A new law in Illinois requires social media influencers who rake in tens of thousands of dollars for exploiting their children on the internet to pay those kids for their appearances in vlogs.
Statutes demanding parents set aside pay for child entertainers already exist in several states. Illinois, however, is the first state to extend the cash-flow conditions to trendsetters and brand ambassadors on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and other Big Tech platforms.
The law, designed by Democrats, doesn’t limit what kind of content children can be featured in. Instead, it grants kids under 16 years old who regularly appear in monetized videos and photos the right to sue if their parents don’t hand over a trust with those earnings when they turn 18.
“Children deserve to be shielded from parents who would attempt to take advantage of their child’s talents and use them for their own financial gain,” Alex Gough, a spokesman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who has repeatedly instituted policies that expose minors to the harms of radical gender ideology and irreversible transgender experiments, said in a statement.
Illinois’ new law might look like a good start to rein in greedy adults, but it ultimately won’t stop parents from sacrificing their children’s privacy for profit.
Until users stop clicking on videos that make extremely private or emotional moments into suggestive dances or spectacles, the seemingly fun and family-friendly act of staging or taping every breathing moment of a minor’s life will inevitably become a source of sorrow that’s difficult for that child to remedy.
Parents must also realize that exposing their child’s face, voice, and innocence to a world that is ready to rip off, sexualize the imagery, or defraud them using artificial intelligence will leave long-lasting scars and lead to broken relationships.
Don’t take it from me. Take it from the child actors who divorced from the only industry they’ve ever known and distanced their parents due to the financial, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse that came with their onscreen careers.
The ‘Toddler to Trainwreck Pipeline’
The world is rife with stories of countless child actors, singers, and dancers who, after being thrown into the entertainment industry at a young age, lost their minds, bodies, and souls to Hollywood.
Producers and parents appear to make these minors into mature and talented adult stars. In reality, most young entertainers are eventually plagued with mug shots, addiction, and scandal. They may own mansions and Maseratis, but many are strung out, sexually traumatized, suicidal, and at a much greater risk of mental health problems than most of the population. The kid actors many have come to love had their innocence completely squandered before they turned 18. Yet for the last century, few have batted an eye.
More and more child stars are speaking up about their experience with what “Cheaper By The Dozen” star Alyson Stoner dubbed the “toddler to trainwreck pipeline” in her new podcast, “Dear Hollywood.”
“This will not be a podcast where I soak in victimhood on behalf of all child stars, nor will I claim our path is the toughest, nor will I dismiss personal responsibility, nor will I negate the positives and privileges that accompany the spotlight,” Stoner, who acted professionally for 23 years of her 30-year life, began.
Instead, Stoner promised to share the stories of the hundreds of thousands of children, including herself, who fell prey to the profit-over-privacy ecosystem cranking out content everywhere.
“If we’re committed to telling the full truth, then we have to face the light and shadows,” Stoner said in her first episode.
She’s not alone in this quest. Jennette McCurdy documented her tragic childhood as a child star in her award-winning 2022 memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died. Within 24 hours of hitting the shelves, the first-person story of the Nickelodeon actor’s complex relationship with casting calls, her hit show “iCarly,” and, most importantly, the Hollywood-hungry mother who forced her into the world of fame sold out.
Regret doesn’t just plague recovering kid performers, but also the parents who sent their children into the industry in the first place. The problem is, retrospective guilt doesn’t repair the havoc that exploitation has already wreaked on little lives.
“Dance Moms” icon Maddie Ziegler went viral earlier this summer for admitting on a celebrity podcast that her mom expressed remorse for putting her in a panic-inducing environment laden with verbal abuse at the age of 7. Ziegler accepted her mother’s apology but acknowledged that her mother’s decision to keep her in the “toxic” Abby Lee Dance Company environment led to trauma responses like repressing memories.
“I’ve blocked out so much of my childhood that I actually don’t know what my life was like, even just before working,” Ziegler said. “It’s weird to find out things that I did when I was younger on TikTok. I’ll see people posting things of me, and I’m like, ‘I don’t even remember doing that.’”
15 Seconds of Fame
It used to be that hundreds of children could try out for a part in a TV show or movie but only one would get it. These underage performers and their moms and dads were likely upset that they failed to secure the final script, but at least they were spared from the world of hurt that lies on many sets.
Thanks to rapidly advancing technology, however, anyone with a smartphone camera and an Instagram account can now sell her child’s face, voice, and childhood for clicks. Quite literally anyone who wants her 15 seconds of fame can get it and money for the small price of showcasing her children on the internet
Children deserve privacy, not commodification. The adult influencers of today would do well to learn this — especially considering what onscreen exploitation did to kid actors in the past.
Most of America’s entertainment elites have repeatedly failed to meet the moral moment and protect children. That is intentional, but it doesn’t have to be normal — especially when scaled down to social media content where parents are the producers.