Dr. Tracy Bennett
Dr. Tracy Bennett
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Child fantasy jobs used to be astronaut, doctor, or professional athlete. Nowadays, kids all dream of being a YouTube Celebrity. In the GKIS article, GetKidsInternetSafe Tips for YouTube, we touched on why kids love these celebrities and the appeal of the let’s play video. In this article, you’ll find out how YouTube celebrities build their brands and maintain popularity. You may be surprised to learn it isn’t as easy as it looks.

What is a YouTube celebrity?

In the ‘social media era,’ children and adolescents are consumed by screen time. While TV, Blockbuster, cable, CD’s, and iPods reigned in the 1990’s, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, Spotify, Netflix, and Amazon Prime rule today. According to Pew Research Center’s recent report on teens, social media, and technology, 95% of teens have smartphone access, and 45% claim that they are online ‘almost constantly’. [1]

YouTube is the most popular social media platform in the world. Valued at $100 billion, this wildly successful platform allows people to create careers by uploading videos and serving followers.

With the evolution of online marketing, the concept of “celebrity” and “influencer” has shifted. Instead of a celebrity ruled by stylists, publicists, and managers, now “everyday people” can build their individual brand. Many YouTube celebrities attract millions of view and earn the loyalty of obsessed subscribers. Big money can be made with brand deals, ad sponsorships, award shows, product lines, and conferences. 

Why are YouTube celebrities so popular?

Successful YouTube celebrities know their audience. Through fad tracking, affiliate marketing, and frequent interaction and surveys with subscribers, they find out what their audience wants…and they give it to them. YouTube celebrity videos range from makeup tutorials, do-it-yourself (DIY) crafts, let’s play videos (playing video games on camera with reactions and tips), pimple popping, and dangerous pranks. You name it, YouTube most likely has it. YouTube celebrities work hard to drive subscribers to their site, building a platform so they can make millions of dollars annually. Why are YouTube celebrities so popular among youth?

YouTube celebrities are better at creating relationships.

Unlike highly-produced mainstream celebrities, YouTube celebrities seem relatable to kids. They are not afraid to be themselves and tend to share personal experiences about sensitive topics like sex, drugs, mental health, dating, and abuse. They are like the crazy aunts and uncles we used to seek out at family reunions. More outlandish than parents, they make fun mentors.

YouTube celebrities are accessible.

Available on demand, YouTube celebrities make deliberate efforts to acknowledge and talk directly to their viewers. They are accessible through social media, answer questions in Q&A panels, and regularly respond on comments with their viewers. The relationship YouTube celebrities develop with their fan base leads to quality engagement. A study commissioned by Google has shown that 70% of teenage YouTube subscribers relate to YouTubers more than the traditional celebrity. [2]

Kids are lonely, depressed, and anxious.

As parent fear has increased, child exploration range has decreased. This leaves kids indoors for hours a day with nothing to do. Playdates no longer happen riding bikes in a pack around town. Now they happen online through social media and gaming platforms. Although somewhat entertaining and satisfying, long hours online canleave kids fatigued and depleted. They get some contact with friends, but not the kind that feeds the soul. Dr. Bennett and other researchers believe screen time is a big contributor to rising child and adolescent mental health disorder rates.

Production is cheap.

Starting a YouTube channel can be as simple as having a phone camera, webcam, GoPro, or professional camera. What makes YouTube so appealing is not the equipment needed to make a video, but the voice and techniques used to build an audience and draw them in. A set, expensive cameras, actors, or directors are not needed for a quality YouTube video. 

One example is YouTuber celebrity, Trisha Paytas, who started her channel in 2007 as a daily vlogger(video blogging) with a camera in hand and room as her set. Since then, she has created two successful YouTube channels that have millions of subscribers and billions of views. 

She discusses overly candid, explicit topics like sex toy reviews, when she dated a serial killer, and the time she had sex with a whole football team at once. She also films Mukbang videos (eating large amounts of food while interacting in front of the camera), discusses her multiple plastic surgeries, and makes music videos. She’s so funny and charming, you just can’t look away. Her net worth is between $3-$4 million.

Discussion topics are edgy, controversial, sensational, and juicy.

Dr. Bennett shared during our last intern meeting that her son and kids in her practice are currently obsessed with Shane Dawson’s documentary-type analysis of Jake Paul. Providing evidence for the hypothesis that Jake Paul has sociopathy, this series provokes controversy, raises ethical questions (is it bullying?), and heightens competition. Dr. Bennett’s analysis of the situation provides interesting content to launch conversations about social dynamics, business concepts, and online morality. For instance, he was very concerned if Shane Dawson is qualified to publicly diagnose another celebrity with mental illness. Is that bullying with questionable credibility? Or is it a savvy YouTube celebrity feud staged to pit  each celebrity’s fan base against each other and drive more traffic to their sites? Dr. Bennett’s comments have me wondering, are other parents using these learning opportunities like she is? Or do most kids keep their viewing ideas private from family members?

Wondering how to protect your kids from Paytas-like YouTube content? Buy our online GKIS Connected Family Course and start ten easy pro-steps for screen sanity and fun cooperation.

Thank you to CSUCI Intern, Sasha Mejia for her awesome research and for writing this article.

I’m the mom psychologist who will help you GetKidsInternetSafe.

Onward to More Awesome Parenting,

Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty

Works Cited

[1] Anderson, Monica and Jiang, Jinjing. “Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018.” Pew Research Center, 31 March 2018.

[2] O’Neil-Hart, Celie and Blumenstein, Howard. “Why YouTube stars are more influential than traditional celebrities.” Think with Google, July 2016.

Photo Credits

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Celebrity Big Brother Summer 2017-BigBrother JunkieCC by 2.0

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