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Glascock: Protecting children from their opportunistic social influencer parents

Photo of Alexis Glascock discussing social influencer parents
Alexis Glascock, above, chairs Fennemore’s government relations and regulatory practice group and oversees government relations in Arizona. (Photo: Fennemore/DigitalFreePress)
By Alexis Glascock | Point of View

new law in Illinois will require parent social media influencers to set aside money for their children, under 16, who appear in the parents’ vlogs. Sounds like a good intentioned law, right? Well, it’s a bit complex.

The idea for the law began with a 15-year-old girl during Covid quarantine scrolling through TikTok and noticing many videos of children promoting products. Some of these children were even toddlers. The issue of children being used by their parents to sell products was then taken up by the Illinois legislature. 

The chief concern for Illinois seems to be children being told what to do without a voice and not being compensated for their work. This loss of income can range from hundreds to potentially thousands of dollars. According to the Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report 2023, the influencer marketing industry is set to grow to approximately $21.1 billion this year. 

Illinois jumped in because the state believes it is important to establish rights for child influencers. 

When it takes effect in July 2024, the law will entitle child influencers to a percentage of earnings based on how often they appear on video blogs or online content that generate at least 10 cents per view. Parents will be required to report to the Illinois Department of Labor about how much time their child is in their videos and must set aside gross earnings for the child in a trust account.  If the money is not accessible for the child to use by the time they are 18, they have the right to sue their parents. But can this really work? There are many questions about practical accountability and whether this is a political victory with no real teeth. 

After speaking with Arizona legislators on both sides of the aisle, it is clear to me that despite its good intentions, significant changes would be necessary for a law like this to pass in Arizona. For example, Illinois is focused on compensation while overlooking the mental health issues involved here. Think about it.

Protecting children from their opportunistic social influencer parents

As kids get older, some engage in embarrassing or even illegal behavior that their parents might view as “cute.” If this conduct is shown online, without the child’s informed consent, they will likely have to carry that scarlet letter around in their adulthood for friends, family, employers and significant others to see. Is that worth being compensated in the manner Illinois has set out? 

One option is to allow children to bring an action after the age of 18 requiring the parent to remove the content from all platforms.

The intention of the Illinois law is strong and as social media becomes ubiquitous, opportunistic parents will continue to try and monetize their adorable children. However, for a law like this to succeed, well defined, practical accountability measures need to be instituted beyond a directive to keep track and establish a trust fund based on a complicated calculation of how much time a child appeared in cumulative social posts over a 30-day period.

This amounts to little more than an honor system doing nothing to seriously protect children. If Arizona legislators decide to introduce legislation to protect our children against opportunistic parents, they need to think about a measure like this holistically, including mental health.  It will be interesting to see if this is an issue the Arizona Legislature takes up in the 2024 Session.

Editor’s Note: Alexis Glascock chairs Fennemore’s government relations and regulatory practice group and oversees government relations in Arizona.

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