An eight-year-old YouTube millionaire could be facing an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission after accusations his channel coerces young children into purchasing products and toys made by his sponsors.
Ryan Kaji, the frontman of “Ryan ToysReview" -- a channel on YouTube which shows Kaji unboxing toys and playing with them before reviewing them in front of his more than 21 million subscribers -- is the subject of a complaint filed on Aug. 28 by consumer watchdog Truth In Advertising.
The group claims Ryan did not specify or make it clear to the other children watching his videos that he was pushing toys from companies that had sponsored him.
The complaint alleges that 92 percent of the toys Kaji reviews on his channel promote at least one product or program aimed at children under the age of five, however, they aren’t always clearly labeled.
"This age is critical as research shows that children under the age of five are unable to understand or even identify the difference between marketing material and organic content," the complaint states.
The channel, which began on March 2015, is run by Kaji’s parents, Shion Guan and his wife Kieu-loan – who are named in the complaint instead of Kaji. Its videos, which have garnered more than 30 billion views and according to Forbes, made Kaji the eighth-highest-paid YouTube entrepreneur, having brought in $11 million in revenue between 2016 and 2017.
In 2018, the young child star secured his top spot among the ranks of the video platform’s highest earners, bringing in $22 million of revenue from his videos and separate product line at Walmart, who has been looking to overtake the market share held by Toys R Us.
That income also stems from an account with his family called "Ryan's Family Review," in which Ryan's younger twin sisters, mother, and father give fans an inside look into the family's life, according to the money magazine.
The millionaire boy’s reviews have become so popular among children that in the fall of 2018 he was able to launch "Ryan's World," a toy line created in partnership with Bonkers Toy Co. The products, which include putty, goo, and toy cars and dolls, are sold through Walmart, Target and Amazon.
In July, Kaji also released a line of toothpaste and toothbrushes that bear his name and logo.
Kaji’s father issued a statement to Fox Business on Monday and said they follow the rules and regulations of online advertising closely and support the measures the FTC set in place to protect children.
“The well-being of our viewers is always the top priority for us and we strictly follow all platforms’ terms of service and all existing laws and regulations, including advertising disclosure requirements," Shion Kaji said in a statement to Fox Business.
"As the streaming space continues to quickly grow and evolve, we support efforts by lawmakers, industry representatives, and regulators such as the FTC to continuously evaluate and update existing guidelines and lay new ground rules to protect both viewers and creators."
According to Truth In Advertising, a number of major companies have sponsored endorsements on Ryan ToyReviews' YouTube channel, including Colgate, Chuck E. Cheese, Nickelodeon.
Fox News' Nicole Darrah contributed to this report