Parenting influencers speak out as new law designed to protect kids featured on social media goes into effect

Illinois' new law requires compensation for kids under 16 on social media.

July 3, 2024, 4:03 AM

A first-of-its-kind law that requires influencers who feature their children to pay them for their work is now in effect in Illinois.

The bill, which went into effect on July 1, amends the state's Child Labor Law to include children who are featured on their parents' or caregivers' social media.

More specifically, it requires that children age 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. 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.

Illinois is the first state in the country to enact such a law, different versions of which other states, including Washington, Maryland, and California, are considering as the influencing industry, specifically for parents, continues to grow.

The types of "sharenting" content that have emerged as a lucrative business online over the past decade include everything from "family vlogs" that document a family's day-to-day life to branded campaigns that feature kids advertising a particular brand of clothing, for example.

In today's world, an influencer with more than 1 million followers may earn upwards of $20,000 for one sponsored post, while a person with under 100,000 followers on a social media platform may still earn as much as $4,000 for one sponsored post, according to Johanna Grange, a mom of two and the co-founder of Oak Street Social, a Chicago-based social media marketing firm.

"Social media has become the premium for getting your brand out to a large audience," Grange told "Good Morning America," adding that the economics of the industry have made it so that parents can turn social media, often featuring their kids, into a career. "Once blogging and Instagram and YouTube took off, and now we have TikTok and so many more, people found it as a viable way to make either a side hustle or a full-time compensation."

'It felt like I had like struck gold'

Brooke Raybould, a mom of four sons ranging in age from 2 to 9, said she felt like she had "struck gold" when she began to make money off social media posts featuring her life as a mom of four boys.

Raybould, who lives in Northern Virginia, started sharing her life on Instagram after becoming pregnant with her first son while in school for her MBA. After graduating, Raybould chose to be a stay-at-home mom and said she saw her social media content as a way to continue to be entrepreneurial while having career flexibility as a mom.

"It kept me doing something in addition to motherhood that was fun for me and challenging and fueling that entrepreneurial spirit," Raybould told "GMA," adding that after just over two years of building her following, she was earning over six figures annually.

"It felt like I had like struck gold in some ways ... because I can be home with my kids, share my natural life, do some work for a pretty condensed period throughout the day and make a decent living," Raybould said. "It was basically like a dream for me."

Raybould said she and her husband, who works full-time outside of the home, have created a financial compensation structure for their sons' involvement in her social media content, but declined to share specific details. While there is no law regulating family influencers in her home state of Virginia currently, Raybould said she can understand why there are growing calls for more regulation as the industry grows and children are involved.

"I understand where it could go south," she said. "I'm not to say that it's not necessary that people aren't looking at this and making sure, because you have to be an ethical person no matter what you do ... And we need certain bodies to make sure that people are making the ethical decision."

Brooke Raybould shares her life as a mom to four boys on her Instagram account, which has more than 700,000 followers.
@brookeraybould/Instagram

In Illinois, the law does not include an enforcement mechanism by the state, but instead relies on the parent or caregiver to set aside the earnings for their child and gives the child an avenue for legal action, if necessary, upon becoming an adult. The office of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who signed the legislation into law, has said previously that the law, "creates a private right of action for child influencers against their parents that featured them in videos and did not properly compensate them."

Raybould, who now has over 700,000 followers on Instagram, said she views her work as similar to running a family business, where everyone pitches in to help. At the same time, she said that while they may be featured often on her social media, her sons' actual involvement in her work is a small portion of their day.

"I'd say it's very rare where they're helping me with more than 15 minutes of things," Raybould said, adding that she tries to be "overly communicative" in explaining her work to her sons. "I tell them, "Mommy does this, we do this, I share it with other moms."

She continued, "I periodically ask them if they feel comfortable, if it's okay and they're very positive."

Chris Chin, a father of two, said he views the social media content he produces with his eldest child, 8-year-old Kaven, as a bonding opportunity with his son more so than a financial one, though he said it is lucrative.

Chin, of Edmonton, Canada, manages his son's YouTube channel, Kaven's Adventures, in addition to being a full-time stay-at-home parent while his wife works outside the home.

Kaven's YouTube channel, which has over 730,000 subscribers, features the 8-year-old playing video games, sometimes alongside his dad.

Chris Chin and his son, Kaven, 8, are seen in a video on Kaven Adventures on YouTube.
@KavenAdventures/YouTube

"In my mind, I treat YouTube just like any other activity that a kid does," Chin told "GMA," explaining that he typically films Kaven playing video games for 30 minutes at a time, which is the same amount of time as other recreational activities Kaven does weekly, like swimming and Taekwondo lessons.

"It's no different than, say, a parent filming their kid playing hockey or soccer and posting it, right? It's just now we're playing video games instead," he said, adding, "And that's like our bonding moment too."

Chin, who works with a management agency to help monetize his son's social media presence, said he and his wife put a percentage of Kaven's earnings into a trust fund and investments for him to access later on, and make a percentage available now for their family to spend on activities they do together, like vacations.

Chin said he sees monetizing Kaven's YouTube channel in the same vein as parents who support their children in competitive sports leagues.

Chris Chin and his son, Kaven, 8, are seen in a video on Kaven Adventures on YouTube.
@KavenAdventures/YouTube

"Realistically, if you have your kid in sports and you're doing something like competitive dance or competitive hockey, you may say you're not in it for the money, but you're putting your kid into something competitive so that in the future, you're hoping they can earn money off of it," he said. "If you put [social media] in that perspective of it's just a regular activity, then I think most parents start to understand."

Should privacy or financial compensation be the focus of legislation?

While the new law in Illinois focuses on financial rights, Shreya Nallamothu, the 16-year-old high school student credited with bringing the idea to legislators, spoke out originally after seeing young kids' privacy "exploited" on their parent's social media accounts.

"The more I fell down that rabbit hole, I kept seeing cases of exploitation," Shreya, of Normal, Illinois, told "GMA" last year. "Especially for very young children who maybe don't understand what talking to a camera means and they're not able to conceptualize what a million people looks like, they don't understand what they're putting out into the internet for profit and that it's not going to be able to go away and that their parents are making money off of it."

Now, as more and more states have begun to consider financial protections for the children of influencers, some experts have questioned whether the legislation should focus less on children's financial rights and more on their right to privacy.

Carolyn Jarrett, a mom of four and the co-founder, along with Grange, of Oak Street Social in Illinois, said she believes the legislation in her home state is a way to get the conversation started on whether it's right to share kids' private lives online.

"Going after people's pocketbooks is a great way to get people to consider their actions," Jarrett said. "So this is such a good way to get the conversation going about what a child's rights should be in relation to what is posted about them on social. Maybe that's what someone smarter than us figured out from the go, that, hey, let's talk about money, and the rest of the conversation will follow."

PHOTO: A stock photo shows a mother setting up a ring light and a mobile phone for live streaming with her son.
STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

Jessica Maddox, a University of Alabama professor of digital media who studies social media platforms and culture, including influencers, previously told "GMA" that she hopes future legislation passed by Illinois or other states includes additional provisions, like allowing a person at age 18 to petition to have content of themselves removed from social media platforms.

Amanda Klecker, senior vice president of marketing and franchise at Pocket.watch, a digital-media company that manages some of the industry's biggest kid creators, including Ryan's World, said the company has made a conscious decision to not represent creators who show the behind-the-scenes of their kids' lives.

"We don't work with influencers that are just showing you very autobiographical content," said Klecker, whose company also manages Chin's son, Kaven. "All of the creators that we work with really represent different points of interest, whether it be gaming, art, farming, mindfulness or pretend play. There are other things involved that are not giving up details about these kids' personal lives, other than that they're interested in the type of content that they're making."

Klecker said, "It's because we agree that you have to protect the child in not putting that type of information out there."

Both Chin and Raybould told "GMA" that given that their children have an online presence, they are diligent in being careful about what is shared. Both also said they have so far not experienced a privacy threat issue.

For Raybould, who shares more of her day-to-day life online, being diligent includes not posting in real-time and having a hard rule about not sharing her children's hard moments, like a meltdown.

"I feel like if my kids ever decided they didn't want to be part of it ... and even if I decided to stop one day, I feel like I could pretty quickly just stop," she said, adding, "That gives me hope for my kids too, that it's not like they're a celebrity's child. They a content creator's child, and when they grow up, they'll have their own thing."