NEW YORK (AFP) - Eight-year-old Ryan Kaji earned US$26 million (S$35 million) in 2019 on his YouTube channel, making him the highest-paid creator on the platform, according to a list published on Wednesday (Dec 18) by Forbes magazine.
Kaji, whose real name is Ryan Guan, was already the video platform's highest earner in 2018, with US$22 million, according to Forbes.
His channel Ryan's World, launched in 2015 by his parents, is only three years old but already has 22.9 million subscribers.
Initially called "Ryan ToysReview", the channel mostly consisted of "unboxing" videos - videos of the young star opening boxes of toys and playing with them.
Several of the videos have racked up more than one billion views, and the channel has received almost 35 billion views since its creation, according to data from the analytics website Social Blade.
Recently, the channel was renamed after a consumer advocacy organisation, Truth in Advertising, filed a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about it.
Truth in Advertising accused the channel of not clearly denoting which videos had been sponsored, meaning when brands paid for the video to feature their products.
His brand has also branched out beyond YouTube with a line of more than 100 toys and clothing items, as well as a show on Nickelodeon and a deal with video-on-demand service Hulu.
Despite Ryan's growing fame, his parents have been guarded about the family's true identity and Kaji is reportedly a name they came up with for their son's on-screen persona.
According to a Daily Mail report in September, Ryan's dad is 31-year-old Shion Guan, who moved to Texas from Japan to study, while his mother is 35-year-old former high school chemistry teacher Loan Guan, the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants. Ryan also has two-year-old twin sisters named Emma and Kate.
The family live in a US$1 million home which houses six bedrooms and a large swimming pool in a gated community in Texas. The property is said to be one of three they own in the area.
Ryan's mother has been credited with coming up with his YouTube channel, which she manages along with the family's four companies. She reportedly came up with the idea after watching videos by reviewer EvanTubeHD.
The Daily Mail, however, reported that Mrs Guan has a checkered past and was once caught for shoplifting US$93 worth of clothes from a JC Penney store in Houston in 2002. As part of her probation order, she was ordered to do 40 hours of community service, but ended up serving 30 days in jail in 2003 after breaching the order.
In Forbes' ranking, Ryan Kaji surpassed the channel "Dude Perfect", run by a group of friends from Texas who attempt seemingly impossible feats, such as launching basketballs into hoops from the tops of buildings or out of helicopters.
Dude Perfect came in second, up from third the year before, having earned US$20 million between June 1, 2018, and June 1, 2019.
In third place was another child star's channel, that of Russia's Anastasia Radzinskaya. Though only five years old, she earned US$18 million.
Her channels "Like Nastya Vlog" and "Funny Stacy" boast nearly 70 million subscribers in total, with videos in Russian, English and Spanish.
At the beginning of September, YouTube's parent company Google agreed to pay a US$170 million fine after the FTC accused the Internet giant of collecting personal data from child YouTube users without permission.
According to the FTC, the platform used the data to ensure that advertisers were able to target children.