Opinion: Child Influencers Have It Worse Than Child Stars Do


Joy Herrera, Staff Writer

The Gilded Age showed America the pitfalls of child labor, and since then strict restrictions have protected minors from working long hours or in inhumane conditions. However, many social media platforms have a workforce that relies on child labor. This user base is not regulated in any substantial way to protect the minors that achieve success. 

The largest content creator on TikTok is Charli D’Amelio, a 16-year-old girl who has been catapulted to fame with 98 million followers on the platform. D’Amelio has had multiple opportunities to work with large brands such as Morphe, whom she partnered with to release a makeup line. When filming with these brands, she is held to labor laws as the companies are contracting with her through official means. However, outside of her work with them such as posts on TikTok or Instagram, the rules are less clear. 

For decades we have grown up with child stars who have grown into troubled teens. Our generation of Disney Channel stars have all grown up and shared stories about the horrors they faced in the entertainment industry. This was despite laws which sought to protect them. 

The new frontiers of YouTube and TikTok don’t have these basic protections and the exploitation of minors on both platforms is very concerning. Without these protections it seems like we are setting up young stars for a troubled future. Some of the most popular channels on YouTube are family channels which boast loving and kid-friendly content with parents showcasing the lives of their children. However, many of these children are too young to consent to having their likeness and personality broadcasted to the whole world. 

Through traditional media children’s earnings are placed in accounts which are held for them until they turn 18. These trusts are to ensure that the parents don’t simply take all the earnings. With YouTube adsense this is not an option; it relies on the goodwill of the parents which simply is not realistic on a grand scale. The psychological effects of growing up under the public eye of social media are unstudied with these young children being the guinea pigs which will show the possibly detrimental effects. 

Social media allows content creators to be more connected to their audiences than ever. However, this can be extremely damaging to these young people. Online audiences oftentimes grow very quickly and this can leave creators scrambling to protect their privacy. 

Television and film allow a sense of separation between the actor and the audience, but in social media creators can reveal their entire personalities. This can lead to harassment on an unprecedented level and being held to standards of scrutiny which would be hard for a fully grown adult to handle. Doxxing is also rampant on social media which is the revelation of private information such as addresses, phone numbers, or even social security numbers. 

For the mental and physical health of young people we have to find ways to safeguard against this, but for now too many children are being forced to grow up too fast, as thousands scrutinize their every move. Even with the best of parents, many adults are out of their depth in the wide world of social media and the various ways harassment and exploitation can happen. 

According to BBC News, on Oct. 6 France became one of the few countries to implement comprehensive measures to safeguard child influencers. Their laws mandate limited hours of work and special dispensation has to be obtained from the French government in order to contract child labor even when on social media platforms. Furthermore, underage creators now have a “right to be forgotten” where they can request for a social media platform to remove their content, and they must obliged. This is a large step for limiting abuses of child labor. 

The United States is one of the countries with the largest participation on many social media platforms, but legislation has been slow to keep up with the developments and adapt labor laws in their place. Modeling new legislation after places like France could ensure that these young influencers stories are not tragedies.  

If we do not overhaul our child labor policies the glamorous life of a child or teen who attains prominence on social media will reveal itself to be a curse in the long run. The traditional entertainment industry is also very flawed in regards to young actors and actresses but we don’t need to repeat their mistakes in order to gain basic protections. More than the bare minimum has to be done to protect the lives of children and teens who dream of being a prominent online content creator. 


Photo courtesy of PINTEREST.COM