding of what their kids are watching.”

So, as with many other things on the Internet today, there are calls for better regulations. Some organizations have already filed complaints with the FTC and other institutions. Would that bring a change? We will see. One thing is for sure – this is an issue which won’t be solved easy and will take time and effort.