In the first move by state legislatures to regulate the family vlogging industry, Washington state has introduced new child rights legislation(Opens in a new tab) affording legal protections for children starring in online content.
Should it pass, the law — proposed through House Bill 1627(Opens in a new tab), titled “Protecting the interests of minor children featured on for-profit family vlogs” — would ensure that children featured in online content, such as family vlogs, would receive appropriate compensation for any profit-generating media. It requires parents to funnel a portion of content revenue into a separate fund for children to access when they are adults. The law also would enshrine a right to privacy for these children once they’ve reached legal adult status, allowing them to petition to have videos and other content deleted.
The law would apply to creators generating at least 10 cents per view on videos and featuring children in at least 30 percent of paid content, NBC(Opens in a new tab) reported.
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One of the minds behind the bill is Chris McCarty(Opens in a new tab), an 18-year-old freshman and political science major at the University of Washington who became interested in child protection after following the story of influencer Myka Stauffer(Opens in a new tab). Stauffer became embroiled in online controversy after she and her husband relinquished their newly-adopted child back to the state, all while profiting from the numerous vlogs they posted about it to YouTube. Shortly after, McCarty launched the advocacy campaign Quit Clicking Kids(Opens in a new tab) to push back against the monetization of children on social media.
Others have joined in the cry against this exploitation of children’s privacy online, from activists and academics to former vlogging child stars themselves. and it appears many parents are taking heed(Opens in a new tab) — several prominent TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram “mom-fluencers” have removed videos of their children, blurred their faces, or refused to post any identifying information or speak about their children at all after building up large fan bases obsessed with their young children.
Washington’s HB 1627, proposed by Washington State Rep. Kristine Reeves, is the second iteration of a bill introduced by state Rep. Emily Wicks, and is based on historic precedent established by the Coogan Law,(Opens in a new tab) which outlines protections for professional child actors. The hearing on the bill at hand has also introduced witness testimonies, including insight from current TikTok creator Cam Barrett (@SoftScorpio(Opens in a new tab)). Barrett first shared their experiences with family vlogging on TikTok(Opens in a new tab) in 2022. They have since joined a community of advocates decrying the continued form of content creation, which found new life on the video-based app. This week they testified about their parents’ exploitation of their personal information(Opens in a new tab) to the Washington House Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee.
“The problem that we are trying to solve here is making sure that we are centering our children’s rights in how they get to own their presence online,” Reeves explained at this week’s hearing.
But it’s still only a state-level solution to a global problem, and there’s worry from advocates that family vloggers would only feel encouraged to leave Washington state. Reeves told lawmakers that she hopes this bill will act as a framework for other states, and McCarty said they envision Washington becoming a “leader in tech policy” should the legislation pass.
While the bill still has a long journey ahead, as it moves through its first House committee hearings this week before consideration on the chamber floor, to advocates, it’s a hopeful sign that the clandestine family vlogging industry might finally receive an ounce of ethical oversight.