Illinois Takes Lead in Protecting Child Influencers, Mandates Parental Compensation


Illinois became the first state to legislate compensation protections for minors featured in online content. Small businesses utilizing family-based vlogging and influencer marketing must stay updated, as this legislation might spread nationwide.

The impetus behind the legislation was 16-year-old Shreya Nallamothu of Normal, Illinois. Troubled by the extensive online sharing of kids’ private moments through family vlogs, Nallamothu penned a letter to State Senator Dave Koehler. As a result, Illinois now offers a groundbreaking safeguard for these young influencers.

Signed into law by Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker, the new legislation amends the state’s Child Labor Law. Starting July 1, 2024, Illinois parents will be required to set aside half of the earnings from a piece of content in a trust fund for the child, based on the duration they appear in the video. If a child appears for half the video’s duration, they should receive a quarter of the funds; if they’re in the entire video, they should receive half. However, this only applies if the child appears on screen for over 30% of vlogs over a year.

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Drawing a parallel between this and child actors, Senator Koehler emphasized, “We don’t want to forget about the child.” This protective measure is especially pivotal as parent vloggers on platforms like YouTube often detail personal aspects of their lives, with children often the primary subjects. Traditionally, no legal obligation was in place to share the proceeds with them.

The new law mirrors the 1936 Jackie Coogan’s Law, instituted after silent film actor Coogan was defrauded by his own parents. His protection law in California mandated setting aside 15% of a child actor’s earnings in a trust, accessible at 18.

Jessica Maddox, an assistant professor at The University of Alabama, notes that while other states have mulled similar laws, Illinois is pioneering. “It’s important that the law catches up with technology to ensure minors aren’t being exploited,” Maddox emphasized. This progression also rekindles discussions about the appropriateness of sharing children’s lives online, particularly when the child might not be old enough to truly consent.

Chris McCarty, founder of Quit Clicking Kids, highlighted that children in family vlogs face unique challenges as their real-life experiences become public entertainment. Unlike child actors portraying characters, these children have their personal details shared for profit.

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The consensus is that laws must evolve, incorporating more comprehensive regulations about consent. The new law represents both a challenge and an opportunity for small businesses. It emphasizes ethical considerations in influencer marketing and highlights the need to ensure that, while leveraging influencers, their rights, especially when they’re minors, are always protected.

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