Family vloggers are among the millions of content creators on YouTube. In general, vloggers frequently upload recorded videos of their daily lives. Family vloggers are unique because they focus their content around their familial relationships and the lives of their children. One set of family vloggers, the Ace Family, has recorded their children’s lives from the day they were born and continue to upload videos of each milestone, including “Elle Cries on Her First Rollercoaster Ride” and “Elle and Alaïa Get Caught Doing What!! **Hidden Camera**.” Another vlogging couple, Cole and Savannah LaBrant, post similar content, including videos titled “Baby Posie’s Health Emergency” and “Everleigh Doesn’t Want a Baby Sister.” Family channels often involve pranks and reactions, most of which are centered around young children. Given their high amounts of views and subscribers, channels like these are monetized by YouTube and granted various brand sponsorships. What looks like studio-quality home videos have actually become part of a booming business, and child labor laws have failed to protect children who have essentially become employees of the Internet. Children on YouTube and social media are not treated the same way as, for example, child actors on a movie set are. Parents are free to involve their children in content in whatever way they desire—as long as they do not violate YouTube community guidelines—without worrying about time regulations, filming conditions, licensing requirements, or setting up funds for their children’s work. The general concern about children’s safety on the Internet has been especially relevant since the growth of the platform TikTok. Potentially “more than a third of [TikTok’s] 49 million daily users . . . in the United States [are] 14 years old or younger.” In fact, TikTok’s most followed creator, Charli D’Amelio, is a minor. Although the concern for the safety of younger users on TikTok may be different than the concern for children on YouTube given parental involvement in YouTube content creation, the rapid growth and accessibility of TikTok is an example of the ever-growing and evolving social media culture in the United States and around the world. TikTok utilizes a recommendation style algorithm known as the “For You” page that personalizes a feed of videos for its users. Although the exact algorithm may be somewhat of a mystery, it suggests that the platform itself has some control over which videos users are exposed to based on that user’s activity. TikTok has also become another social media platform where users can monetize their content and include brand sponsorships similar to those found on YouTube and Instagram. In 2020, TikTok began planning a $200 million fund to support its creators. Unlike many YouTube videos, “TikToks” are a minute or less in duration, making them much more user-friendly for beginners and easier to make and upload. As such, parents uploading videos of their children is also common practice on TikTok, just as it is on YouTube or Instagram. Some parents have even created accounts that consist almost entirely of videos of their babies. Although TikTok’s history as a platform is much shorter than YouTube’s, it serves as a good example of the direction social media is heading toward: content that is becoming easier to upload and watch. User-generated content on various social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok is now a prevalent form of modern entertainment, and it involves child participants much like the use of child actors in television and film. Child labor laws fail to keep pace with the rapidly evolving Internet entertainment ecosystem, and this issue requires specific action by the legislature and corporations behind popular social media platforms. This Comment covers child entertainment labor laws in the United States and some of the legislative history behind child labor laws to demonstrate the need for expanded and newly adopted legislation to accommodate the new world of user-generated content. It discusses the nature of family vlogging and how it compares to traditional entertainment media and argues for a multitude of legislative changes to better protect children’s interests when they are featured in social media posts for monetary gain, including: the application of federal child labor laws to family vlogging and social media influencing, the adoption of child entertainment labor laws in individual states, an expansion of the pre-existing provisions to include entertainment on social media platforms, and the adaptation of YouTube community guidelines to better safeguard the interests of children who appear on family vlog channels.
Amanda G. Riggio, The Small-er Screen: YouTube Vlogging and the Unequipped Child Entertainment Labor Laws, 44 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 493 (2021).
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