Dear Jake Paul, There’s been a lot of controversy lately surrounding you and RiceGum and a handful of other creators promoting a website called Mystery Brand. But this video will be a bit different. For those who don’t know, Mystery Brand is a website where you can pay money anywhere between a few dollars to hundreds of dollars, to open up a digital box and potentially win prizes. The more expensive the box, the higher the potential rewards, with some prizes allegedly being worth millions of dollars… …and others being worth next to nothing. Of course, this is just a version of a gambling website. The controversy being that you, Jake, and other YouTubers promoting this have extremely young audiences. Look, I’ll jump right to the point because other videos have already done a good job at calling you out, and whistleblowing the fishy aspects of the entire situation with MysteryBrand. So here’s the thing, addiction is awful. In many instances of drug abuse, when you first use them you get a big dopamine kick out of them, which is why they’re so addictive. But with long term use your brain and body just get used to it. Often, your brain will create more receptors as a response, which means you need to take more to elicit the same feeling. This can lead to a loss of control and compulsive behavior, despite any negative consequences. It also means that when you stop taking the drug, you likely experience withdrawal symptoms. And all of this can contribute to lifelong neuroplastic changes in the brain The thing is, in 2013, the American Psychiatric Association changed gambling addiction from an impulse control disorder to the substance-related and addictive disorder category. Now, I didn’t expect you to know that, I didn’t either. But what it means is that gambling disorders are now considered to be much more similar to alcohol and drug addictions than to other disorders. Here’s a picture of a brain from somebody winning a game of chance and another where they almost win. They’re really similar. In both situations, a dopamine reward is triggered making the experience enjoyable, and ultimately making your body want it again. Sound familiar? Well, just like drugs a gambling addiction can do the exact same thing. The more you do it the more you need to do it. The dopamine literally changes your brain cells in order to drive you to perform this act again in the future. It rewires your brain. Except, unlike drugs, even when you don’t get the desired outcome, gambling can still trigger that feedback loop, as seen in the brain scans. Studies also show a similar impairment of brain regions and gamblers to people with drug dependence. Specifically, there is a degradation of white matter and changes to regions of the brain that control emotional processing, attention, and decision-making, regions that are still developing in teen years. Now, none of this is to say that people can’t gamble responsibly and have some harmless fun. And while some people are at high risk for addiction, many are not. But part of the reason most all governments restrict the age of gambling, much like alcohol and recreational drugs, is because of the severe consequences it can have on young people and their developing minds. It’s not just irresponsible because we arbitrarily say it is, it’s irresponsible because it can have real, long-term, physiological and psychological impacts on young people, especially while their brains are still forming. In fact teens are the most likely group to become addicted to gambling because there’s a much stronger reaction in the habit region of the brain after they receive a reward. Their prefrontal cortex responsible for planning ahead and assessing risk is also not fully formed which is why teens are more likely to partake in high-risk behaviors. Not to mention gambling addictions usually start at a young age, even though it’s typically illegal for them to participate. In fact, Mystery Brand’s own website says “The use of the services of the website is strictly prohibited for persons under 13 or persons not reached the age of majority.” The age of majority in most places is actually 18. And given that your audience and many others advertising this is typically much younger than that. I’m surprised this isn’t considered a violation of not only their own terms, but YouTube’s as well. YouTube’s ad guidelines state that “we don’t allow certain kinds of gambling related advertising. Gambling ads must have a landing page that displays information about responsible gambling and never target minors.” Yet, Mystery Brand has no such landing page and you, yourself, have explicitly said your audience is made up of primarily minors: Jake Paul: “Yeah my audience is definitely younger, I’d say it’s like eight years old to like 16 years old. So that’s where I try to like cater the content towards.” YouTube also basically says the same thing for alcohol-related ads. Would you promote alcohol consumption as emphatically to your audience? Again, it’s not that it’s inherently wrong, but that your audience by your own admission is much, much younger. I don’t want to make it sound like branded integrations is the problem, we also rely heavily on sponsors. But given this type of integration is specifically called out in YouTube’s Terms, and by Mystery Brand’s own legal articles, it seems awfully suspect that they would come directly to you and pay you to advertise it. Should you have known all this? No. But now you do and maybe you’d say that’s Mystery Brand’s issue, not yours. But just remember that studies have shown the impact of YouTube celebrities, like you, on young people. 63% of kids aged 13 to 24 said that they would try a brand or product recommended by a YouTube content creator, which is 15% higher than the influence of even TV and movie stars. You can, and should probably do something about that. A simple start would be to just take the video down, like others have so it doesn’t influence any more people. Thanks for watching and considering this Jake. Oh. Also, we don’t actually know Jake Paul. So if you guys want to send this to him for a little education, that’d be swell! And subscribe for more weekly science videos.