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Family channels need regulation to avoid child exploitation

Family channels need regulation to avoid child exploitation

Family channels need regulation to avoid child exploitation
August 10
14:00 2021

For the average child, the journey of growing up is shared within the privacy of their family with a picture or two on their mom’s Facebook. For 5-year-old YouTube star Elle McBroom of The ACE Family, her childhood is shared with her 4.6 million Instagram followers and the 19.1 million subscribers on her family’s YouTube channel.

Child labor laws for entertainment, designed to protect children from abuse and exploitation, were established in 1938 under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Now, over 80 years later, a portion of child entertainment stars remain unprotected through the loophole of internet entertainment. Child entertainment laws need to be expanded to cover children who work in internet entertainment to protect children from exploitation by their parents.

With millions of followers watching, family YouTube channels document and share their lives by posting videos of daily routines or sharing major life events such as pregnancies or adoptions.

On the surface, family channels are harmless. The channels provide family-friendly content on a platform intended for users who are at least 13 years old. However, with high profits on the line and no regulation, family YouTube channels are cesspools for child exploitation.

Elle McBroom is not alone in this phenomenon of family channels. Ryan Kaji is the 9-year-old star of Ryan’s World, a YouTube channel with over 30 million subscribers and over 48 billion views. The channel posts videos of toy and game reviews, science experiments and skits. In 2020, Kaji made nearly $30 million and was the highest-paid YouTuber for the third year in a row.

Society has seen what effects unfettered limelight can have on a child star. From original child stars Shirley Temple and Judy Garland to Drew Barrymore, Macaulay Culkin and Lindsay Lohan, the immense pressures of childhood stardom can result in drug addictions and alcoholism.

In the state of California, work permits are required for children in the entertainment industry and there are extensive requirements for theatrical employment. The issue with family channels is the children featured are not categorized as actors.

Acting is the “art or practice of representing a character on stage or before cameras” while blogging involves sharing personal photos and videos, according to Merriam-Webster. Both of these acts are presented to an audience and with YouTube — this can be monetized.

Where does the line between blogging and acting fall? For Ryan’s World, skits are listed in the channel’s description. So, would child entertainment laws dictate just those videos? With so many nuances, there must be new laws for child entertainment stars in the internet age.

New child entertainment laws should reflect the current entertainment laws already in place and protect children against long work hours and mishandling of revenue.

Under California’s Sec. 6750 Family Code, courts may require a portion of earnings be set aside for the minor in a trust, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. For family channels, their revenue should not go directly towards buying their next multi-million dollar home, but rather towards the futures of the children who make up most of the channel’s content.

The frequency of uploads on family channels is another issue child labor laws should address. Ryan’s World posts new content almost every day on its main channel. The family’s eight other channels also see frequent uploads.

California’s Sec. 6 – 1308.7 dictates children with a work permit are not allowed to work more than five consecutive days in the entertainment industry. New labor laws should limit the number of uploads of videos or posts that feature children and can generate revenue, whether that be sponsored Instagram posts or YouTube videos with ads and sponsorships.

On the federal level, child labor laws are fairly loose. Most requirements for workweeks and permits are implemented at the state level. Because the internet is evenly accessible, a channel based in Texas or California has no major differences in profit. Under the U.S. Department of Labor, child labor laws for internet entertainment need uniform protections.

Children may be at the forefront of these channels, but the children featured have little power. Establishing new laws to protect children is important as the entertainment industry evolves in the digital age.

Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas

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Hannah Johnson

Hannah Johnson

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