How the Effects of Stardom Can Ruin Childhoods
As a kid I’d spend maybe 3-5 hours a day watching tv shows starring kids my age and then get bored and go out and have fun with my friends. While watching these shows took me around 25-30 minutes to finish, it wasn’t the same for those starred in them, for them it took weeks of work and preparation just to film these shows. While I would have fun with my friends, these kids my age would dedicate their childhood on something that could get canceled at any moment. For them they had to put their childhood second and their careers first. Unfortunately, sacrificing fun as a kid is just one of the many difficulties a child star has to go through.
And this is exactly the problem, A kid shouldn’t have to worry about things like sacrificing their childhood. A child should be spending their time playing and having fun, not working. Places like Hollywood are filled with liars, predators, and greed, and we as a society shouldn’t let our youth be exposed to evil elements such as these. But instead, for whatever reason people continue to encourage children to pursue a dream that crushes many adults.
Society has an obsession with both glorifying and demonizing celebrities but we need to draw a line when it comes to children. Stardom can lead to children or teenagers having psychological or social issues and can also lead them to becoming sexualised and even worse, abuse. Anyone under the age of 17 should not be allowed to become celebrities in order to protect them from the many problems that already plague adult celebrities.
In 2016, Stranger Things released onto Netflix and almost instantly became a hit. The rapid success of the show has led to its child stars to go from nobodies to some of the most renowned child stars in Hollywood. At just the age of 14, Finn Wolfhard had become a massive celebrity and has gone on to big movie roles, such as It and Ghostbusters. Not only has his fame brought him success, but also controversy. In 2016, Wolfhard had become the topic of a controversial Instagram post, when model Ali Michael posted a screenshot of Finn Wolfhard’s face with the caption, "Not to be weird but hit me up in 4 years @finnwolfhardoffical". (Roisin) Michael was almost instantly faced with backlash for this post, because she was a 27 year old woman and she thought it would be fine to sexualise and comment how cute she thought Wolfhard was, even though at the time he was 14 years old.
However, this was not the first or last time Wolfhard has had to deal with uncomfortable such as this. During a panel at Comic-Con, Host Patton Oswalt, made a joke when introducing Wolfhard. Oswald stated jokingly, “An actor born with the greatest name ever.”, (O'Connor) while this joke was clearly made without any bad intent, you have to again remember that Finn Wolfhard is just 14 years old and this was in front of an audience of over a hundred people. If the words Porn and 14-year old are within the same sentence, then it’s probably not a sentence you should say. It was pretty clear soon after that Oswalt made this joke that Wolfhard was uncomfortable, as any embarrassed 14-year old would be. According to O'Connor, "The host continued to make jokes despite a visibly uncomfortable Wolfhard asking him to 'just introduce the next guest'." (O'Connor)
Even Wolfhards’s fellow cast mates have had to deal with controversies. Just a year ago, Millie Bobby Brown, was the topic of controversy when it was revealed that she and, famous rapper Drake, would text each other and give Drake would even give her advice about boys. The main concern that many people had was that Drake is over 30 years old and he was talking to someone under 16 years old about relationships and giving them advice on how to attract boys. Brown even stated, “ We just texted each other the other day and he was like ‘I miss you’ and I was like ‘I miss you more,’ he’s great.”(Emina), To Millie this doesn’t seem like that big of a deal because in her eyes she’s just friends with one of the biggest rappers on the planet, but for us, we see this as a 30 year old man sending inappropriate messages to a pre-teen. It shouldn’t be shocking that Millie doesn’t see this as a big deal because she’s still just a kid. She hasn’t grown up enough yet to understand that what she’s doing isn’t normal. And that's exactly what makes these child stars such big targets. People tend to forget that while these child stars are able to portray someone mature, they’re aren’t,these are still kids going through puberty, are still naive and gullible, and going through the same problems just like any other kid.
As both technology and social media have grown, the definition of what a “celebrity” is has changed. Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, Television, Movies, Today any of these platforms can make you famous. Unfortunately, this has led to many people seeing it as an easy shortcut to fame. Unlike the world of Hollywood, there is nothing barring anyone from making a youtube channel, there aren't any auditions or paperwork to fill out, as long as you have internet you're in. Currently some of the biggest channels on youtube are revolved around children, whether they're for kids or starring kids. But that's where the problem begins. Because in Hollywood there are at least some laws and regulations in place to prevent kids from being taken advantage of. For youtube there are none. This leads easily Influenced children into thinking making a hit social media account will be fun and easy. In most cases these kids fail but for a very small few, they succeed. However, for the kids that find success they don’t know how to use this success, but their parents do, and some parents know how to abuse it
This was the case for the youtube channel "Daddy O'Five", a channel that's content mainly focused on parents "pranking" their children. The pranks consisted of, According to the NY Magazine, "accusing their Cody of bad behavior, cursing at him, smashing his electronics while he would scream that he didn't do anything and cry and repeatedly attempt to get off the camera"(Dunphey). But these were just one of many incidents as there are many videos showing Cody being pushed into objects and even assaulted by his brothers. These videos got over thousands of views and according to the NY Magazine has earned, "$200,000-$350,000 annually"(Dunphey). These parents, who are supposed to love and protect their kids from harm, exploited their children and influenced then to harm each other and convinced them to take part in these awful videos. For them, they saw their kids as a means to make money and they were willing to put their kids in harm's way to get it. What started as fun for these kids turned into a nightmare that ruined their relationships with one another. These kids were exploited by their own parents for money, how are we supposed to trust kids to navigate the dangers of stardom when their own parents can become dangers?
Over the years it has unfortunately become a trend for child celebrities to have “breakdowns” when they grow into adulthood. From stars like Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus, Brittney Spears, and Justin Bieber most of these stars seem to become almost completely different people the second they become adults. They know longer become the sweet kid you saw on T.V. and instead you’ll see their names associated with the words “drugs or arrested”. When a kid grows up in the spotlight they don’t have the same childhood as other kids. Their childhood consists of strict rules and time constraints that don’t give them the opportunity to experience being a kid until they get older and by then they aren't even a kid anymore. Combine that with at the same time being given all the attention and praise you want while having everything handed to you and you get the formula for a messed up kid
In an article written by former star of Matilda, Mara Wilson, when referring to her wanting to go out and party, she stated, “Friends of mine would sometimes post things I’d said or pictures I was in on public websites, which has caused rifts and some serious issues.”, (Wilson) for Mara Wilson almost her every move was recorded or caught on photo in some way or another. For her, it was difficult to let loose and do normal kid things because if she did, someone would find a problem with it and it would cause backlash on her. A normal girl would get teased a little bit if she said she thought a boy was cute. If Wilson said a boy was cute, it would be the headline of some article or end up on a newspaper for anyone to judge and read. “Everyone loves to laugh at the asshole who was smug once, and has since fallen. But no one wants to be that asshole.” (Wilson) This quote by Wilson does a good job at saying how that although it's easy for us to judge these child stars while they’re young, none of us actually want to go through that. Being a child star can seem fun and they make seem like they’re at the top of the world, but they can end up back right where they began very easily. A child shouldn't have to go through the process of losing their childhood, fame can only damage a kid.
It may seem nice to think becoming famous at a young age is a good thing but it isn’t. Stardom is a roller coaster of events with more downs than ups. Many adults have been crushed trying to seek it so why should we allow kids to be put through the same thing? And even when they do gain it it only takes away their chance to be a kid. You can become an actor at any age but you only get one childhood. The allure of money and wealth may seem like a great thing but it doesn’t last forever and it certainly isn’t worth the cost of a child growing up normally. Stardom has lead to children or teenagers having psychological or social issues and has also lead them to becoming sexualised and even worse, abuse. Anyone under the age of 17 should not be allowed to become celebrities in order to protect them from the many problems that already plague adult celebrities.