Illinois girl's discovery leads to new legislation protecting children in social media videos

A haunting discovery by a young Illinois girl has led to new state legislation.

"I started seeing patterns of abuse and exploitation on some of these family channels," said 15-year-old Shreya Nallamothu, a student in Normal, Illinois.

She said during the pandemic, she started watching more and more YouTube videos and discovered a disturbing trend of parents seemingly coercing their children into family vlogs and so called "sharenting".

Realizing there were no laws on the books to protect these kids in seemingly innocent videos, she turned to her state legislator.

"It really sort of opened the eyes of us older folks who don't spend a lot of time on the internet quite frankly," said state Senator David Koehler of Peoria.


At Nallamothu's urging, he sponsored legislation to protect the rights of children in earning profits that they generate online.

"If money is made from a child on a video that tries to influence products or whatever, then there has to be a certain amount set aside in a trust fund so that when that child turns 18 they have something to show for their work," said Senator Koehler.

The law is similar to those already in place for child actors on television or in the movies.

"Sometimes when a family's income can completely rely on social media, it starts to be that they're relying on their children to be the content for their videos and just kind of forcing them to be in this space," said Nallamothu.

The legislation, which unanimously passed the Illinois Senate, is now being considered in the House. It has spurred a nationwide movement that surprisingly is being led by other children who have encountered the videos.

"What the law does, is it sets up the right of legal action once the child turns 18. They can go back and they can actually sue for damages or for anything that wasn't done properly," said Senator Koehler.

In the future, the senator plans to work with the Illinois Attorney General to tighten restrictions that will dictate the kinds of videos kids can participate in and the possibility of removing those videos from the internet once the child turns 18.