Friday, 16 August 2013

Are TV talent shows messing with kids?



I have a love / hate relationship with reality TV shows. There are WAY too many of them out there and most are complete and utter crap; but, every now and then I admit I'll quite happily flick over to watch some amateur chefs or wannabe singers have a crack at the big time. It's fun to see some incredibly talented people come out the wood works, but, the part I actually like best is watching all the hopeless ones fail massively on national TV (c'mon, you know it's funny).

With a new round of musical talent shows on the go at the moment though, it's made me realise there's something not so hilarious going on that I don't like seeing and no one else seems bothered by it. I'm talking about the kids. I don't mean the children performers or contestants (that's another giant bag of issues I'm not going to get into right now). I'm referring to all the children brought onto the show to watch from the sidelines as their parent or sibling fails to make the cut in front of the nation.

I know it's all about ratings and telling a story for each person - having your children with you as you go for it on TV makes you more sympathetic to the audience, right? But what happens when your dreams are crushed in front of hundreds of thousands of people and your child's got a backstage pass to the embarrassing moment and a camera on their face?

I blame the producers, 100 percent. They interview the children to pull a few heartstrings, pumping them full of excitement and making them feel like stars themselves. They make out their mum is going to be bigger than Susan Boyle but then it's, "Sorry, we don't think you have the X-Factor" and cue close-up on the poor woman's kids looking bewildered and crying their eyes out as they're led out the back door by the host.

As a parent myself, I worry about the impact of this on those children. Often their faces show such shocked looks of incomprehension. Do they even really understand what is going on and just how many people are watching? Will the clip be replayed over and over at family gatherings? And what happens to the older ones at school - are they given a hard time because their sister or dad didn't have a good enough voice?

Some might argue it's inspirational for children to watch a family member go for their dreams, and that it's healthy to see failure in action (OK, correction - not being number one), but on national TV? And with multiple camera close-ups? Not cool. I think it's fine to have family members there for support, but do they really need to be filmed and part of the show? Nope.

So listen up all you reality TV producers: stop bringing the kids into it. If someone wants to go on national TV knowing there's a chance they might totally embarrass themselves, well great. But leave their children out of it - please.

Reality TV - are the kids alright or not?

photo credit: horizontal.integration via photopin cc

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