(NewsNation) — Illinois lawmakers passed the Child Labor Online Content Bill, which amends current child labor laws to ensure children who are featured in online vlogs and videos receive a cut of the income their family makes once they are older.
During the pandemic lockdown, 13-year-old Shreya Nallamothu was scrolling through social media when she noticed a pattern: Children even younger than her were the stars — dancing, cracking one-liners and being generally adorable.
But as she watched more and more posts of kids pushing products or their mishaps going viral, she started to wonder: Who is looking out for them?
“Obviously, these children are too young to be running their Instagram accounts and whatnot, which introduced me to the idea of child influencing,” Nallamothu told NewsNation.
Illinois lawmakers aim to change that by making their state what they say will be the first in the country to create protections for child social media influencers. Nallamothu, now 15, raised her concerns to Illinois state Sen. David Koehler of Peoria, who then set the legislation in motion.
“The legislation that I propose specifically tackles the money portion of it, which ensures that these young children have money set aside for them in a trust account that’s guaranteed to be there when they turn 18,” Nallamothu explained.
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.
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.