Makenna Kelly, the star of the "Life with MaK" ASMR YouTube channel.

  • 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 trend.
  • A new report from Wired UK found an overlooked aspect of the ASMR movement: An increasing number of children are making their own ASMR videos.
  • The report highlights Makenna Kelly, a 13-year-old superstar on the ASMR scene with over 1.3 million subscribers - and who, YouTube tracking site SocialBlade projects, can make about R13,370 or more in advertising revenue in a single day from her channel.
  • YouTube said 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 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. The 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, Makenna 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:

YouTube stat tracking service SocialBlade estimates that the "Life With MaK" channel can bring in about $1,000 (R13,370) in advertising revenue, or more, in a single 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. ASMR Darling now brings in about $1,000 (R13,370) a day, Wired reported, which roughly jibes with SocialBlade figures.

Apart from the YouTube revenue Wired reported that Makenna also makes money from her channel by letting viewers pay for special requests. For example, Makenna was paid $50 (R687) 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 prioritising 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 Makenna and YouTube did not respond to a request for comment.

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