Former Disney star and Ohio House Democrats push for law to protect earnings of "kidfluencers"
There are laws in Ohio to protect the earnings of child actors who appear on stage or in television shows. Now, some Democratic state lawmakers want laws to establish similar rules for so-called “kidfluencers", children whose performances make money via social media websites.
Alyson Stoner, a Toledo area native, was a child actor for several Disney TV shows in the early 2000s. Stoner said much of the money they earned had been mismanaged and was unavailable to them when they became an adult. But they and other child actors are typically part of the actors union SAG-AFTRA. Stoner said that, along with laws on the books affecting child labor, protected part of their earnings.
But Stoner said children who currently earn money through performances on social media are not protected under that law.
“Currently there are few widespread resources providing guidance on responsible, ethical, age-appropriate, digital citizenship for children," Stoner said.
The bill sponsored by House Democrats would use a formula developed on digital analytics to require proceeds from social media sites and posts from “kidfluencers” be put in a protected trust. And it would allow those kids, as adults, to remove content that was posted when they were children.
One of the sponsors of the legislation, Rep. Michele Grim (D-Toledo) said “kidfluencers” need protection now.
“These protections are needed because of the negative mental health effects associated with fame at a young age. Many adults who were formerly exposed to fame, often by their parents, through traditional means or social media report struggling with mental health issues, financial struggles and addiction,” Grim said. “This form of labor is in desperate need of regulation to help curtail these types of outcomes.”
Stoner said they were unable to make financial security decisions as a seven-year-old. They said the government needs to protect kids who become social media stars.
“Taking steps to safeguard a portion of a child influencer’s earnings and their right to privacy is a crucial step in minimizing the harm that hundreds of thousands of children have already experienced across traditional and digital media, myself being one of them.”
"Profit and public attention can have an impact on someone's behavior,” said Rep. Lauren McNally (D-Youngstown) is a co-sponsor of the bill. “Anyone can get caught up in social media - the likes and the clicks. That's ok. But what we can't do is monetize children at the expense of their childhood.”
In August 2023, Illinois became the first and only state to pass similar legislation.