San Diego — Influencer families are not a new concept. Vlogging families have been going viral on YouTube for several years, posting their parenting techniques, family vacations and more. Now, influencer families are thriving on TikTok, but discussion has sparked surrounding the treatment and protections of kid-influencers.
Many argue that children cannot ethically consent to being filmed and posted to public social media accounts. Even if they say yes to participating in videos, the argument stands that they will not have a firm grasp of the long term implications of a social media presence until they are adults.
Some of TikTok’s most viral families are made up of young children who are often the stars of their content creation.
Content creator and TikTok user Caroline Easom, made headlines for her TikTok series about the make-believe “Sandwich Family.” The fictional series highlights the problematic culture that involves parents using their children for profit, turning a family into a business, and exploiting their children’s emotions for views and likes.
@caroline_easom Replying to @vans Lil Sandwich Lashes Out #comedy #satire #parody #comedian #skit #character #familyvlog #funny #jokes #behindscenes #kidsbelike #sketchcomedy #acting ♬ original sound - Caroline
As Easom’s TikToks spread across the news, Ohio state began to implement laws to protect child-influencers. “The Kid Influencer Protection Act,” was introduced by Michele Grim (D-Toledo) and Lauren McNally (D-Youngstown) at the Ohio Statehouse, according to the Ohio House of Representatives website. The bill states a certain amount of the money earned by the child will be placed in a trust fund,ensuring they receive some form of compensation for their work.
Last year, Illinois implemented similar protection that was sponsored by Sen. David Koehler (D-Peoria) Senate Bill 1782 amended the Child Labor Laws by including children making online content who specifically are part of 30% of the parent’s content over a one month period, according to The Daily Northern Western. The same article states any video that turns a profit of 10 cents or more must adhere to these guidelines.
California Senator Steve Padilla (D-San Diego) also implemented a similar bill in December of 2023. Senate Bill 764 was named the Child Content Creator Rights Act, and states minors in at least 30% of creators’ content “set aside a proportionate percentage of their earnings in a trust for the minor to access when they reach adulthood,” according to Padilla’s press release.
These bills have received backlash for government interference with individual incomes and businesses.
Easom offered an analogy for the circumstances these children are in online. She compared kid-influencers to child actors, stating now the actors have the Coogan Law to protect them. Soon, it will seem obvious to have legal protections for kid-influencers and their work.
@caroline_easom I’ll post the full interview when it comes out! I’m so proud to be a part of the amazing community advocating for children on the internet. I could talk about this all day. #familyvloggers #interview #news #ohio ♬ original sound - Caroline
“Social media is so new, relatively speaking. And I think we are just at this era where the laws haven’t caught up to the reality of social media,” Easom said.
Many of the commenters on Easom’s videos agree with her point of view. In fact, many of them are pointing fingers at specific influencer families on TikTok. The most frequently mentioned families include the LaBrant Family, the Davis Family, and the Franke Family.
Although these families are being mentioned in discourse surrounding kid influencers, there is no true way for the viewers to know if these children are being compensated or what the family dynamic is like day-to-day.
The term “sharenting” has been adopted to describe the act of parents sharing sensitive information about their children on the internet, or to show off their parenting techniques.
@palumbomandarinroro #fyp#for#your#page#mother#son#traing#emotions#crying#video#sympothy #likes#very#sad#☹️☹️☹️ ♬ original sound - Rosa Mandarino
Some families, like the Davis Family, have made videos explaining the boundaries they offer their children when it comes to their content creation. However, some viewers still argue that the children lack the understanding of the vastness and permanency of the internet to truly consent to online content creation.
@dearanddarling How lovely would the world be if we all lead with kindness and compassion, giving each other the benefit of the doubt? May we be quick to seek understanding and slow to blindly attack. #kindnessandcompassion #adhd #depression ♬ original sound - Lilly Davis | Dear and Darling
In some of the most extreme cases, parents are facing severe repercussions for child abuse that has taken place in the process of creating online content. Ruby Franke’s arrest made national headlines after one of her YouTube-famous children ran to a neighbor’s house for help.
Franke has pled guilty to six felony counts of child abuse. Much of her extreme behavior and abuse was documented and marketed as “no-nonsense parenting.”
In another extreme case, this family played a prank on their children, by making them believe their mother had died. The boyfriend woke the children up to break the news to them, while recording their reactions. The original video has been taken down, however, the creator claims CPS was called due to the backlash this video received.
@recoveredmom1 This Mother and her boyfriend played a Prank on her four kids that their Mom had passed away from Cancer. This is not a prank you play on people let alone kids #greenscreen #greenscreenvideo #parentsontiktok #tiktoknews #pranksoftiktok #tiktoktea #momprankskid ♬ original sound - ConspiraTea
Content like this has become more frequent and extreme leading legislators across several states to take action.
Katelynn Robinson, a San Diego State University alum, is a freelance writer and photographer with an emphasis on the arts, culture, news and entertainment. Follow her on Instagram at @redhead_reporter.
Edited by NaTyshca Pickett