Losing individuality through technology

Teens and children must hold onto their sense of self without cell-phone addiction


Emilee Slayton


Story by Emilee Slayton, staff writer

The daily ritual. My sister’s little body runs by me as fast as any child who is on a sugar craze. Ignoring everyone in her path and the loud noises of our family, she picks up my mother’s pink, sparkly phone. Everyone knows what she’s doing. She runs back to her room filled with an infinite amount of toys. Plopping on her twin-sized Paw Patrol bed, phone in hand, she clicks on YouTube and presses play.

It seems like an epidemic of some sort. You grow up thinking that your generation probably isn’t so different from the last. As a child, playing with toys, creating imaginary friends, and exploring yourself through the things that you liked and didn’t like just seemed normal.

I, the kid who loved to play with watercolor paint and Polly Pockets, get confused as to where the children of today get their inspiration and artistry from. I’ve learned that apparently, it’s from a YouTube video.

Among the many facets of content that exist within the popular realm of YouTube, there is a specific genre that revolves around the review of children’s toys. Like a majority of the content on YouTube, the creators of these videos are mainly adults. However, older people aren’t the only ones who conduct these toy reviews.

In fact, one of the highest paid YouTubers of 2017 was a 6-year-old boy named Ryan. Ryan made $11 million in 2017 just from reviewing toys like Legos and Power Rangers, according to the Forbes list of the World’s Highest-Paid YouTube Stars. His audience mainly consists of children around his age or younger. As of 2018, Ryan has 12 million subscribers on YouTube.

Every day, children log onto YouTube and watch videos of a person playing with toys. My 5-year-old sister, Isabella, who watches and obsesses over “LOL Surprise Doll” videos, is a prime example. Videos like these can get up to 500,000 views or even up to a million views in a three day time span.

There is something particularly unsettling about these videos that take away a child’s individuality and turn them into a disconnected robot once they press play.

— Emilee Slayton

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the lady making YouTube videos enjoys making kids laugh and probably isn’t in it for the YouTube glory. And yes, kids do obsess over many different things as they get older, however there is something particularly unsettling about these videos that take away a child’s individuality and turn them into a disconnected robot once they press play.

When Isabella started watching YouTube toy videos, she played with her toys less and shoved the pink phone in her face more. The more she watched the videos, the creepier it got. Whenever she does play with her toys, she talks like a YouTuber, just spewing out words that she remembers from the videos.

YouTube was founded when I was 4-years-old, so there wasn’t really much on there besides music videos or the cringe-worthy 2007 humor that I never understood. Playing with my toys and creating imaginary friends was what I did 24/7, and I can definitely say that my own creativity and imagination has shaped me into the weirdo that I am today.

That’s why I feel that if the internet prevails and my little sister gets sucked into it, she won’t learn how to be her own person, and this is the main reason that these videos upset me. Little kids deserve to figure out what they like creatively and ideally before they watch videos of other kids unboxing toys.

If you have a little brother or little sister, you know that sometimes you wish they would go to their room and be quiet for the rest of existence, but in all honesty, having a younger sibling is such a blessing. Not only does it help you become a more responsible person, but it also gives you insight into another person’s thoughts and feelings.

In the end, these videos may or may not help kids. I just want my little sister to get the childhood she deserves without burying her face in a phone every day like the rest of us. If you think it may help, ask your parents how they feel about electronics around your little sibling, and remember to look out for them so that they have a childhood worth remembering.