Key Research

Prevalence of Food and Beverage Brands in “Made-for-Kids” Child-influencer YouTube Videos: 2019–2020

Key Takeaways:

  • While tech companies banded food advertising on kid channels, young children (kidfluencers) make videos with still highlight high sugary, unhealthy foods
  • These videos and channels have huge viewership and the majority of the 400 videos studied involved unhealthy food
  • Tech companies, government entities, media, and the food industry all have a role to play in stopping this trend


LiveMore ScreenLess’ Summary

YouTube banned food advertising on “made-for-kids” channels in 2020, but research is needed to determine food-related appearances on increasingly popular child-influencer videos. Four hundred (400) videos on YouTube made by kids between 2019–2020 were analyzed in this study. Two-thirds of the videos (260) had at least one food-related appearance; branded products appeared 592 times including candy brands, sweet/salty snacks, sugary drinks, and ice cream. 

In the United States, 27% of 5- to 8-year-olds reported following or subscribing to certain YouTube personalities, celebrities, or influencers, such as the makers of these videos. As of June 2020, total video views for the analyzed channels in this study exceeded 155 billion. At the time data was collected, approximately three video-ads were shown per video viewed. Five of these video-ads promoted food or beverage products, even though Google’s policy bans food or beverage advertising on YouTube “made-for-kids” channels/videos.

It is unknown whether the creators of the videos received payment from food corporations, but even if they did not and the branded appearances did not technically violate government or industry self-regulatory policies, the potential for exposure and the possibility of accompanying negative effects remains.

More effective policies are needed to reduce the overall presence of branded foods and beverages on child-influencer channels in order to protect children from messages that can harm their health. Government, media, and food industry policies can play a role. Google (parent company of YouTube) could itself establish a policy to prohibit influencers on YouTube “made-for-kids” channels (including YouTube Kids) from including branded food or beverages in their videos.

See also NPR story Kid YouTube stars make sugary junk food look good — to millions of young viewers, February 2023.

Frances Fleming-Milici, Lindsay Phaneuf, Jennifer Harris. Prevalence of food and beverage brands in “made-for-kids” child-influencer YouTube videos: 2019–2020. Pediatric Obesity, 08 February 2023. 

Topics: Physical Health

Year: 2023