Science and TechSocial Media


Are child influencers getting paid for their content?

Family vlogs, where parents show off their lives and kids, can rack up a lot of money, but none of those dollars are guaranteed to go to the children.
Posted at 9:01 AM, Apr 04, 2023

High school sophomore Shreya Nollamothu's social media curiosity led her from her phone to the Illinois State Capitol.

"As I would scroll, I would see these innocent looking videos of children doing TikTok dances or being featured in vlogs, and I started looking into it more because I was kind of curious," she said. "And when looking into it, to see what kind of protections that these kids had in Illinois, where I live, I found that there wasn't any legislation in place, specifically for child influencers."

If you're on social media, you've probably seen a family vlog or two. It's where parents show off their lives and the kids in them. Sometimes it's just the child that's the influencer, but parents run the account. A lot of times, these vlogs can rack up thousands, sometimes millions of dollars every year — but none of those dollars are guaranteed to go to the children.

"It didn't come to me because of my interest in looking at TikTok or being on the internet. This was brought to me by a 15-year-old high school student," said Illinois State Sen. Dave Koehler, whom Shreya contacted to propose creating protection for children featured in internet content. 

"We say that if you monetize your children by being on the internet ... and you make money out of that, then you need to set up some portion of that for the child," he said. 

SB 1782 guarantees a percentage of the income from vlog revenue to be put in a trust if a child appears in at least 30% of the channel's videos. The percentage of money is proportional: If they're in 40% of the videos, they get 40% of the revenue.

Illinois got inspiration for SB 1782 from a similar bill in Washington State.

Senator Richard Blumenthal speaks during hearing on children's online safety and mental health.

Senate subcommittee focuses on impact of social media on children

Lawmakers question representatives from some of the most popular apps, including TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube.


"The reason I care about it is because I'm seeing kids who are losing their privacy, who are being — in some cases — maybe coerced, maybe forced to perform on their channel," said Washington State college freshman Chris McCarty, who is the founder of Quit Clicking Kids, an organization meant to educate others about the lack of protections for kids on the internet. 

The group introduced a bill in Washington that didn't pass, but they're happy to see the issue get more attention across the country. 

"This is not a role that they're playing. This is like their real life, it's their mental health issues … it's really intimate personal stuff that's being shared online and it's being tied to their name and their face," said McCarty. 

"There's really no fines and there's no penalties in terms of what the state can enforce, but it sets up a track record so that if a child turning 18 looks back and says, 'Well, this wasn't done to protect me,' that they have a right of action," said Sen. Koehler. 

Illinois' bill passed the state senate but has a few more steps before it can become law. If passed, it would be the first of its kind in the country. Sen. Koehler says he's in awe of the young people behind this bill who brought it to his attention.

"It gives me great hope for the future because our young people are engaged, they have a sense of fairness and equity and justice about them," he said. 

Shreya hopes that her involvement as a high school student can inspire young people like herself to get into politics and not be afraid to make change. 

"Even though it seems like the world of government is really inaccessible, you definitely do have a place and voice in politics," she said.