Kids Dance Reality Shows: Entertainment Or Entrapment?

kid's Dance reality shows

We know dance reality shows for children are supremely entertaining. It is a pleasure to watch them perform on stage. Never flinching for once, performing perfect dance numbers, totally co-ordinated moves and expressions, when you watch these children, you are left wondering how talented and well-trained they are in the arts.

But there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes of kids dance reality shows that we are not privy to and which is a reason for concern and the topic for this article.

Forced into stringent schedules, competitive environments and tireless training these shows are taking a toll on children’s physical and mental health say experts. In this article experts tell us how these children’s dance reality shows are a bane for these children, who participate in it and what we must know as parents.

Dance Reality Shows For Children – What’s Gone Wrong?

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has issued an advisory to TV channels over portrayal of children in kids dance reality shows.

The debate over whether these kids dance reality shows are taking things a bit too far has been going on for some time now. The children have to keep rehearsing and performing in pressurized environment and adult dance moves by kids in Indian reality shows have been the main focus of the debate.

Way back in 2017 in an interview in the Hindustan Times, director-writer Amul Gupte said: “They are brought from distant towns to Mumbai and huddled into cheap hotels with their parents. Every morning, they have to travel to the TV studio for rehearsals. These kids are wrenched away from all normal activities and are thrown into a single-minded devotion to lending their voices to these reality shows. They are made to shoot for countless hours, sometimes in humid, non-air conditioned rooms. It’s barbaric.”

We asked the experts the physical, psychological implications of such reality shows.

The Psychological Impact Of Dance Reality Shows On Children

What we see on screen is totally opposite to what these children go through in real lives. The glitz, glamour is relegated to the stage. Beyond that there is a lot of darkness. Accompanied by parents who only know the word “win” they are pushed into a life where laughter, play and even school doesn’t feature.

The experts give us an insight into what’s actually happening.

Tanu Shree Singh, Professor of Psychology, specialising in Positive Psychology

“It is sad that the children’s emotional turmoil is peddled for TRP” 

The rejection is peddled as an emotional segment on these shows. TRP ratings are given a precedence over the emotional well being of the child.

When a child loses and cries on set, it forms a part of promos, is extensively shown. It becomes a part of the show. I personally find it heartbreaking that tears are used to push up viewership.

“I don’t support children going to these shows”

Children need to have a shot at childhood! Nothing else. They need to experience and observe the world, know themselves, spend time in creative spaces minus the judgement and hone their skills. What’s the rush? Why do we need child celebrities?

If a child sings, why do they need to be pushed to do it professionally at an early age? It is not just the skill that is needed. It is the ability to handle failure, heartbreaks, all shades of people and more. Children need to be children first.

The no-no for parents would be – DO NOT TAKE YOUR CHILDREN TO THESE KIDS DANCE REALITY SHOWS!

And for show makers – There are plenty of themes to explore. Leave the kids out of it

Riddhi Doshi Patel, Child Psychologist /Performance Skills Trainer 

“When children dress and act like adults on such kids dance reality shows, the consequences are devastating”

kids dance reality shows
Children dress up and dance like adults

The consequences or repercussions for children having to dress up like adults and gyrate to cheap lyrics is devastating. Devastating not just on the child’s physicality, but also on his/her mental health.

As minors, as children who are not yet physically developed; is it right to make them do pelvic, hip and chest thrusts? They are at an age where they are probably not even aware of their own bodies, leave alone a developed body.

They are probably trained by trainers, coaxed by parents and mentored by mentors who are trying to outshine each other to make a fast buck.

Dance is a form of expression. One has to feel the music and rhythm and give expression to the lyrics. Imagine what a 4-year-old child who does not understand the meaning of a smooch mimics a kiss on stage.

In her innocence the kiss looks cute, but when she is trained to bring in sexiness into it; what kind of picture is painted in your head. Are we actually encouraging and promoting pedophiles?

Unfortunately, our movies have normalized such objectification of women’s bodies, normalized these suggestive moves, suggestive lyrics and even stalking is fine in Hindi films. Switch on the television today and flick through any entertainment channel and you will be bombarded with crass and double meaning lyrics, coupled with indecent and provocative dance moves. 

Children who watch television at home, internet and movies in any given medium get used to such things over time. It seems normal!

There is no differentiation between what is decent and indecent. Even children who do not go to such kids dance reality shows and dance randomly at home, dance suggestively. So how can we expect a contestant to not do so for money.

Related Reading: Raising Teenagers: Parenting Tips for How To Deal With Teenagers

“The parents are the culprits”

The culprits here are the parents who agree to allow their children to be objectified, the trainers or mentors who teach the children these moves, and finally the masses who are hungry for such shows. The parents have a displaced sense of achievement.

Their child is a means for them to make their dreams of fame and affluence come true. Unfortunately, undue pressure is being out on the child. Also, worth noting is that many of the contestants come from middle or lower middle class with aspirations for a better life.

They are forced to spend beyond their means to look the part at the reality shows and when the shows end; they find it difficult to move back to their former ways of living.

I am counselling two children who have participated in a popular reality show. Unfortunately, they did not win and are now in Stage Two of Depression.

Their parents don’t understand why the child had to take it to heart when winning and losing is all part of the game. What the parents don’t understand is that the pressure to win was first enforced on the child by the parents themselves. They are making serious parenting mistakes that they don’t know themselves.

“Papon’s kiss was unpardonable”

It was completely wrong and singer Papon should have been punished. The girl was a minor who was being mentored by someone like him she considered a ‘Guru’, ‘Godly’ even.

In India, we hold our Gurus in high esteem. She was molested, so to say, by that very Guru.  I can’t even imagine or describe the shock the girl must have gone through.

Of course, due to whatever pressure or fear of repercussions, her parents defended Papon saying that the kiss was fatherly; but deep down they too probably realize it was not.

“Mentors are seen with suspicion now”

children's dance reality show
If they don’t win children go into depression

The fact here is that, ever since that episode, mentors are also seen with a suspicious eye. Can we trust the mentors? Can we rest assure that our child is in safe hands?

Mentors in their bid to gain popularity often give false appreciations, words of praise; or alternately push the child to do more and do better than his/her capability.

Related Reading: Child Abuse by Parents? Here is What You Need to Do

In all of this, the child suffers. Suffers from over-exhaustion, physical pressure, mental meltdown and emotional stress.

We are playing with our children’s innocence, their childhood and their very lives. Such shows need to stop; or at least need to be regulated.

“Children are exposed to sexual and substance abuse”

Once the child enters this world of glitzy shows the expectations soar. Two things that can happen here is, either the child compromises to situations where she/he is shown the fantasy world of easy money.

These situations can be sexual abuse, substance abuse or drugs peddling as easy money. Else they enter the world of depression. Anyone from the costume designer to the make up artist to the choreographer; anyone can abuse the children. Most often parents are not allowed into the rehearsal areas.

There is also a possibility of parents asking children to overlook an occasional touch or feel. A reality show has more than a dozen odd staff, how does one keep track of who comes in contact with the child and to what extent.

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Ruchita Dar Shah, Admin and Chief Mommy officer of First Moms Club

“We seriously need a reality check for kids dance reality shows in India”

I think lots of these parents are living their dreams through their children and I think Amol Gupte is right, the conditions and hours are crazy at these children’s dance reality shows.

The Govt Body I&B ministry should have strict mandates and also there should be a certain age limit. Just like kids below a certain age shouldn’t write, play sports or learn any musical instrument, why are they expected to do all that and more, that too in front of a live audience and adults sitting and judging them. 

Ads, films and reality shows should be banned or have a body that keeps a check on all this. Get different people like educationists, teachers, psychologists and experts to form a body who can look into these shows and then allow them to continue or not. Expert parent bodies so to speak.

Snigdha Mishra, Mental Wellness and Behaviour Trainer

“Children are subjected to unhealthy comparisons”

It’s totally a parent’s call about how they are managing their child’s life around these competitions. I have no doubt that some parents may be putting undue pressure, making unhealthy comparisons or maybe even forcing the child to participate in such kids dance reality shows. This toxic parenting can carry its impact into teenage or adulthood.

There must be strict rules and checks in place to figure out if the child is emotionally or mentally abused or coerced into doing it.

Related Reading: 15 Signs You Had Toxic Parents And You Never Knew It

The companies cannot really be held responsible because everything is consensual, but it for sure is also the company’s responsibility to keep it as healthy for the children as possible.

“The parents are delusional about their child’s talent”

Psychological impacts can be aplenty. It can range anywhere from depression and anxiety to major mood disorders, low self esteem, need for validation.

Children today are anyway exposed to a lot due to social media and general accessibility of information. It becomes extremely important as a parent to be mindful about the reasons for participation.

Sometimes parents can get actually delusional about their child’s talent and take them everywhere. The child will be physically and mentally exhausted. If money is involved the child might even feel responsible for earning for the family.

They may develop unhealthy anger and frustration, behaviour disorders and so on. Sometimes the effect may not be visible till early or late adolescence.

Emotional assistance and counselling is extremely important for these families. I say families because even parents need help and assistance. If there are siblings, they can get affected too. The family environment, education, financial health, everything has to be kept in mind.

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