- March 4, 2013
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Having been raised in Hollywood, California I’ve had the fortunate (and sometimes unfortunate) experience of growing up with childhood actors. When I was young I wanted to be on TV, too, but my parents never entertained (excuse the pun) the idea and were adamant about steering me in another direction. When I was nine years old I got to go to Magic Mountain in a limousine with an actor friend, who was schooled on the set of a show he’d been on for two years. We went with a chaperone from the studio and the limousine driver. That’s it, with no one else to supervise us. I still can’t believe my parents let me go under those conditions, but I suppose those were different times. While at the theme park we were ushered around in a golf-cart to all of the rides and didn’t have to wait in any lines. I didn’t realize how famous he was until we got off of the Jet Stream ride and a group of people ran toward us screaming his on-screen name. I looked around to see why they were yelling because the name didn’t click right away — I knew him by a different (real) name. It finally hit me that they were screaming for him as he waved to the crowd and we were quickly ushered back toward our waiting golf cart. It was an exciting experience and I thought, ‘Wow that was so cool!’ I have to admit the fame and money looked so attractive at the time. Now, many years later and with an adult perspective I realize how lucky I was to ‘miss out’ on the fame during my youth.
And so many of the child stars struggle in their adult lives, as if they’re regressing or trying to recapture their childhood, seeking to have no responsibilities or ties
I know that looking at the life of a childhood actor in a small capsule of time can appear glamorous and wonderful. But the reality is that the quality of life isn’t all that glamorous or as fun as it’s made out to be. Imagine a childhood where you have to show up and perform whenever and wherever others may want you. Essentially, you have to grow up fast and “act” like an adult from a very young age. Not to mention all of the early exposure to drugs, sex scandals, loss of privacy and separation from family and friends. And so many of the child stars struggle in their adult lives, as if they’re regressing or trying to recapture their childhood, seeking to have no responsibilities or ties. They may appear “flaky” because they want to dictate when they show up and resist giving others that control over them. They often attempt to stay out of the public eye, but the curiosity of the masses and paparazzi never let up. People can’t seem to get enough of entertainment dirt even though it damages the people being exposed. And this highlighting of child star’s failures leads to so many cases of suicidal ideation, attempts or saddest of all, successes. It’s really disturbing that people can enjoy the struggles of other’s and fuel the fervor for more intrusive reporting.
So, when it comes to child stars, whose choice is it to begin with? Of course, it’s the adult parent’s or legal guardian’s responsibility for steering this child. The child doesn’t know what is right for them and certainly can’t make a decision that will affect the rest of their lives when they’re under the age of 18. So, why do parents put their children in that position? There are a lot of possible answers out there, such as parents living their dreams vicariously through their children, and etc. But really, doing this puts the child in a terrible position. Yes, there are Child Labor Laws that make sure children receive a proper education and that their money earned is somehow protected and saved for them, in a trust, until they turn 18 (though somehow that never seems to work out and the money miraculously disappears). But think about this- if we saw a young child out on a street corner day-after-day performing for loose change, most of us would probably be concerned and contact the Department of Child and Family Services. Yet for some reason, using (exploiting) these children on the big screen makes it acceptable or at least doesn’t trigger our radar.
Looking at it now as a parent, as a friend to struggling former stars, I have come to the conclusion that it is abuse no matter how you slice it, since the children can’t make these decisions for themselves. And one step worse, is the angle of children in reality TV. Look at the whole Baby Boo thing (the child beauty pageant show on TV), which is totally ridiculous and embarrassing. The psychological torment and poor upbringing she’s receiving is being nationally broadcasted. Need I say more? We not only stand by while it unfolds, but actually support it by watching the show. So, be careful what you ask for and what you wish upon your children! Protect this limited time in their lives because they can’t protect themselves. And remember, kids need to be kids and they can’t withdraw from the bank of childhood without having to eventually pay it back!