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Imagine that you’re the child of an influencer. Your parents pull in serious money in the multi-billion dollar industry of family influencing and it’s your childhood and adolescence documented in monetized content that’s responsible for their paycheck. You participate in lucrative brand deals, appear in content that gains profits through views, and help with your family’s platform – but when you reach the age of 18, there isn’t a dollar set aside for you.
In 49 states, this scenario is legal. There is only one state in the entire country – Illinois – where the earnings of child influencers are protected legally, but that may soon change. In what seems like indication of a tide change over the last month, at least six other states – Maryland, California, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, and Arizona – have introduced legislation that would mirror Illinois’s groundbreaking legislation that entitles child influencers under the age of 16 to “at least 30% of the [adult vlogger’s] compensated video content produced within a 30-day period [which] included the likeness, name, or photograph of the minor,” if the content meets a certain monetization threshold.
While the children of influencers have been featured in their parents’ content for years, some are starting to grow up and speak out, underscoring the need for legislative protections. Actor and writer Caroline Easom, 29, illustrates that need in a series of skits she writes and acts in about the fictionalized “Sandwich family,” in which she satirizes the experience of family vlogs and the children involved in them. (She herself was not a child vlogger.) “Mom, can I ask you something really quick?” asks Caroline in a video in which she is dressed as Little Sandwich, the youngest child of the Sandwich family. “Sure,” drawls Caroline dressed as the matriarch of the Sandwiches. “But set up the camera first.” “I really don’t want to make more videos,” Little Sandwich says. “I really wish it was that simple…” the mother replies. “You’ve got projects scheduled through 2026, I’m afraid.”
Easom’s 23 videos from the perspective of the Sandwich family have garnered over 165 million views on TikTok. In a conversation with Teen Vogue, Easom said the inspiration for the series came from how unsettling she finds the family vlogging industry to be. “It’s a dark world. And I think the Sandwich family series is popular because people have been looking for an outlet to talk about this,” Easom says. “The camera changes everything. You cannot have natural family interactions with a camera there. I’m trying to get the audience to remember the camera.”
Though Easom is hopeful about the possibility of further legislation mandating guaranteed income for influencer kids, she worries people will think the issue ends there when she believes it extends to privacy. “If the laws don’t do anything about the privacy issue, they’re not doing enough,” she says. “For me, one of the biggest issues that comes with family vlogging is the oversharing of information about a child. My frustration is these parents are telling their children’s stories as if they are your own. Your daughter’s first period is not your story to tell, your kid getting bullied at school is not your story to tell.”
Here are the details of what states are considering legislation to protect the children of influencers, and how they might help.
Democratic Representative Doug Mann of Missouri introduced House Bill 1998 in January 2024. If passed, the legislation would not only protect the earnings of child influencers but also introduce privacy protections such as the right to be deleted. “[The legislation] is bringing old concepts into the new reality of our world,” Mann said, comparing child influencers of today to child actors of the past. “Essentially what this would do is, if parents are making content and putting it online, they would have to set a certain amount of money aside into a trust for that child to receive when they are 18 or emancipated.” Mann likened the legislation to California’s Coogan Law, the blockbuster legislation passed in 1939 which was the first to protect the profits of child actors.
The amount of money saved would depend on how much the child is featured in the content. Mann explains it this way: the children are entitled to equal or greater than half of the percentage of the content they’re in; if the child is in 50% of content that is profitable, they are entitled to at least 25% of the money generated from that content.
In addition to the monetary protections, the Missouri bill would address privacy concerns. “When they turn 18, they would have the chance to get the content deleted,” Mann says. “As we all know, the stuff that you post on the internet follows you for the rest of your life. I understand [as an adult] that I have the responsibility to curate… these children don’t have that option when their parents are posting content.”
If the bill passed and a child influencer reached the age of 18 and were not given access to the required monetary funds, they would then have “a private right of action for violation,” Mann says, equating to the ability to sue their parents.
On January 10, Democratic Representatives Michele Grim and Lauren McNally introduced what they call the Kidfluencer Protection Act in Ohio. If passed, the legislation would require that a percentage from content child influencers are featured in that meets a certain monetary threshold would be set aside for them in a trust. The percentage of the earnings depends on several factors, including “the percentage of time the likeness, name, or photograph of the person visually appears in, or is the subject of an oral narrative included in, a video in comparison to the total length of the video.”
Rep. Grim tells Teen Vogue the legislation also includes a portion that would enable the child to request deletion of content once they turn 18. “At 18, say a former child influencer was like, ‘hey I was famous for this really embarrassing thing. I don’t want it on the internet anymore’,” Grim says. “They can ask to get it taken off from all the social media platforms and [the platforms] have to take all reasonable steps to make sure that happens.”
On January 29, the California Senate passed Senate Bill 764, putting the state one step closer to passing protections for influencer children. Democratic Senator Steve Padilla , who introduced the legislation, told Teen Vogue it would require creators who feature minor children in at least 30% of their content to set aside a proportionate percentage of the earnings from that content. “It’s long past time that we put some framework in place to look out for [child influencer’s] finances and prevent them from being exploited,” Padilla previously told Teen Vogue. “California, which is the largest state in the country by population, should be leading on this… and create a framework that builds on the stuff that was done in the early 20th century with regards to child actors.”
In Georgia, House Bill 968 was introduced in January. If passed, the law would require that “at least 15 percent of the gross earnings” of child influencers be held in a trust until the child is 18. A child is considered to be covered under this law if, within the previous 12 months, they are featured in a certain percentage of content that earns a certain amount of money.
In Arizona, House Bill 2565 was introduced in January. If passed, the legislation would require compensation for minor children under similar circumstances as bills in other states.
Democratic Delegate Jazz Lewis introduced House Bill 0645 in Maryland and exclusively shared the details with Teen Vogue in December ahead of the bill’s introduction in January. If passed, the legislation would follow in the footsteps of the historic Illinois legislation by protecting the monetary gains of child influencers. Lewis’s proposal would also address privacy protections and “the right to be forgotten.” Under the proposed Maryland legislation, children would receive a percentage of profits from certain monetized content. The compensation would then be held in a trust account to be made accessible upon the child’s 18th birthday.
“I just see it as a necessary good to make sure that we are protecting our children and making sure they are compensated for their work, the same way child actors [are] compensated,” Lewis previously told Teen Vogue.
The conversation around child influencers and their rights to both monetary gains and privacy have become more intense in recent months, partially fueled by Teen Vogue’s story Influencer Parents and The Children Who Had Their Childhood Made Into Content, which Delegate Jazz Lewis of Maryland cited as one of the catalysts for introducing legislation in his state.
Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue