On the list of “stuff I think I’m too old to understand,” ASMR might just be at the top. But, like a lot of things with parenting, we have to do our research. Is ASMR safe for kids? I wanted to know because kids are using it, so I did some research.
When I first heard of ASMR, I was full of questions like, What even is it? Do you pronounce it “A-S-M-R” or “azmer?” and Why are they all whispering? So here you go. ASMR: what moms need to know to keep their kids safe. Oh, and it’s A-S-M-R. Although maybe we can make “azmer” a thing.
What is ASMR?
ASMR stands for “autonomous sensory meridian response.” In plain English, it’s a tingling sensation that comes from repetitive triggers. The triggers can be sound or touch-based. Unlike goosebumps, the tingling usually starts at your scalp before working its way down your spine. Scientists started studying it as a tool to help with anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
OK, but how does it work?
So most ASMR videos involve someone (usually an attractive female) whispering into a microphone that is so hot it picks up every tiny sound. Like everything—skin brushing on skin, a mouth opening, even breathing. The host, or ASMRtist, whispers about whatever she’s doing. In one video, I watched the host (who has 2.9 million YouTube subscribers) describe a bottle of stress relief lotion while tapping the bottle, then rubbing it on her hands.
I totally hear you saying, “Oh! Now I get it!” No? Yeah, me neither. The closest I can relate to it is thinking about getting my hair washed or brushed. I love it—the feeling, the sound. But I can’t say I’d want to pull up a YouTube video and watch it.
What about kids? Why are they into ASMR?
Well, it’s all over YouTube. YouTube’s top ASMRtists have millions of followers, and there are also ASMR videos geared toward kids. Some parents use the videos to help kids settle down and get ready for bed, but of course, some kids just hear about it from their friends.
Is ASMR safe for kids?
The popularity of ASMR videos is still new, so there’s not much long-term research. For the most part, the content in the videos is harmless—tapping a bottle, opening a bag, scratching a piece of paper. But you know that feeling you get in your gut that something just doesn’t seem right? That’s how I feel about ASMR. Many of the hosts are very attractive girls, who smile and tilt their heads—there’s just something sexual about it. ASMR looks harmless, but with the wrong click, it can get really bizarre, really quickly.
ASMR looks harmless, but with the wrong click, it can get really bizarre, really quickly.
What if your child is into ASMR?
Feeling relaxed or tingly because someone slurps up noodles isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but it’s worth talking about with your kids. There is some level of intimacy and perhaps dependency created through ASMR, either in the form of a pretend friendship with the artist or a physical reaction that feels therapeutic. So at best, ASMR is a crutch to help your child relax; at worst it can stunt their emotional growth as they are getting something they want with no emotional risk.
How do I approach my kid about ASMR?
The best approach is to go in with an open ear. Invite your child to explain ASMR to you and do your best to appear unbiased. While your child explains it, listen for clues as to what need it is meeting within him or her. Maybe your kid says it’s comforting, it helps him or her forget about school, or the artists feel like friends. Remind your child that what somebody gets from ASMR is a quick fix and that you are there if he or she wants to talk about anything. Just make sure your kid knows your conversation will be at a regular volume—no whispering.
Have you ever checked out ASMR videos? What do you think?