Children brooding over a not-so-perfect dish, being made to recount the horror of how they lost a parent, and judges only prodding them further to add to the melodrama. Reality shows on television are treating kids too harshly for TRPs, and parents, teachers and shrinks are not amused.
Cases in point — recent episodes of the Indian chapter of Junior Masterchef, and criticism of recently concluded shows such as Dance India Dance, India’s Got Talent and Indian Idol Junior. While the host channels choose not to comment, the BCCC (Broadcasting Content Complaints Council) has received several complaints against these shows.
“We have received several complaints against the show (Masterchef) from parents and teachers who say the emotional upheaval the kids go through, is unhealthy. We will take appropriate action,” says an official from the council.
On the show, a young girl was grilled by the judges, and had to share how her family struggles to make ends meet in a matchbox house and how her father received severe burns in an accident. In another episode, Sarthak Bhardwaj, a child from Dehradun, cried on camera while narrating how their family survives by way of a small stall. The council says it issued an advisory against such behaviour last year. “Last year, on the basis of a large number of complaints against reality shows, we issued an advisory to member channels, saying content of any reality show must not cause any mental trauma to participants. The complaints read as if they are not adhering to this,” says the official.
Experts agree that putting kids under extreme pressure can be detrimental to their health. “Going through stress when the whole nation has its eyes fixed on them can be very mentally challenging for a child,” psychologist Avdesh Sharma. Academicians agree. Rashmi Malik, principal, Delhi International School, says, “Children could sink into major depression if their performance is not considered upto the mark on a national platform.”
With inputs from aditi caroli