Make-believe worlds

Here’s my article that got published in The Hindu’s Magazine today. This is the original link :
Fourteen-year-old Shraddha (name changed on request) has participated in three reality shows. And all this juggling her school and rigorous dance training. “I balance my academics with dance practice. When I have shooting, obviously work load increases, but I make it a point to complete my homework,” she says.
For Neha (name changed on request), another 10-year-old participant of a reality dance show, it has been a hectic schedule of dance classes for the last two years. And it does not end there. “Our practice sessions begin at 6 a.m. and go on till 12 p.m. After a lunch break, we practise till 6 p.m.” “I do not think there is any stress involved. Everyone has to work hard to be on top and I encourage my daughter in every way,” adds her mother.
Huge toll
Children-based reality shows are burgeoning, encouraging them to participate and ‘exhibit’ their talent to the world, and unknowingly taking a heavy toll on the young minds. Many schoolchildren are stuck in the daily grind of reality television production, shuttling between school and studios. Naga Raju Goud, creative director of ‘Gharshana’ on MAA TV and ‘Dhee’ on ETV, says, “Most of the participants hail from middle-class, lower-middle class and financially poor backgrounds. For some, the reality stage becomes a platform for their daily earnings.”
But, reality shows are often just a platform for diminutive gains. Savita Date Menon, a psychologist, feels a child’s stress and anxiety levels are accentuated because the competition is in the public glare. The primary concern is to become “something” from “nothing”. The impact is not only on the participants but also on those children who watch the shows. They imitate the participants and think it is ‘ cool’. Such shows kill the excitement and zeal in children making them feel that there is nothing more left to achieve.
Last year, a 13-year-old girl committed suicide because her parents did not allow her to participate in a reality show. “After seeing themselves on screen, a few children are so tempted to retain their image in the public eye that they get diverted easily from their academics. The glitz and glamour attract children,” says, Jagadish P., a parent.
Parents’ role
Parents play a critical role in this make-believe reality times. They should be the judge of their child’s tolerance capacity rather than using them as a passport to fame. “Parents should first see if their wards can handle the physical and emotional challenges over a long period,” says Sonal Andrews, coordinator at a teacher’s training institute.
“Children get hyper, panic and eventually the pressure increases. In such competitions, the one who wins is the one who has the skill and withstands the pressure from all sides. And in this scenario, if the parent provides a lot of negative influences in the growing stage, then the child can break easily,” says Menon.
Some reality shows stray from focusing on talent, and bring out negative emotions like jealousy, anger, depression in children. This compels them to get critical of each other’s performances and look at everybody as a threat. For some, it can be a disaster and confuse their sense of identity. Breakdowns are common on the stage, especially when the stakes are high.
Rupak Ronaldson, associate creative head of ‘Gharshana’, says “children do not understand the comments of the judges. Sometimes, parents have to be cautious enough to make them understand what is right and what is wrong.”
Negative emotions have a direct impact on children because their character is in the formative stages at that age. Such emotions will have a long lasting impact on the child. So, is all that money worth it? Easy money does come with a price.

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