The Negative Effects of The Child Stars

The Negative Effects of The Child Stars

Arianna Bultsma, Staff Writer

Throughout generations, there have been children in the entertainment industry featured in tv shows and movies. Yes, there are child stars who had a wonderful childhood and had no troubles moving on in their adulthood but that does not take away from the fact that children in the entertainment industry can bring negative aspects into those child’s lives. A youtube video from Mian Le titled ‘The Curse of The Child Star’ brings up important topics involving the not so rainbow and sunshine experiences children go through when involved in the entertainment business. During Le’s youtube video she has four different sections all being a part of this issue that has been going on for many different generations.

At the very start of this video, Mina brings up different negative experiences child actors encounter such as getting into drugs, being idolized by older men especially young girls, and the fact that in the industry there is a high chance of there being child predators. She also continues to talk about there being three main pathways a child star might go through when moving into their teenage years and beyond. There have been child stars who became successful actors as adults as well. Some child stars have turned away from the spotlight altogether living how most adults live that are not in any form of the spotlight. The third pathway a child actor can lead is much more negative where they might deal with many obstacles like addiction or mental illnesses. Questions that are being asked are why is Hollywood such a dangerous place for a child and how come some child actors can escape the quote-on-quote curse of being a child star and some sadly are not able to avoid it. 

The first main part of the first section of Le’s youtube video is the history of the child star industry. During the Victorian era, children would showcase their talents in victorian theaters or American travel carnivals for others to view. At this time there were no child labor protection laws until the 1930s. In some cases, child stars become financially responsible for their families. In these cases because the person earning the money is a child the person who then takes care of the money would be the parents. Sadly there have been times when the children’s parents would take their child’s money for themselves which the child when learning about later once they are older. This situation happened to Jackie Coogan who then took his parents to court. After this case, a law called Coogans law was passed to protect other young performers from this scenario. To this day this law is still effective although there are still loopholes. Hollywood was a very rough place for child stars in the past and today. Shirley Temple’s mother was not allowed to be on set insuring she was unable to object to the treatment brought to her daughter. During the filming of the Wizard of Oz 16-year-old, Judy Garland would get slapped by the director for simply laughing. A children’s channel Disney channel has crafted their stats into perfect role models for other kids which in return makes their transition into adult celebrities much more difficult for some. 

The role of freedom for these children is another section she holds in this video. It is a very odd and difficult thing to have children grow up in the public eye. Younger people going into their teen years naturally want to rebel and learn from their mistakes. This is something any person would in up doing but when you are in the public eye it becomes something it shouldn’t be and most children aren’t given this normal freedom in making mistakes because of public scrutiny. With public scrutiny, many who try to rebel are faced with major repercussions that are not far for them to receive considering others who are not well known to the public don’t experience such repercussions. A crucial fact in all this the younger a child is introduced into this business the more damaging it could become for them because the basic childhood needs are not necessarily met. At such a young age these children do not fully understand what this industry is and what it means. Since this industry allows such a public view of such young people these younger kids learn false ideas about who they are and how they fit in this world especially now with social media. With Disney stars made out to be perfect role models for others who would then be these actors’ role models? Our society does not necessarily care about child stars especially when the stars are not a replica of the character they play for fictional films in real life. More people expect them to be almost in a way like robots made for their entertainment causing them to not be seen as human beings let alone actual children themselves. With working with the Disney channel there comes their “squeaky clean branding” which in return causes more females who grew up working with them to sexualize themselves as a way to truly tell the world and prove to society that they are now adults not the age of the character they play. 

Typecasting is a section in her youtube video that shows the negative effect this industry has on young people trying to grow up and find themselves. For some odd reason, many people believe they know someone because they simply watch them act as a character on their television. When people hold this mindset they hold judgment towards actors when they show themselves with their own offscreen identity to the world. Some might go as far as to feel betrayed when their favorite stars grow up and become their person instead of the character they play in a film.  Another odd fact about our society is people like the idea of an actor coming from a lower-class background but once they begin to earn money and their background change they no longer like this person but seem to find them as spoiled. Actors can find it difficult to truly be themselves when they are typecasted as someone they aren’t like in real life especially when this happens at such a young age. This can cause psychological damage when your child’s sense of identity changes for a long time. In some cases, an existential crisis can occur. 

The last topic she spoke on had its section in the video which I believe was a very important move called the parents. This is an upsetting thing to say is true in this world but there are very bad parents out there and some of them fall into this scheme. It is very heartbreaking to know some parents put their children through What could be traumatizing experiences simply because they want to live vicariously through their children. You see this when parents prioritize the dreams they had growing up instead of making sure their child is even interested in this line of work. Wealth seems to make living much easier for people and this also applies to child stars as well. Also having parents who are also in this line of work helps child stars get away from the darkness that is not so hidden from the public. Although for Sherly Temple having her mother also being a stage mom negatively affected her in the acting industry. Once Temple stopped having her mom there to coach her she struggled to interpret her roles on her own. Having good parents who genuinely care about what their children are interested in allows them to have a much better experience, a more natural way of growing up, and can find more success in moving forward as an actor than some child stars who did not grow up with the best of parents at their side. Something to also think about his children who wanted to act in the first place and enjoy doing so have intrinsic motivation allowing them to focus better but those who are being forced into the industry gain what is called extrinsic motivation which makes it much harder for you to focus. 

Yes, this is a very sad topic that does need to be changed the fact remains that child performers are not going to go away. Luckily though many people are campaigning for mandatory media and industry courses for parents who are putting their children into this industry and the representatives for that child. Another campaign that has been going on is for there to be professional mental health workers on set for films especially when there are children on set. Every child who gets into the Hollywood acting world must have the ability to leave and live a normal life or accelerate their careers and still grow up without being damaged. It must be very frustrating for those who grew up in this industry that robbed them of their childhood. Let’s be the generation that stops this from happening to any other young child. If this is all very interesting to you please go to youtube and watch Mina Le’s video on this topic.