How Lawmakers Are Cracking Down On Child Influencers On Social Media

Long subject to no regulation, lawmakers are finally looking into child labor laws and how they pertain to child influencers on social media.

By Jennifer Hollohan | Published

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We’ve all seen those viral photos and videos on social media featuring adorable kiddos. Frequently the children in them are older, teens or tweens, but this is not exclusively the case. You will also see a significant amount of social media content with younger kids front and center. These children play a growing role in social media, and many have become child influencers. The implications of this concern many, as child labor laws do not specifically cover areas such as social media content. 

Without protection under child labor laws, the little social media stars are vulnerable to exploitation and becoming overworked. When parents or caregivers are the driving force behind child influencers, particularly younger ones, there is the additional concern of financial motivation. And it is a valid one. The influencer business is booming, allowing some individuals to make millions in profit.

Some experts have found that in many cases, parents see an opportunity to capitalize on their child (or children) to achieve financial dreams. According to a recent report published by the UK Parliament, “The Committee heard concerns during the inquiry that some children in the influencer economy are being used by parents and family members seeking to capitalize on the lucrative market.” In fact, in most of the world currently, there are no safeguards to ensure that child influencers receive any of the money they make from their content.

France is the only country that is taking steps to protect the financial earnings of child influencers. They recently passed a law requiring the child to obtain a license. The law also requires a separate bank account to house earnings until they turn 16. This account is to remain locked, so parents and other caregivers cannot access it.

Even with some discussions around the financial concerns of child influencers, it does not address some of the other inherent risks. Some of these include considerations around children’s privacy. Or whether or not they consent to their photos and videos getting distributed online. Unlike the child entertainment industry, there are no similar safeguards for the social media landscape.

Consent, in particular, is problematic for the youngest influencers. Many are born into influencer families and do not know they have a choice. Some are as young as infants, none of whom have a say about whether or not they want to be a child influencer.

And an even greater concern is the issue of privacy. Child influencers put their entire lives on display for global consumption. This openness leaves them vulnerable to exploitation by child predators and trafficking rings. A UK-based non-profit, National Society for Protection of Cruelty to Children, dedicated to protecting kids believes that more legislation will prevent abuse and privacy invasion in the future.

However, with debate over who the digital police are is currently raging. Brands, platforms, parents, and lawmakers are all responsible for not taking ownership of protecting child influencers. So, this begs the question of whether new child labor laws will have any impact at all.