A 13-year-old girl makes as much as $1,000 a day creating ASMR videos, as YouTube works to keep its child stars safe

Life of Mak ASMRLife of Mak/YouTubeMackenna Kelly, the star of the "Life with MaK" ASMR YouTube channel.Life of Mak/YouTube

  • ASMR, short for autonomous sensory meridian response, is a phenomenon where certain soft whispering or tapping sounds cause a tingly sensation in some people. It's become a whole YouTube phenomenon.
  • A new report from Wired UK found an overlooked aspect of the ASMR movement: An increasing number of children are making their own ASMR vidoes.
  • The report highlights Makenna Kelly, a 13-year-old superstar on the ASMR scene with over 1.3 million subscribers - and who, it was reported last year, makes an estimated $1,000 a day, both from ads, and from taking paid requests from strangers. 
  • YouTube says that keeping these child stars and their families safe is a priority.

ASMR, short for autonomous sensory meridian response, refers to a phenomenon where soft sounds like whispering or soft tapping triggers a tingling or relaxation effect in the listener. 

It's become a whole subculture on YouTube, which hosts some 45 million ASMR videos. Rapper Cardi B has gotten in on the action with her own ASMR video, and even Michelob Light turned its Super Bowl ad into an ASMR sensation.

But, as Wired UK reports, there's another side to the subculture: Kids as young as 5 years old are making their own ASMR videos - and making good money in the process. Wired spoke to 13-year-old Makenna Kelly, who makes ASMR videos for the 1.3 million subscribers to her "Life with MaK" channel. In some of her most-viewed videos, Kelly eats instant ramen noodles, or glides makeup brushes over a microphone. 

Here's one of her recent videos, in which she "eats" a Gucci shoe: 

 

It was reported in October that Kelly's channel brings in an estimated $1,000 a day. That puts her on a par with ASMR Darling, also known as Taylor Darling, the biggest name in the ASMR space with 2.2 million subscribers, and who Wired now reports also brings in about $1,000 a day. 

Some of the money comes from YouTube advertising. However, Wired reports that Kelly also makes money from her channel by letting viewers pay for special requests. For example, Kelly was paid $50 over PayPal for 10-minute ASMR videos where she chewed whole pieces of honeycomb. The video brought in 12 million views.

This clearly raises some challenges in keeping the children safe from online predators and other bad actors - especially since finding these channels is a simple search for "child" and "ASMR" away. YouTube says that it's prioritizing keeping these children safe, and has even taken channels down while it talks with the families of young creators. 

Claire Lilley, YouTube's child safety policy manager, told Wired in a statement: 

"We believe technology presents great opportunities for young people to express themselves creatively and access useful information, but we also know we have a responsibility to protect young creators and families and consider the potential impact of emerging trends on them. We've been working with experts to update our enforcement guidelines for reviewers to remove ASMR videos featuring minors engaged in more intimate or inappropriate acts. We are working alongside experts to make sure we are protecting young creators while also allowing ASMR content that connects creators and viewers in positive ways."

Spokespeople for Kelly and YouTube did not respond to a request for comment.

Read the full story at Wired.

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