What’s up with all the YouTube unboxing videos and why are kids so obsessed?

A bunch of L.O.L. Surprise! toys on display at the Walmart located at 1675 S. Christopher Columbus in Philadelphia, Pa. on Friday, Nov. 16, 2018. The toy is one of the most popular this holiday season. (Heather Khalifa/Philly.com/TNS)

Unboxing videos are exactly what they sound like: People opening boxes and narrating their actions. Unboxing videos are very popular with kids, racking up millions of views and tens of millions of subscribers. 

Some unboxing videos, such as ones about toys and Kinder Surprise eggs are usually fine for kids to watch (with a few caveats). But the subject matter of some unboxing videos is not age-appropriate. 

If your kid likes these videos, be aware that they are not technically "reviews" of a product's pros and cons. Unboxing videos show the product in a favourable light and can have the same effect as advertising. Learn a little bit more about them and how to manage kids' fascination below. 

Who is behind unboxing videos? All kinds of people – including kids – do unboxing videos. Kid hosts, such as the child star of Ryan Toys Review, often fall into it accidentally when their parents upload videos of them that become popular. Some YouTube channels that focus on unboxing don't even have an on-camera host. FunToys Collector Disney Toys Review is just a woman's hands opening toys and playing with them. Folks who specialise in unboxing are usually regular people, with no relationship to the companies whose products they feature. 

What are the products in unboxing videos? Unboxing videos for kids typically focus on toys and candy, including Kinder Surprise eggs, Transformers, American Girl Dolls, and Legos. 

Are unboxers paid by the companies whose products they open on YouTube? Companies don't usually pay the YouTuber directly for featuring their product in a video. When an unboxer becomes super popular (with tens of millions of views and subscribers), companies may send them products for free, but not always. Sometimes hosts disclose this, sometimes not. Companies do sponsor the extremely popular and influential YouTubers in other areas. For example, they may pay the YouTuber to make a personal appearance at a toy store or a toy convention. 

What do I do if my kid wants all the stuff they see in unboxing videos? Unboxers are good at building excitement, choosing popular products, and showing off an item's cool features. Sometimes companies send them toys even before they go on sale to fuel demand before the product's release. And if the unboxer is a kid, your kid may relate to them more and want what they have. You may want to set expectations before a viewing session. Or you could have your kid add the product to their birthday or holiday wish list – and prune when the time comes. If your kid likes unboxing videos, it's a good opportunity to balance that with developing their sense of gratitude. 

How can I find "good" unboxing sites? There are tons of unboxing videos on YouTube. But the subscriber tally and the video views are not always good indicators of quality. Always read a channel's "About" section to get a sense of the creators behind the videos. When you find a channel you like, subscribe to it. That tells YouTube you want to see more like it. – Common Sense Media/Tribune News Service

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