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Illinois just became the first state in the nation guaranteeing the right of child social media influencers to get paid. The concept of the new state law is simple: parents that are making a lot of money from using images or videos of their kids on social media need to give a percentage of those earnings back to their kids. Quite simply, the law is designed to protect kids from their parents, who might otherwise be willing to exploit them for financial gain.
Details of the new law
We live in the era of social media, in which we live our lives as reality shows online. And the bottom line here is that videos with kids do really well. If parents have a YouTube channel that has been monetized, for example, they can post videos of their kids in all sorts of compromising situations, and all for a profit. People apparently love to click on videos of misbehaving kids or kids having a difficult go of adolescence.
That’s where the “exploitation” angle comes in. Parents are often sharing very personal and very private moments with their kids, potentially unaware of how making these moments public might impact the kid later in life. So the law specifically says that parents must calculate a percentage of their earnings from social media, and put that money into a trust account for when the child hits age 18. If parents fail to comply, then kids can literally sue their own parents.
The law, of course, does not apply to every parent who has ever been tempted to post a cute photo of his or her kid on social media. The law is specifically targeted at families who make the majority of their income off video blogging (“vlogging”). And there are certain minimum thresholds that must be hit in order for the calculation of earnings clause to kick in. Long story short, but if you post an occasional video of your kid on Facebook, you’re probably entirely safe from any legal repercussions. In order for the law to go into effect, the child must be featured in at least 30% of your overall social media content over a 30-day period.
We’re all Kardashians now?
At some level, of course, the law makes a certain amount of sense. If families are getting obscenely rich off the images and likenesses of their kids, they probably should kick back some of those earnings to their kids. The law is based on, to some degree, the laws designed to protect child entertainers who appear in the movies or on TV.
But what does it say about our society that parents are swindling their kids over social media earnings, or that we’ve reached a point where parents are willing to exploit and shame their kids online, just to make a quick buck? Are we all Kardashians now, willing to post the very most intimate lives of our family, just to keep the social media franchise alive?
It reminds me of the famous Andy Warhol quote, “In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.” It looks like that’s more true today than ever. If we’re not becoming famous, then at least our kids are becoming famous, and we can thank social media for that.