Catch Singapore's young YouTube stars on Playtime TV, Shan And Shaista Show and Kandie Family
SINGAPORE - Like many kids around her age, seven-year-old Cindy loves playing with slime toys and games like Jenga.
But while most of them play in privacy, Cindy's playtime is filmed and watched by thousands of strangers on YouTube.
Cindy, whose surname is withheld to protect her privacy, is the star of Playtime TV, a local YouTube channel that has accumulated over a million views since it started putting up videos six months ago.
In 2018, the channel - which has over 28,400 subscribers and clocks an average of 197,900 views per video - was listed in YouTube's "Top 5 Rising Creators in Singapore" list.
Like a lot of YouTube videos hosted by kids and aimed at other children, the clips feature her playing with toys, games like Pie Face, and taking part in activities such as learning to make sushi and exploring places like indoor theme park KidZania Singapore.
YouTube videos of children's playtime are serious business.
Forbes magazine listed a seven-year-old, Ryan, as the highest-paid YouTube star in 2018, having earned US$22 million that year through sponsorship, endorsement deals and advertising revenue. His videos feature him doing what most kids love - unboxing toys, playing with them, talking about them and being his usual cute self while doing those things.
No Singaporean YouTube kid stars appear on the same Forbes list. But apart from Playtime TV, there are also a couple of other local channels featuring kids at play that are pulling in the views - Kandie Family and Shan And Shaista Show.
YouTube, which is owned by technology giant Google, does not allow minors (the minimum age ranges from 13 to 16, depending on the country) to create their own channels, so these are all owned and managed by adults.
Playtime TV is the brainchild of popular local YouTube personality Jianhao Tan, who co-hosts the video with Cindy. Kandie Family is run by celebrity acting couple Andie Chen and Kate Pang, while Shan And Shaista Show features the children of actress and host Nurul Aini.
Playtime TV is one of the many channels run by Titan Digital Media, of which Tan is the chief executive officer. Cindy, who is his friend's daughter and his god-daughter, was groomed by Titan's Academy, the company's training arm that aims to nurture a new generation of YouTube personalities and content creators.
Tan had always been aware of Cindy's natural charm and charisma, recalling an occasion last year when he saw her spontaneously break out into impressive dance moves at a restaurant.
Says Tan, whose personal channel has over 2.7 million subscribers: "I was certainly impressed but the thought of having her in my videos never really came to mind. It was only until we spent more time together and built a special bond that I felt we could do something fun and special together.
"She also always asked about being in my videos as she is very fascinated every time she sees me on the set of my videos."
To date, Playtime TV has put out nine videos. Filming sessions, each of which last about three hours, take place every other Monday.
Cindy is waiting to be enrolled in an international school here later this year, after which filming sessions are likely to be moved to the weekends.
Tan and his producers come up with ideas on what they want to do in each video, but Cindy's actions and dialogue are largely spontaneous and unscripted.
The girl, who also sometimes makes cameos in Titan's other channels, has already had a real-world experience with the fans who watch her videos.
Last December, she took part in a meet-and-greet session with Tan and other popular local influencers, and had fans queuing up for photos and autographs all day long.
Tan declines to reveal Cindy's Youtube earnings but says that she is not paid for the non-endorsed videos. The money from branded endorsements will be paid out to her parents.
The popularity of these kid videos is a sign of the growing pool of local content creators, says Mr Marc Lefkowitz, YouTube APAC's head of creator and artist development.
He adds: "We are committed to building YouTube as well as YouTube Kids as a trusted platform to ensure a responsible and conducive space that will allow generations of YouTubers to create enriching content, and audiences to learn."
Still, experts caution against over-exposing children online and stress the need for adequate adult supervision.
Singapore Management University sociology professor Paulin Straughan says: "With minors, because they are so young, we have to be careful when they are on a public platform. The minute you put yourself out there on social media, you can never take it back.
"I think parents should be aware that it is not the best way to showcase their child's talents and children should be taught that while the Internet is an amazing space for learning and exploration, it is probably one of the most dangerous spaces we have. Once they are on the Internet, they have little sight of who or what they are interacting with."
SINGAPORE YOUTUBE CHANNELS FEATURING KIDS' PLAYTIME
1. Playtime TV
Started: September 2018
Subscribers: More than 28,400
Total views: More than 1.7 million Top Singapore YouTuber Jianhao Tan hosts Playtime TV with seven-year-old Cindy.
The channel includes toy reviews, such as an episode where the duo play with different types of Jenga, the block stacking game.
There are also videos featuring Cindy picking up a new skill, such as one where she learns to make simple and healthy breakfast meals.
Not all videos are filmed in the studio.
The channel's most popular video is one where she explores indoor theme park KidZania Singapore. The 10-minute video has clocked more than 600,000 views.
She also goes up against Tan in a "kids vs adults challenge" series. One episode has them trying to outdo each other making sushi out of Play-Doh.
Cindy also makes cameos in other channels, such as gaming channel Notgood Gamers, which, like Playtime TV, are under influencer company Titan Digital Media's banner. A recent video shows her playing online multi-player game PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds.
2. Kandie Family
Started: August 2014
Subscribers: More than 24,400
Total views: More than 4.4 million Actor Andie Chen and actress-host Kate Pang have always wanted their YouTube channel to be about family, so it was only natural that their two children - four-year-old son Aden and two-year-old daughter Avery - would feature prominently in their videos.
The Mandarin channel includes a series that puts the two kids front and centre - Pillowtalk Mini, where the siblings discuss topics ranging from environmental awareness to seasonal holidays such as Christmas and Halloween.
Another series, Kandielicous, has the whole family whipping up meals together.
Chen and Pang, who left Mediacorp in late 2017 to focus on Kandie Family, ensure the videos featuring Aden and Avery have educational value.
Chen says: "Our mantra is that we don't want to do something that has no value or just pure entertainment value. We want to have a discussion going on, we try to have a message for all the content that we make."
Getting their children in their videos is also a way for the family to bond, he adds.
"I'm quite a workaholic and my wife is always busy. We wanted to have some work that involves the whole family, so we can actually be together while we are working."
He declines to reveal how much the children earn through their video appearances, but money from endorsements with brands such as financial services company Mastercard and household brand Scotch-Brite are mostly saved in the kids' bank accounts, with a little given to them for their piggy banks.
3. Shan And Shaista Show
Started: October 2018
Total views: 13,700 This YouTube channel featuring Shan Ehan, eight, and his sister Shaista Eman, six, has only three videos so far, but the pair have made quite a name for themselves on social media.
That is because their mother is television host and actress Nurul Aini and both children regularly feature in her popular Instagram posts.
The most popular among their three YouTube videos, with more than 8,000 views, shows Shaista doing a playful, tongue-in-cheek make-up tutorial.
In another video, she takes on a "spicy noodle challenge", which she says is not spicy at all.
The third video shows her and Shan playing BeanBoozled, a game in which participants eat jelly beans with odd flavours such as rotten egg and lawn clippings.
Shaista has her mother's natural charm and seems completely at ease in front of the camera. Like her mother, the girl has also done acting and hosting, appearing in major events such as the 2017 National Day Parade.
Eddino Abdul Hadi (23 February, 2019)
Catch Singapore's young YouTube stars on Playtime TV, Shan and Shaista Show and Kandie Family. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com