What Kids Are Really Watching on YouTube
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  • Kids love YouTube. And while there are hundreds of great kids' channels on YouTube (and on YouTube Kids), we all know that there's a lot of age-inappropriate stuff, including ads, salty language, and even sex and violence. But when you look at what kids are actively seeking out, a lot of it is funny, informative, and entertaining. And plenty of it is just plain weird. When you're aware of what kids are watching on YouTube, you can step in to help them separate the good stuff from the not-so-great.

    So, what's on kids' YouTube lists? "Unboxing" videos (where people open products), "challenges" (such as trying hot peppers), "morning routines" (which show how YouTubers get ready for the day), silly skits, and even educational material (what??). These and other unusual things -- and the people behind them -- are YouTube phenomena. While kids also like to check out the latest eyebrow-raising music videos by Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Justin Bieber, it's the unscripted, unpolished, authentic content that they really love.

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    This guide may not bring you any closer to understanding the appeal of watching, say, someone open a Kinder Surprise Egg (one of the most popular kinds of videos on YouTube), but it may give you some ideas for conversation. And in a world where kids can be entertained at the touch of a button, that's sometimes the best way to get a taste of their world.

    Minecraft
    Thousands and thousands of Minecraft videos on Youtube -- including Minecraft Let's Plays, Minecraft tutorials, even Minecraft music videos -- can keep kids entertained for hours (as you've probably noticed). Many Minecraft YouTube videos are geared for older players, and they're filled with strong language, but there are plenty of age-appropriate channels, too. These are some of the most popular:

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    - TheDiamondMinecart
    The videos' quality across all genres (Let's Play, mod reviews, characters, and so on) has made it one of the most highly subscribed-to and most highly viewed channels on YouTube.

    - PopularMMOs
    Although it's known for epic battles and massive explosions, PopularMMOs' host is a friendly, folksy guy named Pat, whose knowledge of and enthusiasm for the MMO game genre plus killer mods draw big audiences.

    - CaptainSparklez
    Recently purchased by Disney-owned Maker Studios, CaptainSparklez is beloved as much for his intricate, atmospheric, and complex worlds as for his parody videos.

    - StampyLonghead
    A British cartoon cat (voiced by Joseph Garrett from Portsmouth, England) hosts the lively videos on this lighthearted channel.

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    Unboxing
    Turns out, kids love watching people open stuff -- including toys, gadgets, and the Italian treat called Kinder Surprise Eggs. Unboxing has become so popular that a whole cottage industry of unboxing "fails" and spoofs (such as Weird Al unboxing his Grammy Award) has emerged. The main issue with these videos is that it's unclear whether companies pay YouTubers to unbox their products (some do, some don't). 

    - FunToyzcollector
    Kid-friendly videos of a person (you never see a face, just a well-manicured hand) opening and playing with Play-Doh, Disney Princess dolls, Polly Pockets, Peppa Pig, and lots more have made this channel one of the most popular and lucrative on YouTube.

    - Ryan's Toys Review
    The videos of Ryan playing with cars, trucks, superheroes, surprise eggs, and Play-Doh draw more than 6 million subscribers. Ryan and Evan (below) are some of the most popular kids on YouTube.

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    - EvanTube HD
    Ten-year-old Evan's unboxing videos include Legos, Kinder Eggs, and lots of other toys. He also has other channels in which his family appears.

    - Surprise Eggs Unboxing Toys
    In addition to unboxing videos of Kinder Eggs, this channel creates Play-Doh Claymations, stop-motion videos, and clips of bath balls dissolving in water. (You read that correctly.)

    - Lamarr Wilson
    A former educator and technology consultant, Wilson uses his engaging personality to entertain families with taste tests, skits, and awkward questions. He's most famous for his unboxing videos of totally random stuff such as gummy worms, amiibos, and Loot Crates (mail-order collections of toys and games).

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    Funny Stuff
    What passes for funny on YouTube may not be your cup of tea, but somehow the folks below have hit upon formulas that draw millions of viewers. Language and content can be an issue on many of these channels.

    - NigaHiga
    Higa loves creating parodies of movies, ads, and songs, and he has a strong bent for personal confession and articulate tirades on topical subjects.

    - Smosh
    These 20-somethings perform silly skits, funny songs, and pranks. The comedy isn't necessarily highbrow (and they bleep swear words), but it's mostly harmless.

    - Good Mythical Morning
    With their friendly banter, silly skits, and amusing challenges, the two male hosts of this show (Rhett and Link) entertain without being edgy.

    Educational
    YouTube offers kids an excellent opportunity to pursue learning on their own. Kids often learn better by seeing concepts presented visually, and video provides the perfect medium to explain everything from algebra to the number 0.

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    - Vsauce
    Host Michael Stevens tackles a wide range of subjects from the psychological (how humans make decisions) to the scientific ("What if the earth stopped spinning?"). His good humor, perfect editing, and clear explanations make his topics accessible and entertaining.

    - Minutephysics
    Minutephysics breaks down complex concepts -- for example, the shape of the solar system -- making them easy to grasp for kids. Childlike, hand-drawn animations and simple but humorous voice-over accompanies every less-than-five-minute lesson.

    - SciShow
    Various hosts take turns discussing scientific subjects in an engaging, anything-goes format. Colorful animation helps make the topics super kid-friendly.

    - Khan Academy
    In its effort to provide "a world-class education for anyone, anywhere," Khan Academy offers a huge array of tutorials for the curious (and for those needing help on homework!). Heavy on the math and science explanations, Khan Academy also offers lessons on religion, art history, and test prep.

    Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out its ratings and recommendations at www.commonsense.org and sign up for its newsletter to read more articles like this.

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