Dark reality of kids’ shows

Television reality shows seem glamorous but such shows don't nurture a child's ability as they push them to early adulthood and high expectations.

CHENNAI: Television reality shows are the prime reason for channels to gain TRP ratings. While the public waits for the winner, organisers show promos for the second season, adding surplus ‘awww’ factor, by just placing a child on stage. If the kid can dance, sing or perform isn’t important. He/she is just trying to please everyone and does so. If the child manages to grab some attention, the audience votes for him/her to win an apartment far from the city.

Reality shows are not terrible, and anything with massive entertainment promised is certainly a hit as it is mostly commercial. However, the idea of enhancing a child’s skills is very minimal. Such shows don’t nurture the child’s ability.

“Show-runners are focused on the outcome, hence, they push children to early adulthood, as, the audience wants to be entertained. When a child is involved in an entertainment programme, he/she should exhibit skills according to age and capability. Choosing to sing songs performed by experienced 50-year-old singers is not progressive but excessive performance. While performing, kids are subjected to high expectations, which is harmful to their mental health. Handling disappointments and rejections in the future might become harder,” says Dr N Shalini, psychiatrist, Mind Focus medical clinic.

“Parents should remind kids that these shows are momentary. Even though these TV shows are extremely glamourous, they get over in a few months and, often, participants feel disappointed. Reality shows sometimes tend to show certain participants from poor backgrounds, which might not be entirely true. Also, there are cases where parents are more enthusiastic than the child. Perhaps, this is done to gain audience attention, sympathy or just to spice up the drama,” said participant of a leading singing reality show.

Sita (name changed), mother of a child artist, says, many parents are over-ambitious. They go to an extent of hitting their kids to perform better on shoots. Most parents do not check the content of the show or the dialogues. “My friend’s son participated in the popular reality show Junior Super Star (JSS), where kids perform in group dramas. The content is highly inappropriate for kids. The rehearsals are done in four days, including weekdays, thereby, kids miss out on school. Shootings are done for long hours. There is absolutely no emergency medical kit or assistance. During the elimination, the child is given `10,000 cash by the media house,” claims Sita.

When Express visited the JSS shooting spot on a weekday, many parents and children were present on location. The kids clearly did not attend school, due to the shooting. Organisers declined many questions. When asked about having no medical assistance, not even first aid, they said they’ll take kids to a nearby hospital if need be.

“We’re very careful about the content of the show. While selecting kids, we get written permission from the parents and schools. They’re fully aware of kids missing out on school, and they seem fine with it,” says Praveen G, director, JSS.

“Under the Right to Education Act, 2009, and the Abolition of Child Labor Act, 1986, of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), no child should be used to mint money or fame, which clearly many media houses and corporates work against. Shooting scheduled for long hours with younger kids is against the act. It is mandatory for every child to have education between the age of 6-14 years. Those waiting in line miss school due to reality shows, which is an offence under the law,” says Dr AD Revathy, former member of the State CPCR.

“As I’m not from Chennai, I’m unable to go to school and it has been a month now. But, I’m happy as I’m performing great,” says an 11-year-old participant of the show.

“Children who participate in reality shows or who get TV exposure often tend to become authoritative and easily vulnerable. Children believe there is no need to go to school when he can win an apartment from a reality show. Parents should remember it is important for the kid to live their childhood, otherwise, they might not carry any nostalgic feelings in the future. Wild card entries, voting systems can crumble their self-confidence. If possible, the government should tap the age entry or should ban reality shows for kids. Children might prefer to watch cartoons, but over-ambitious parents push them into this,” adds Shalini.

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The New Indian Express