A POPULAR YouTube channel hosted by an eight-year-old boy is being probed over claims it is “deceiving” kids into buying toys.
Schoolboy Ryan Kaji and his parents make £17.3 million ($22 million) a year testing out new games and treats on the Ryan ToysReview channel.
The Ryan ToysReview YouTube channel is being probed over its adverts[/caption]
But just months after being named the highest paid YouTube star, Ryan’s channel is now being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission.
Watchdog group Truth in Advertising complained that Ryan ToysReview does not declare its ads and sponsored content clearly enough.
Almost 90% of Ryan’s videos include at least one paid product recommendation aimed at kids, who are too young to tell the difference between an ad and a review, the complaint states.
The watchdog accused the channel of deceiving children through “sponsored videos that often have the look and feel of organic content”, the New York Times reports.
Ryan has worked with Walmart, Hasbro, Netflix, Chuck E. Cheese and Nickelodeon — partnerships the watchdog says are not always declared clearly enough.
Josh Golin, the executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, said many kids do not recognise advertising until they are eight or nine years old.
“A five-year-old isn’t going to understand that Ryan’s talking about the toys because Target is paying him to talk about the toys,” Mr Golin says.
“There may be some disclosure, but disclosure isn’t meaningful to a child that young.”
His dad Shion Kaji insisted they “strictly follow all platforms’ terms of service and all existing laws and regulations, including advertising disclosure requirements”.
“The well-being of our viewers is always the top priority for us,” he said in a statement.
“As the streaming space continues to quickly grow and evolve, we support efforts by lawmakers, industry representatives and regulators such as the F.T.C. to continuously evaluate and update existing guidelines and lay new ground rules to protect both viewers and creators.”
Megastar Ryan and his family, who live in the US, started up the channel in March 2015.
Then aged just four, Ryan was a big fan of toy-review videos and asked his mum and dad if he could post his own clips on YouTube.
In July 2015, a video of Ryan opening up and giving his verdict on a box of more than 100 toys from Disney Pixar’s Cars series went viral, receiving almost 935 million views.
His mum then quit her job as a chemistry teacher to help develop his channel.
It’s since grown into an empire, branching out into spin-off channels, digital characters and the odd food review.
In August 2018, Ryan teamed up with American retailer Walmart to produce his own toy line called Ryan’s World.
The toys Ryan features in his videos are apparently donated to a local charity, while 15% of his massive earnings are being put into a savings account until he becomes a legal adult.
Ryan makes just shy of £2,000 an hour and slightly less than a dollar every single second.
Ryan’s twin sisters also feature in some videos on a related YouTube channel called Ryan’s Family Review.
Ryan ToysReview has racked up more than 30 billion views and has built an audience of 21 million subscribers since it started in 2015.
This is not the first time that Ryan’s channel has been probed by regulators.
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Last month, several senators asked the FTC to investigate Ryan’s channel for two Carl’s Jr. commercials that they alleged had not been properly disclosed.
And in 2017, the Council Of Better Business Bureaus found that Ryan had failed to properly disclose ads — including spots for wine and an R-rated film.
The council ruled that the ads should be removed.