ASMR, short for autonomous sensory meridian response, refers to a phenomenon where soft sounds such as 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 reported, 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 with 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 and 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. She also now brings in about $1,000 a day, Wired reported.
Some of the money comes from YouTube advertising. However, Wired reported 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 in which 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 said 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.