Child labor makes people squeamish. Yet tune into a movie or your favorite TV shows and there’s a fair chance that a child actor will grace the screen. Increasingly, you’ll find kid influencers on TikTok and other social media apps as well.
At the end of the day, child actors are working professionals and part and parcel of the entertainment industry. How they get paid can be a bit of a legal and moral quagmire, but at least in Illinois, the picture is more clear.
Some child influencers have racked up millions of views and followers. The top earners are likely pulling in millions of dollars each year. Yet right now, parents are the ones cashing those checks, and by and large, they can do what they please with the money. As a result, some kids are generating millions — but might be keeping none of it. Now, Illinois state lawmakers have amended the state’s Child Labor Law to ensure that social media personalities under the age of 16 receive a portion of the money generated by their content.
Illinois’s law is based on the so-called Coogan Law in California, which requires that at least 50 percent of a child actor’s earnings be set aside in a trust or similar instrument until the minor turns 18, when they can take control of the funds. Illinois’s law also requires that at least half of earnings be set aside, and if parents fail to do so, they could face a lawsuit. The Illinois law is the first of its kind. While California may have led the charge with child actors, it has yet to pass any laws to protect child influencers.
The movement to get such a law in place was championed by 16-year-old high school student Shreya Nallamothu, who discovered during a research project that many child influencers were being exploited by their parents. Nallamothu began making presentations to Illinois state lawmakers, paving the way for the new state law.