Parenting influencers in Illinois must now pay their children if they feature in videos. Experts say it's about time.

Parenting influencers in Illinois must now pay their children if they feature in videos. Experts say it's about time.
  • A new Illinois law mandates parenting influencers set aside 15% of earnings for kids in videos.

  • The law aims to combat child exploitation in family vlogging and social media content.

  • Experts believe it's about time.

A new law passed in Illinois on July 1 requires parenting influencers to set aside 15% of their earnings for their kids who appear on camera.

Parents are now obligated to save this much of the gross earnings from their content posted on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and other social media platforms if their children feature in 30% or more of their footage.

The money set aside is to be kept in a trust that the children can access once they reach 18 years old. At this time, they can also request that the videos they appeared in be deleted.

There will be no direct enforcement, but children can choose to sue their parents once they reach adulthood if they do not comply.

Illinois has been leading the charge in combating child exploitation on the internet through family vlogging channels, introducing the legislation last year.

The social justice activist Shreya Nallamothu first championed the law, telling the Associated Press in August 2023 that there was "absolutely zero legislation" to protect children in the world of "kidfluencing."

Jessica Maddox, a University of Alabama professor of journalism and creative media also told AP "the law has not caught up to practice" of "sharenting."

She told the outlet that influencers "are in desperate need of the same protections that have been afforded to other child workers and entertainers."

'It's a very difficult conversation'

The amount of money influencers earn varies, but at the top end of the scale, it can be millions, according to The New York Times.

The publication said that on Instagram, smaller influencers can still earn around $600 per post, and large accounts can get up to $20,000.

Many parenting influencers have good intentions. Some are stay-at-home moms, for instance, who post content about parenting online to earn an income without needing a job away from home.

But experts say the risks of "sharenting" outweigh the benefits.

Illinois' law is the first of its kind in the US, but the states of Washington, Maryland, and California are also considering following suit.

Naomi Cahn, co-director of the University of Virginia's Family Law Center and a professor in the School of Law, told UVA Today that the law "clearly sends a message that you should not be exploiting children in this way."

"And it brings a lot more attention to this issue," she said. "It's an amazing example of civics in action."

Katya Varbanova, a social media and marketing consultant who is the CEO of Viral Marketing Stars, told Business Insider it's about time children who appear on family vlogging channels are paid.

There are heated conversations online about where the line is with children being part of the entertainment world. Some children love performing, starting their acting careers young by appearing in commercials and taking on small roles in television shows. But there's a growing movement of people who believe child actors shouldn't exist at all.

"It's a very difficult conversation," Varbanova said, adding that there are a lot of gray areas about how much say a child really has in their future. "But this conversation about the income, I think that is very black and white."

Alarm bells ringing

For a few years now, viewers have been starting to question what happens behind the scenes with family vlogging channels.

Concerns were raised when influencer Jordan Cheyenne went viral in 2021 for a clip where she was shown encouraging her son to cry and look sad for a thumbnail on a video about their sick puppy.

She told BI in a statement at the time she was "disgusted and horrified" at her actions and there was "no excuse."

"It's terrible on so many levels," she said. "I love my child more than anything and will regret this moment forever."

A peak behind the momfluencer curtain was also offered when TikTok duo Lilly Davis and her husband Paul showed off their filming schedule last year and were accused of making their children work while on vacation at Disney World.

At the time, they called the allegations "egregious" and said their children are always given a choice about whether they want to appear in videos.

Kevin and Ruby Franke look into the camera
Momfluencer Ruby Franke (right) was accused and charged with six felony counts of child abuse.8 Passengers / YouTube

Some family vloggers have also been accused of serious crimes.

In August 2023, family vlogger Ruby Franke was arrested and accused of abusing her children.

She was later charged and sentenced to up to 30 years in prison after details of the horrific abuse emerged about how the young children were beaten, bound with rope and duct tape, forced to do manual labor in the sweltering heat, and had open wounds treated with cayenne pepper.

Another tipping point was when viewers started to speculate that videos of the mother-daughter duo Wren & Jacquelyn Paul on TikTok were purposefully attracting predators. (Paul has never responded to these allegations).

This was a sign "something sinister" may be going on, Varbanova said.

But, there is a market for family content because it gets good engagement, Varbanova added.

"The only reason they keep posting is because people keep watching," she said. "If people stopped watching family content, family vloggers wouldn't exist."

Because family content is so successful, it's also tough to give it up.

"When you create content for a long, long time, getting no likes, no comments, and suddenly you find something that consistently gives you attention, it is very, very, very addictive," Varbanova said.

"They can internalize that as a good thing. And it's very, very, very dangerous for some of those kids."

The long-term impacts of children being so publicly visible are still being studied, but experts previously told BI there are potential mental health and privacy issues that may have negative repercussions later in life.

It will take some time before society figures out where the line is when it comes to kids being internet stars, but Varbanova thinks giving children 15% of the content's earnings is a good start.

"If they appear in all of the videos, they should get at least 50% of the revenue," Varbanova said. "I think 15% is quite low, but I think it's a step in the right direction."

Read the original article on Business Insider