Ryan ToysReview accused of misleading preschoolers

DJ Khaled, left, and Ryan, of Ryan's ToysReview, appear onstage at the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards on Saturday, March 23, 2019, at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

(WTHR) — Popular YouTube channel Ryan ToysReview is facing criticism after a watchdog group filed a complaint, saying the channel misleads young children because they can't tell the difference between organic and paid content.

According to TODAY Parents, Truth in Advertising (TINA) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

With more than 21 million YouTube subscribers, Ryan ToysReview videos gets millions of views. They feature 8-year-old Ryan showing off toys and giving his kid-approved reviews of them.

In 2017, Ryan, then 6 years old, became one of YouTube's highest-paid personalities. His channel generated around $11 million in 2017, enough to be No. 8 on Forbes' list of highest-paid YouTubers.

In 2018, Ryan had an even bigger year, earning $22 million — more than any other YouTuber.

Kids seem to love him, but TINA argues his videos are not clear on which toys he personally loves, or which toys he's reviewing because its a paid product recommendation. The complaint says nearly 90 percent of videos they reviewed include at least one paid product recommendation for children younger than 5.

"Organic content, sponsored content — it’s really all the same to a preschooler," TINA executive director Bonnie Platten told TODAY Parents. "They just don’t have the intellectual capacity to distinguish when they’re being pitched to and when there’s a child playing with a toy because he likes that toy."

While the videos do disclose paid sponsorships, they're read in a woman's voice and sometimes they're written — both methods that likely don't convey the message to preschoolers.

TINA hopes the FTC will call on the channel to clearly disclose that information, in line with federal law.

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