If you’re old enough to have teens or tweens, chances are you are also still baffled by the fact that Gen Z is so enamored of YouTube stars. Back in our day, we had our teen stars carefully selected by the Disney and Nickelodeon factories. In this age of “authenticity,” the polished singers and dancers just don’t catch on the way home-grown social-media stars do.
While YouTube (and now TikTok) might not be your medium of choice, it’s a good idea for you to know what’s out there for your kids to watch. Who are these girls whose full-time job appears to be going through the Starbucks drive-thru? Why are the kids singing a song you’ve yet to hear on any radio? How did they learn to bullet-journal and dance like that?
Here, we’ve collected 10 of the biggest teen YouTube stars churning out content right now. We were careful not just to choose the most popular on the platform — there are no Olivia Jade types here, for instance. We made sure these are the creators whose videos you’ll appreciate too.
Evan Moana began his toy vlog with his family back in 2011, and he is still at it at the ripe old age of 14. With 6.54 million subscribers, he’s not likely to quit or switch up his formula any time soon. Kids who watch will like the toys he showcases, but grownups can enjoy the sweet dynamic between him, his parents, and younger sister Jillian. Incidentally, the other family members have their own individual channels, and Evan has a separate gaming channel too.
Jasmine Shao, a.k.a. studyquill
To be honest, you might like this channel more than your teen. Though she’s only 17, Jasmine is more organized than most adults I know. Watching her set up a bullet journal or take notes for an A.P. class can be both weirdly satisfying (she has such nice handwriting) and inspiring.
In another decade, JoJo Siwa would have been a star on the Disney Channel for sure. In her own time, she has parlayed her Dance Moms participation into pop music and social media stardom. On YouTube, she is a LOT: wearing JoJo-branded clothing, driving a car plastered with her face, and living in a house decorated in her signature over-the-top rainbow sprinkles style. While that big personality isn’t for everyone, her songs are undeniably catchy.
Shalom, Sinead, Shasha, and Shiloh Onyx
The four Onyx Kids siblings’ videos remind us of a Nickelodeon sitcom from the ’90s in the best possible way. They’re funny without ever being too mischievous. And though they and their parents are all full-time YouTubers now, their content has that unpolished quality that makes it feel like we just stumbled upon someone’s goofy home videos.
Mackenzie Ziegler, a.k.a. Kenzie
While the 15-year-old singer and dancer (another Dance Moms alum and younger sister of Maddie Ziegler) serves up some typical YouTube content — tours of her bedroom, quizzes with her boyfriend, etc. — that’s not the only focus of her channel. Her music videos and dance tutorials set her apart from the people who seem to live only for the Tube.
Remember that teenager from Canada who got his start on YouTube before becoming one of the biggest pop stars in the world? Whether 17-year-old Orlando is the second coming of Bieber remains to be seen, but his earnest music videos are endearing. We particularly like that he and his video stars (including sometime collaborator Mackenzie Ziegler) really look like teenagers.
Alex Guzman, a.k.a. Blesiv
Watching a video by this 18-year-old from Nevada is what we really hope it always looks like when teenage boys and girls hang out without supervision: dancing, cooking, prank-calling each other, playing games with their younger siblings and cousins. Maybe if our own kids watch this stuff, they’ll also think this is what all the cool teenagers get up to.
There are many adults who have wondered aloud why teens love this 18-year-old’s videos so much (she’s got 8.75 million subscribers at the moment). She does mostly mundane things, like driving around L.A. drinking iced coffee and taste-testing fast-food veggie burgers, mixed in with a few special activities now that she’s a star (i.e. going to New York Fashion Week). It’s not what she does that keeps you watching, though. It’s her laid-back, self-deprecating attitude and sense of humor that makes her videos seem like you’re really hanging out with a friend.
Matthew Morris, a.k.a. MattyBRaps
Would we add a MattyBRaps song to our own playlists anytime soon? Nope. At the same time, we wouldn’t be mad about our kids listening to this wildly popular, totally innocuous pop music.
Since she was 13, Ellie has been making her regular-girl YouTube videos for her Elliephants (fans). What’s refreshing is that though she’s now also a real-deal model (signed with Next Management), she doesn’t act any less awkward.
Time to gather ’round the screens, everyone. Just as our grandparents joined our parents to catch the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, the least we can do is manage to watch one of these with our kids.
You could also watch these kids’ exercise videos together to keep active while bonding over screen time.