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New Illinois law protecting child social media creators now in effect

The Illinois law is the first of its kind in the nation, and it goes into effect July 1.

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Illinois is the first state in the nation to ensure that children of family vloggers receive compensation for their work, with a new law going into effect July 1.

It all started with a letter that Illinois teenager Shreya Nallamothu wrote to her state senator when she was 15 years old.

“I learned about child influencers over the pandemic, and I was just shocked this exploitation was kind of happening in plain sight, and there was no legislation in place to protect these kids,” Nallmothu said.

In the age of social media, “family vloggers” have monetized the lives of their children, documenting milestones ranging from potty training to pimples. But when those kids grow up, there’s not much guarantee that they will get their share of the profits – much less their privacy back. So advocates hope the Illinois law will lead to better regulations across the country.

How the new law works

The Illinois law requires parents to put aside 50% of profits toward their child, based on the percentage of time they are featured in a video. In other words, if a child appears 60% of the time, they would receive 30% of the earnings.

These funds are meant to be placed in a blocked trust fund, so that children can access them once they turn 18.

The law is not intended to target every video featuring children; these regulations only apply when a child appears on-screen for more than 30% of vlogs within a year-long period.

Privacy and safety concerns remain

Content creator Caroline Easom said that the law is a good first step. But beyond compensation, she wants to see more protections for kids.

She said that family vlogging can dramatically impact the relationships between children and their parents.

“It sets up this dynamic: Your parents are your employer, and your workplace is your home, and your work is performing the details and private moments of your life for an audience,” Easom said. “People have this misconception that this is just their normal life. But I think of family vlog content like reality TV – it takes so much effort.”

There’s also the issue of safety. As a content creator, Easom has faced sexual harassment from viewers of her videos – and she wants to protect children from that abuse.

Other countries have instituted stronger regulations. For example, people in France cannot monetize any video that features minors under 16 years of age. In the European Union, residents can request search engines and organizations to remove their personal data under certain circumstances.

A draft of the Illinois law had an element similar to this “right to be forgotten.” Legislators removed this clause because it could violate the First Amendment, said Nallamothu. But she said advocates are still working toward more privacy protections.

“I think it's more important than the fiscal aspect,” she said. “Because even if you can bring the money back from (someone’s) childhood, you can't replace the damage that it causes to have all these super vulnerable moments of you just up on the internet for everyone to see.”

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