It started innocently enough.
My son was obsessed with Paw Patrol. So when I needed to take a shower or cook a meal, I’d go to YouTube on the iPad and find Paw Patrol-related videos for him to watch. He fell in love with the Kinder Surprise Egg videos, where some chick with long fingernails and a squeaky, condescending voice opens plastic eggs (sometimes covered in Play-Doh, which is gross and makes little sense to me), and reveals a Paw Patrol toy, a Peppa Pig wonder, or something similar.
It was kind of weird to me, but I only half paid attention. I checked for profanity or anything else offensive and then tried to ignore the annoying sounds coming from the iPad so I could have five minutes to myself without a toddler suctioned to my ankles.
Then, as he got older, and as the toy video world of YouTube got more sophisticated, he moved on to bigger and flashier content. His new favorite thing was superheroes, so he had to watch grown-ups unwrap superhero action figures from their packages and discuss things like the toys’ “articulation,” “gimmicks,” and other fascinating stats. Sometimes they opened “blind bags,” which especially excited my son, because all kids are suckers for a good surprise.
These videos are basically like creepy commercials for toys, except for some godforsaken reason, they are much more interesting and addictive to kids than actual commercials. In fact, at certain points, I have wondered not only who the idiots are who make these videos, but also whether they are actually being paid by toy manufacturers — which would make them less like idiots and more like amazing entrepreneurs.
But whether or not the purpose of these videos is to entice my kid to buy a particular toy, it’s working — fucking brilliantly.
There’s a lot of buildup to the opening of the toy, which often involves the seductive, brightly painted, glittery fingernails of the female host, and as the package is opened, a canned and loudly amplified “crinkle” sound accompanies the reveal.
You remember what it was like to ache for a particular toy when you were a kid? I remember dreaming about Cabbage Patch Kids, Rainbow Brite, My Little Pony, and Barbie. And I mean, literally dreaming. I’d dream that I went to the store to buy the toy, and then I’d bring it home carefully and excitedly open up the package.
But these days kids don’t have to use their imagination much, I guess. Just open up YouTube, and all your fantasies are showcased right before your eyes.
My kid doesn’t only know exactly what toy he wants. He knows the exact price of the toy, which toy combinations come in what packages, and where one could buy such a toy. (Walmart, it’s always Walmart.)
And he asks and asks and asks and asks, all day and all night for toys. And candy. And toys that are made of candy.
It’s seriously fucking driving me insane.
A couple weeks ago, he figured out how to get into my Amazon account and actually purchased a Batcave and a couple of action figures. Of course, I was furious, but I was also highly amused and kind of impressed that a 3-year-old had that much know-how.
Now I have my Amazon account on lockdown, and I’m thinking I should do the same for these YouTube toy videos.
But it would be like weaning my kid off a very bad drug habit. And the thing is, I’ve gotten very used to the 30 minutes here and there when I get to take a breath and be a human for a sec.
So thanks a lot, YouTube. You’ve got both of us addicted to your plastic bullshit toy videos.
And there’s no turning back.