Sen. Koehler

SPRINGFIELD – A decade ago, young superstardom was rare, left for the television stars and professional singers. However, with the rise of social media influencing, all someone needs to reach fame now is a cell phone.

While traditional child actors are protected by the Child Labor Law, there’s nothing on the books for young social media influencers. Under a bipartisan measure led by State Senators Dave Koehler and Linda Holmes, that would change. 

“This new digital era has allowed children to find ways to make money online from the content they make,” said Koehler (D-Peoria). “The problem is that many parents take this opportunity to pocket the money themselves, and encourage their children to make more content for their benefit. This is a child labor issue that didn’t exist ten years ago. We as their representatives need to tackle this issue head-on.”

Under Senate Bill 1782, minors under the age of 16 featured in vlogs or other online content would be covered under the Child Labor Law. The measure calls for the child – also known as a “kidfluencer”— to be accurately compensated.

The idea for the legislation came from Shreya Nallamothu, a 15-year-old high school student in Koehler’s district. Shreya brought her proposal to Koehler and Holmes with concerns that money made by child influencers is not protected and that too many young people will fall victim to a parent or guardian taking the assets for their own use.

“When scrolling on social media, I always saw young children and families, called family vlog channels, posting videos online. After finding that users could make money off of platforms such as YouTube and TikTok, I learned that, often, these kids are made to participate in videos without any guarantee of the income generated from the content,” said Shreya. “I wanted to work with Senator Koehler to protect the money that these kids have rightfully earned.”

According to CBS News, kidfluencers with one million followers can earn $10,000 or more per sponsored post. Young children are often featured in social media content without any guarantee of the income they have earned. Because of the age restrictions on online platforms, the content is not created in the child's name, but rather the parent or guardian who runs the account. While traditional child actors in Illinois have the Child Labor Law to safeguard their earnings, there is nothing in place for kidfluencers. If passed, Illinois would be the first in the nation to protect child influencers and ensure they are appropriately compensated under the Child Labor Law.

“As legislators, it is our job to be the voice for the voiceless – including the future generation of children,” said Holmes (D-Aurora). “In this digital age, parents should not be able to profit off the work or rise to fame because of their children. It’s no different than child television stars having protections.”

Senate Bill 1782 passed the Senate without opposition on Wednesday and now heads to the House for further consideration.