Are Reality Shows Injuring Childhood?

Article for Blog Post Writing Competition 2011 | by Arpita Mitra


May 26th, 20119:17 pm


reality shows and children The boy was eagerly waiting for the judges to comment on his performance. While he seemed completely satisfied with his song, the judges thought it to be dull singing. With the system of public voting on, they hoped to see him perform the next time.

The boy unable to control his tears started crying, soon after which he faints. He is hospitalised the very moment…

Is innocence taken over by another chapter of glamour in children’s syllabus?

India in today’s scenario releases a variety of ‘reality shows’ which offer participants a scope to bring forward their talents, be it singing, dancing, comedy, and what not! But surely our society, in this hunger of glam-sham and popularity, forget to realise how expectations like these from such a tender age can prove to be detrimental.

We at the end of the day forget to realise how such concepts of so-called ‘innovative’ reality shows in the name of nurturing and developing a child’s potential, end up putting a full stop to ‘childhood’, when a young kid is expected to play, relax, study and most importantly appreciate the best and most playful time of his/her life!

Rather today’s fashion gives a flowery name behind CHILD LABOUR AND EXPLOITATION, for as long as it serves the purposes of winning over TRP charts and overall popularity of the show.

How can we forget the words of our legal system, which brings forward the following laws and regulations?

  • Article 23-24 of the Indian Constitution: Right Against Exploitation (of children)- No child below the age of 14 can be employed in any factory; forced child labour strictly a punishable act.
  • Section 17 of the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005 provides for the constitution of a State Commission for Protection of Child Right (SCPCR) in each State: violation of child’s right to health, psyche, safety, education, recreation, leisure, etc.
  • Section 13 (1) (j) of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)
  • Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994- Rule 6 (1) (a) and Rule 6 (1) (l): Rule 6 (1) (a) Programme Code — Programme that offends taste or decency; and Rule 6 (1) (l): Programme Code — Programme that adversely impacts children and is in derogation to their rights to dignity.
  • Protection from all forms of physical, physiological or mental trauma, anxiety, violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, mal treatment, or exploitation, including sexual abuse while in the care of parents, legal guardians , or any other person who have the care of them, (as required under Article 19 (1) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 which has been acceded to by India on 11December, 1992) and the Juvenile Justice Acts.
  • The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, attacking child labour, child trafficking etc.
  • Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 the Commission reiterated that child labour should include all forms of labour. It further provides regulations for the abolition of, and penalties for employing, child labour, as well as provisions for rehabilitation of former child labourers.

WHERE DOES THE FLAW LIE?

Unfortunately the flaw lies within the periphery of the family of such adolescents and their unreasonable expectations from their child. Statements like “I want to win this competition because my dad wants it” or “My mother has such high hopes attached to every performance I give that I fear to disappoint her” reveals the actual story. Parents always appreciate such achievements which they themselves failed to experience in their own life. However, they never realise that in the name of extending the ‘required support’ to their kid, they literally add a ‘burden’ to the child’s mental and physical health. Furthermore, it is ‘they’ who behave childlike when they agree to put at stake the child’s academics as that arena becomes secondary to winning fame and money!

No doubt such a typical behaviour from parents gives a scope to kids to emulate the lifestyle of celebrities and become one of them! A sense of becoming a ‘superstar’ at such a vulnerable age brings with it a considerable degree of what we call in informal terms- ‘arrogance’. With that, we endanger a child’s ability to think maturely and sensibly! Isn’t that too big a sacrifice?

REAL INSTANCES THAT WE CAN NEVER IGNORE:

1. INFANT STAYING WITH A DIFFERENT ‘INEXPERIENCED’ PARENT?
Truly that was the concept behind one of the very popular reality show-‘Pati Patni Aur Who’ especially meant for couples to learn the art of caring a baby!

On occasion, especially in the context of infant and/or very small children, even a parental consent is not a justification for a child`s participation in a reality show. The serious flaws were laid down in the contract that included:

  • Psychologists, engaged by the Production house for assessing the children involved in the show, who made ONLY physical and mental assessment (as against psychological, emotional assessment) of the child.
  • The long-term effects of separation on infant children from the parents and participation in such shows were not addressed and/or communicated to the parents.
  • There were no exit provisions in the Contract and the focus of the programme was purely ‘entertainment’ at the cost of the dignity of the children.

2. GETTING INTO ACTING IN TV SERIALS OR FILMS?

Soon after Sanchita Bhattacharya was declared the winner of the first season of Zee SaReGaMaPa Lil Champs, fans of runner up contestant Sameer did not appear disappointed. Many viewers felt that Sameer already had a bright career in acting, so what if he couldn’t bag the number one title! [1]

Even the winner comments-“Not only dancing but the person performing on stage should absolutely be a whole package – singing, dancing and even acting. We were taught this by Shiamak Davar.” [2]

Such are the expectations that build up both within the crowd as well as within the child, as he enters this world of entertainment, rather call it the world of unpleasant “reality”!

3. OBJECTIONABLE DRESSES IN THE NAME OF MAKE-OVER?

“Justice Subhashan Reddy, chairman of the Human Rights Commission, threatening to stall Zee Telugu’s ‘Aata’, a children’s dance reality show, hit the news for a quite a long time. The participants’ provocative dances and dresses in the TV show were quite demeaning in nature, he said that a committee would be set up, if necessary, to probe into the matter further.

What is even more shameful is that this instance is just one of a kind!

4. WORKING FOR LONG HOURS?

Children participating in talent shows normally work for more than 12 hours besides there are constant rehearsals for various promotional programmes for which private channels get a lot of mileage. [3]

5. CRAZE FOR REPEATED PUBLIC APPEARANCES?

Sadly, as teens get addicted to experiencing the pleasure of being over the ‘national television’, there seems no turning back to a life they were previously accustomed to! Recall Anwesha Dutta Gupta who gained fame as a finalist in Star Plus-Voice Of India-Chhote Ustaad. Not surprising is her track of early public appearances which include performance in Sabujer Deshe in 2000 (ETV Bangla), Tarana music competition telecasted in January 2003 (ETV Bangla) and Antakshari 2007 (Star Plus).[4]

LET US ATTACK CHILD LABOUR…

As according to Mr Sumit Nagpal: TV journalist, New Delhi-Parents need to be informed about the positives and negatives of participation in TV reality shows.” Further the payment to children should be through fixed deposit or scholarships, so that the guardians do not discover a money making machine in their kids!

Since reality shows have been accepted by our culture wholeheartedly, it is difficult to scrap off this concept at one go. Hence the first priority in our mind should be securing a child’s future, so that it is ensured that parents and guardians cannot consider their child’s income as granted!

Secondly, it is important for organisers to clearly bracket the acceptable age limit that becomes the eligibility criteria to participate.

Thirdly, regulations are necessary and broadcasters should be sensitive towards child rights, especially any form of child abuse-be it even mental harassment created by harsh comments to a young participant, or making these teens work for long hours, all of which has to be corrected at every cost!

CONCLUSION

At the end of the day- children are children. You cannot expect them to be self- parenting their own immature decisions. Reality shows do provide a stage to search hidden talents from big cities to small towns. However, it is indeed too early for the youngsters to become a part of it- what we say-“too much too soon”. We are thus expected to safeguard them and their future; and exposing them to this form of popularity would mean exposing them to severe punishment and harassment, which they are in reality, not entitled to! STOP CHILD LABOUR, STOP INJURING INNOCENCE.

___________________________________________________________________

SOURCES:

  1. http://pratyush.instablogs.com/entry/sanchita-wins-sa-re-ga-ma-pa-lil-champ/
  2. http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=488753
  3. Statement reported by NCPCR
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anwesha_Datta_Gupta

Others:

  • http://currentaffairsappsc.blogspot.com/2011/03/protection-of-child-rights.html
  • http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=CD_Mohatta
  • http://www.ncpcr.gov.in/Reports/minutes_of_the_meeting_of_working_group_
    on_Childrens_participation_in_TV_serials_and_advertisements_17_09_2008.pdf
  • http://jurisonline.in/2008/09/child-rights-constitunional-law-analysis-with-focus-on-article-24/
  • http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/Children-on-reality-shows-working-long-hours/320585/
  • http://www.fullhyderabad.com/hyderabad-news/reality-show-aata-must-be-stopped-human-rights-commission-610?sort=most+helpful&horder=DESC%29

Picture Courtesy- timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Article by-

Arpita Mitra (Student, St. Paul’s School)

[Submitted as an entry for the MightyLaws.in Blog Post Writing Competition, 2011]

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