New law grants child social media influencers a share of their earnings.

New law grants child social media influencers a share of their earnings.

Social Media Influence

Illinois Passes Pioneering Law to Protect Child Influencers on Social Media

Illinois has become the first state to pass legislation specifically addressing child influencers on social media platforms. The law, signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker on Friday, aims to protect children under the age of 16 featured in monetized online platforms, including video blogs (vlogs). This groundbreaking legislation was inspired by the concerns of 15-year-old Shreya Nallamothu, who discovered the exploitative potential within the realm of “kidfluencing” while scrolling through social media during quarantine three years ago.

“The rise of social media has given children new opportunities to earn a profit,” said the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Senator Dave Koehler. “Many parents have taken this opportunity to pocket the money, while making their children continue to work in these digital environments.” This law aims to prevent parents from exploiting their children’s talents for financial gain.

Family vlogs have become increasingly popular on social media platforms, offering intimate glimpses into the lives of young children, including details such as grades, potty training, illnesses, and misbehaviors. These videos can generate substantial revenue through brand deals, potentially earning tens of thousands of dollars per video. However, experts argue that the lack of regulations in the “sharenthood” industry can cause serious harm to children.

Bobbi Althoff, a TikToker with over 5 million followers, used to feature her young daughter in paid advertising. However, she has since decided to prioritize her daughter’s privacy over financial gains. Althoff’s experience highlights the lucrative nature of videos featuring children, making it crucial to establish safeguards to protect their rights and interests.

While many states already require parents to set aside earnings for child entertainers in traditional settings such as movies and television, Illinois’ law is the first to specifically target social media influencers. According to Landon Jacquinot, who monitors child labor legislation for the National Conference of State Legislatures, other states with high volumes of vloggers and social media influencers, like California and New York, may consider enacting similar laws.

Under the Illinois law, child influencers will be entitled to a percentage of earnings based on their appearance frequency in online content generating at least 10 cents per view. To qualify, the content must be created in Illinois, and children must be featured in at least 30% of the content within a 30-day period. Vloggers will be required to maintain records of children’s appearances and set aside their gross earnings in a trust account until they turn 18. Failure to comply may result in a lawsuit by the child.

Alex Gough, a spokesperson for Governor J.B. Pritzker, emphasized the importance of shielding children from parents who exploit their talents for personal gain. The Illinois law aims to ensure that children receive their fair share of earnings and are protected from potential exploitation.

Although Illinois has taken the lead in regulating the child influencer industry, similar efforts in other states have faced challenges. A 2018 California child labor bill, including a provision for social media influencers, was ultimately removed before passing. Washington state’s bill, spearheaded by teen advocate Chris McCarty, also stalled in committee. McCarty expressed hopes that the momentum generated by Illinois’ law would inspire other states to enact similar protections.

It is worth noting that while Illinois is taking steps to protect child influencers, several Republican-led states have instead loosened child labor laws to address workforce shortages. For instance, Iowa now allows teenagers to work more jobs and for longer hours, and Arkansas eliminated permits that required proof of age and parental consent for child employment.

The passing of this legislation in Illinois represents a significant milestone in protecting child influencers and promoting their well-being. It also sheds light on the complex relationship between social media, child labor, and the financial interests of parents. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, it is essential for lawmakers to adapt and ensure the safety and fair treatment of minors participating in the world of social media influencing.

This article was written by a Corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.