Child influencers need stronger legal protection

Child labour laws need to be strengthened to adapt to the changing media landscape.

When 16-year-old former child sensation Lil Tay’s death was broadcasted on Instagram, the internet suddenly remembered everything about her past. Thankfully, within 24 hours the reports of Tay’s death were proven to be false. The death announcement was allegedly posted to Tay’s Instagram by a hacker.

Tay is just one of many young people who grew up in the internet limelight. While she hasn’t been active online in years, the impact of the fame she garnered at 11 still affects her life.  

Even in her silence, the media still speculates on the details of her private life and publicizes her family’s conflicts. It appears Tay’s presence on social media has caused discord in her family, as her parents battle for her custody and disagree on how to manage her career.

Situations like this reinforce the need for modernized child labour laws to protect minors like Lil Tay from being exploited by family and malicious management.

Instagram is full of videos posted by parents featuring their children. Though some perform for the camera, many children’s images are shared while they’re just living their lives.

Though these videos seem innocent at first, once they turn a profit, the children involved are no longer living their lives undisturbed. They become actors and workers in their parents’ productions.

Children are an incredibly vulnerable class of people. Being reliant on their caretakers, children are beholden to their parents’ or guardians’ whims. Once a child can be a source of income, parents are in powerful enough positions to pressure them to continue to make money.

As family vlogs and child influencers rise in popularity, some folks formerly featured online as children have spoken out about the pain and humiliation they felt being raised on the internet.

Family vlogging and childhood internet stardom are still recent phenomena. We have yet to see the full effect of this on children, but it will likely be magnified for today’s child influencers, as today’s viewers spend even more time online.

To mitigate some of this harm, a law entitling child internet stars to a percentage of the earnings they make while being featured online was passed in Illinois. This is the first law seeking to protect the financial interests of child influencers.

The Illinois law is a start, but there needs to be a stronger push toward child labour laws that regulate the production and kind of content children can make or participate in online.

Like child actors in mainstream media, there should be limits on how long these children film for online content. Child influencers should have advocates dedicated to ensuring they’re safe and able to lead private lives.

Until strong legal protections are in place, child influencers aren’t safe from exploitation and trauma.

Uwineza is a fifth-year English student and The Journal’s Senior Lifestyle Editor.


family vlogs, influencers, labour law, Social media

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