Social media is making millionaire celebrities out of everyday kids. But, what types of legal protection do these kids have since their “day on the set” happens right in their living room?
This grey area has many people shining the spotlight on the lack of protection for the growing number of child social media stars cashing in on platforms like YouTube and Instagram. While both platforms prohibit kids under the age of 13 from having their own accounts, these lucrative kid influencer accounts are being run by their parents.
Unlike Hollywood stars who get protection under the Coogan Law, there’s no law pertaining to children who earn money on social media. The Coogan Law requires 15% of a child’s earnings go into a blocked trust account. This assures at least a portion of the money these kids are making isn’t getting squandered by their parents or other adults overseeing their business affairs.
Just how much money are child social media stars making these days? Consider seven-year-old Ryan Kaji, who made $22 million dollars in 2018 alone simply unboxing toys on YouTube. The NY Times recently reported brands may pay upwards of $15,000 for just one Instagram post, while a single sponsored YouTube video could bring in $45,000.
Kids are paying close attention to Kaji and other social media stars as a recent Drawing the Future survey found “becoming a social media star” topping many of these children’s lists of career aspirations.
Is Anyone Looking Out for Child Social Media Stars?
SAG-AFTRA is a well-known organization that protects both child and adult talent and advocates on behalf of the most vulnerable groups, especially child performers.
A SAG-AFTRA spokesperson tells Parentology, “While there are certain distinctions between traditional entertainment and influencer content, these two worlds are increasingly cross-pollinating, and the gap is lessening as the digital industry matures.”
This is why some California lawmakers tried to update child labor laws in 2018 to include “social media advertising.” The “kidfluencer” bill called for kids working in social media to get a work permit and follow measures similar to those in the Coogan Law.
A version of the bill was passed and went into effect January of 2019, but exempts kids from needing work permits if their performance is unpaid and shorter than one hour. If work permits aren’t mandated, then parents have no legal obligation to open a Coogan account to protect their child’s earnings.
One possible protection for child social media stars could come in the form of a SAG-AFTRA collective bargaining agreement. Each agreement has language that protects minors, including the number of hours worked, on-set working conditions and schooling.
A SAG-AFTRA spokesperson says, “If a child creator were to work under one of these collective bargaining agreements (brand deals certainly qualify for coverage), these conditions would be enforced by the authority of the union.”
Many creators have turned to the organization for help in the digital space since the recent closure of the Internet Creators Guild, a grassroots organization aimed to support and protect digital talent.
SAG-AFTRA has been building relationships with creators, their parents, and companies on the best practices when it comes to things like fair compensation, protection against exploitation and number of hours worked each day.