Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Find a Lawyer

More Options

Child Influencers Will Soon be Able to Sue Parents for Social Media Earnings in Illinois

By Natasha Bakirci, LLB, LLM | Last updated on

As Bob Dylan sang, the times they are a-changin'. That timeless classic continues to apply today, most notably with social media and its influence on the daily lives of netizens all around the world. An August 2022 survey found that the most popular news source among millennials in the U.S. is social media, with 45 percent of respondents reporting daily news consumption on social networks.

Against that background has been the rise of the so-called social media "influencer," a new phenomenon — often quite lucrative — recently defined as “an individual who has gained popularity and trust among a growing audience of online followers by becoming an early adopter, innovator, or niche expert in a specific area of interest." Many of these influencers are known to feature their children in their prolific video blogs (vlogs) and online endorsements.

Kid influencer accounts, which can at times earn $20,000 or more for sponsored posts, are typically run by parents and not often set up in the child's name due to age restrictions on social media platforms.

Social Media - Not Mere Child's Play

Illinois has become the first state in the U.S. to ensure that child social media influencers are compensated for their work. Illinois Governor JB Pritzker recently signed into law a bill amending Illinois' Child Labor Law that will allow teenagers over the age of 18 to take legal action against their parents if they were featured in monetized social media videos and not properly compensated. This is similar to the rights of child actors. In fact, the new law is modeled on the 1936 Jackie Coogan's Law. Coogan was a Hollywood silent actor discovered by Charlie Chaplin whose parents swindled him out of his earnings. That California law required parents to set aside a portion of 15% of child earnings in a blocked trust account that the child actor could access after the age of 18.

The New Law Explained

Starting July 1, 2024, kids on social media will be covered by Illinois' Child Labor Law. This requires that children aged 16 and under be compensated if, within a 30-day period, they are in at least 30% of a video or online content for which the adult, whether a parent or caregiver, is being paid. To qualify, the content must be created in Illinois. The person making the videos in which the child appears is responsible for setting aside gross earnings in a trust account for the child to receive at age 18. Otherwise, the child can sue.

Not Kidding Around

The idea for this bill came from none other than a child herself. Shreya Nallamothu, who was 15 at the time, decided to write to her state senator, Democrat Dave Koehler, after coming across endless online content featuring children during the pandemic.

“I realized that there's a lot of exploitation that can happen within the world of "kidfluencing," Nallamothu told the Associated Press, referring to the monetization of social media content featuring children. “And I realized that there was absolutely zero legislation in place to protect them."

The law is not meant for parents who share photos of their kids on social media for family and friends, or even those who post a viral video. “This is for families who make their income off of child vlogging and family vlogging," Nallamothu said.

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.

The Future of Kidfluencers

Landon Jacquinot, who is tracking child labor legislation for the National Conference of State Legislatures thinks that other states might soon follow suit, especially those that have a high volume of family vloggers and social media influencers, such as California and New York.

Chris McCarty, another teen and the founder of Quit Clicking Kids (a self-professed advocacy and education site to combat the monetization of children on social media) told ABC News that he hopes "this momentum continues in other states and eventually nationwide."

Children "deserve to be shielded from parents who would attempt to take advantage of their child's talents and use them for their own financial gain," said Alex Gough, a spokesperson for Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, after the governor signed the legislation.

It is abundantly clear that, as careers in social media become increasingly common forms of income, the law must catch up with technology to protect minors from being exploited.

Privacy Concerns

As well as the monetary side of things, unlike child actors who play a role, children appearing on social media often have very intimate details of their lives shared with all and sundry — sometimes covering very sensitive matters such as bullying, the challenges of puberty, or mental health. Article 16 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child confirms that every child has the right to privacy. The law must protect children's privacy, family, home, communications, and reputation (or good name) from any attack.

The next step in this emerging field of regulation should be ensuring that the child's informed consent is given before private intimate details of their lives are shared for entertainment and financial purposes. The extent to which a child can grasp the future consequences of their participation must be carefully considered.

Many of us who spent the days of our childhood and adolescence well before the advent and fast dominance of social media feel relief that our embarrassing moments are limited to dinner table anecdotes and dusty photo albums. We could have done with a trust fund though . . .

Was this helpful?

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:
Copied to clipboard