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Does Acting Harm Kids?

By Jaclyn Lupo

Think of those days spent fighting boredom with your best friends. The nights spent getting ice-cream and singing at the top of your lungs in the car. As simple as that slumber party sounds, those are the memories that define our childhoods.

Most kids, myself included, dream about a life spent under the glamorous lights on a movie set. We played dress-up, pretending to be on the red carpet. We tried on our mother’s high heels and put on some makeup. We reenacted our favorite movies and shows, putting on performances using a hairbrush as our microphone. Then, we daydreamed about our future, wishing we could instantaneously be older. The red carpets, fancy dresses, and personal stylists sounded so luxurious. We believed that all we wanted in life was fame and fortune. However, as we watch popular young actresses grow up, it’s quite clear there is a huge price to be paid for a childhood spent on the set.

What we didn’t realize as kids was that growing up is a process. If it’s done overnight, like most young actors experience, it does more harm than good. Being involved with Hollywood requires actors to sacrifice those formative moments for “showbiz.” They trade their freedoms to be under the public’s watch and miss out on life’s valuable lessons. The problem is, once you grow up, there’s no going back. Many actors that started their careers early are finally admitting that their identities were hidden for the benefit of their performance. The repercussions of this are harmful. Let’s take a look at the Disney channel stars. This station is famous for introducing new, young actors into the spotlight. The sitcoms are hilarious, and their movies will always be classics, but those famous actresses were forced to give up their privacy to give us the content we all know and love.

Demi Lovato made her acting debut on Camp Rock and instantly became a memorable name. Starring alongside the Jonas Brothers, she was quickly idolized and noted as the next big thing. From there, her acting and singing careers skyrocketed. She traded a traditional childhood for a contract with Disney and started living under the public’s watch. In her documentary, Simply, Complicated, Demi explained how she felt pressured to be perfect. It was as if she was acting her entire life. She never got a break to just simply live authentically. She admits in her more recent music that she was discouraged from finding her own identity, and was forced to conform to what her supervisors wanted. Over the past few years, Demi has been increasingly talking about her mental health struggles. She confessed to her body image struggles, opening up about her eating disorder. She felt pressured to look a certain way to be well-liked, and in the process of trying to obtain unrealistic beauty standards, she hurt herself. Demi also battled depression and drug addiction. Taking all of this into consideration, it’s clear her instant fame as a kid only did her harm. Fortunately, Demi is getting the help she needs, and advocating for mental health awareness so other people will have the courage to start therapy if they are hurting. Her battle for confidence is ever-going, but we are all hopeful she lives a future at peace with herself.

Miley Cyrus starred in Hannah Montana, one of Disney’s most successful sitcoms. With such a huge role, Miley was looked up to by so many girls. From Halloween costumes to birthday parties, Hannah Montana was everywhere in the late 2000s. Unlike Hannah Montana in the show, Miley did not have a cover to live out a normal life alongside her acting career. With that being said, Miley was unable to be a typical teenager. Teenagers will inevitably rebel, but Disney essentially prohibits their actors from being anything other than perfect. For the average teenager, rebellion is expressed by dressing creatively, staying out later than curfew, or even just simply saying “no” to parents. Teenagers need to go through the process of figuring themselves out, and these small rebellious acts play into that. Teenagers are encouraged to explore how they want to live, and for the first time in their lives, their parents are not constantly watching them. Unfortunately, Miley was forced to listen to what her managers, producers, directors, and everyone in between wanted from her. She might have been a teenager, but her life was under the watchful eye of Hollywood. She desperately wanted to live out those natural rebellious urges. When she finally tasted freedom in 2013, she gave herself a new reputation. Miley had the fortune, yet she lacked decision-making skills since for years everyone made choices for her. With no Disney contract, she was free to do whatever she wanted, and let’s just say she went wild. Fortunately, she has realigned her focus to live the life she wants and create the music she loves.

Selena Gomez booked her role as Alex Russo on Wizards of Waverly Place at age 13. She explained that "It felt very claustrophobic and just...I felt very trapped." Her personal life was out for everyone to see, and it restricted her from just being able to have fun. Her relationship with Justin Bieber was followed by everyone. People everywhere had their own opinions on the young couple, and many were unafraid to express themselves as hurtful comments on her posts. With her main goal as a young star being to satisfy her audience, any form of hate crushed her internally. Fortunately, Selena learned with time that she needs to focus on staying true to herself, rather than trying to please everybody. She has grown into a strong, independent woman, despite the many hardships she has endured. Her projects are increasingly more mature, and vulnerable, confirming that she is becoming her true self.

Simply put, acting does harm kids if it becomes their entire life. Childhoods are important in regards to the developmental process, and it’s obvious Hollywood doesn’t allow young actors to grow up traditionally. All that fame and fortune isn’t worth giving up the memories of playing with friends, going to school, and having the ability to experiment with who you want to be.

Today, there are more ways than ever to become instantaneously famous. From Tik Tok to Instagram, we have the potential to have the entire world as our audience at our fingertips. What’s critical though, no matter how you showcase your performance, is that you find a balance between your personal and public life. Try implementing a strict screentime schedule for yourself. Set a time limit that makes sense for you on your social accounts. I found that about an hour a day on each app is reasonable. Give yourself the chance to explore new hobbies. Try hiking, sewing, or painting! The possibilities are endless! Go on a road trip where the service is sketchy. Yes, break away from the wi-fi, I promise it will be there for you when you return! You can still use your phone for pictures and boomerangs and videos! I promise you’ll want to remember these moments!

It’s so easy to get swept away into the crazy virtual world. Make sure you take precautions and know when you need a break. If you find yourself comparing your likes or looks, that’s an indicator that you need a social media detox. Put yourself first, then your content. You need to take time away from the screen to make memories with your friends and family.

As you explore the vast world of performing, creating content, and/or sharing your talents, peer pressures will arise. Understand that every action has a consequence, good or bad. Take a moment to pause, and access the action before you go ahead and do it. It’s your life, and you are in total control of how you behave. No matter what happens, you must assume full responsibility for your action, so consider this every time you encounter a situation that your gut instincts tell you may be bad.

Please remember, you are capable of all your dreams. Be patient, and trust the process. Let’s be grateful for the lives we have, and never forget to enjoy what today has in store for you. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have, seriously. Stop comparing yourself to others! Put your phone down, and go live the best life you can create for yourself. Most importantly, I challenge you to enjoy the process of growing up.

Jaclyn Lupo is an editorial writer passionate about fashion, sustainability and culture.

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