Are Child Actors Exploited By the Film and TV Industry?
Consider are the pros and cons of children performing for TV and in other competitive performing environments.
In August 2012, seven-year old Alana Thompson debuted in her own reality TV show called "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo." Alana, or Honey Boo Boo, emerged as an audience favorite in the hit show "Toddlers & Tiaras," a reality TV show about beauty pageants for young girls. She is a little heavier than many of the other girls and did not win the beauty pageant, but her funny lines and overly-confident personality won the hearts of TV viewers. During the first few weeks of the program, 2.3 million viewers watched Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.
Some people argue that shows like "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" and "Toddlers & Tiaras" exploit young children for the purposes of entertainment. They say that people are not watching these shows because they are interested in learning more about pageants or the people who participate. They say that people watch because they like to make fun of these girls and their parents. Furthermore, they claim that the children are not able to make a decision as to whether or not they want to have their lives recorded and broadcast to the world. They worry that these children will be confronted by viewers throughout their lives and reminded of embarrassing childhood behavior that they would rather forget. They point to the tragic lives of many child TV stars from the past that struggle with addiction and other emotional problems.
Background: Child Labor
Young children have worked throughout history to help their families have more money to live. Historically, in America, many children worked on farms from early morning hours until late at night. When America became more industrialized with factories and businesses, children worked all sorts of jobs. Some states passed laws to protect children under the ages of 14 or 15, but it was not until 1938 that a federal regulation (or law) was passed requiring all states to have a minimum age for workers and limited hours of work for young children.
Advocates of kids participating in reality TV shows argue that kids have an opportunity to be discovered doing something that they loved to do. For instance, the hit TV show Dance Moms features a dancing class of talented young dancers and their mothers who make tremendous sacrifices while pursuing a dream. They argue that these kids have an opportunity to share their determination and talent with the world so that other children may be inspired to work hard at something they love to do. Just like Alana Thompson was discovered, other children on these shows may find themselves starring in a Broadway musical or a Hollywood movie.
Some people also argue that participating in a reality TV show does not interfere with a child’s ability to be a happy and productive adult. They say that this experience makes them more confident and not afraid to take risks. They say it develops leadership qualities in these young people. For example, many childhood movie stars, such as Emma Watson from the Harry Potter movies, have been able to lead very successful lives. Emma Watson chose to attend Brown and Oxford Universities and is a successful model. If childhood movie stars can go on to lead successful and happy lives, why can’t childhood reality TV stars?
Do you think children should be allowed to star in reality TV shows? Do you think there is a certain age where a child should be able to participate? Do you think children who participate in reality TV are more or less likely to have problems due to their fame?
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Image credit: "Are beauty pageants good or bad for the child? Should they be banned?" by netivist is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0