CHICAGO — Illinois lawmakers aim to make their state what they say will be the first in the country to create protections for child social media influencers. The Illinois bill would entitle child influencers under the age of 16 to a percentage of earnings based on how often they appear on video blogs or online content that generates at least 10 cents per view.
To qualify, the content must be created in Illinois, and kids would have to be featured in at least 30% of the content in a 30-day-period.
Video bloggers — or vloggers — would be responsible for maintaining records of kids’ appearances and must set aside gross earnings for the child in a trust account for when they turn 18, otherwise the child can sue.
The bill passed the state Senate unanimously in March, and is scheduled to be considered by the House this week. If it wins approval, the bill will go back to the Senate for a final vote before it makes its way to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who said he intends to sign it in the coming months.
Family-style vlogs can feature children as early as birth and recount milestones and family events — the wholesome clips that Nallamothu had been initially scrolling through.
But experts say the commercialized “sharenthood” industry, which can earn content creators tens of thousands of dollars per brand deal, is underregulated and can even cause harm.
“As we see influencers and content creators becoming more and more of a viable career path for young people, we have to remember that this is a place where the law has not caught up to practice,” said Jessica Maddox, a University of Alabama professor who studies social media platforms.
She added that child influencers “are in desperate need of the same protections that have been afforded to other child workers and entertainers.”
The Illinois bill is modeled largely after California’s 1939 Jackie Coogan law, named for the silent film-era child actor who sued his parents for squandering his earnings. Coogan laws now exist in several states and require parents to set aside a portion of child entertainers’ earnings for when they reach adulthood.
Other states have tried to pass laws to regulate against potential child exploitation on social media without success. A 2018 California child labor bill included a social media advertising provision that was removed by the time it was passed, and Washington’s 2023 bill stalled in committee.
Across the Atlantic, France passed a law in 2020 that entitles child influencers under 16 to a portion of their revenue, as well as “the right to forget,” which means video platforms must withdraw the images of the child at the minor’s request. Parental consent is not needed.
Illinois’ own bill underwent several changes during the legislative session that watered down its reach, including stripping out a provision allowing child influencers to request deletion of content once they reached the age of 18, and requiring family vloggers to register their channels.
Information for this article was contributed by Elaine Ganley of The Associated Press.