Dr. Randy Dellosa (Contributed photo)
And now that the dust has settled somehow, the lessons continue to haunt us. They force us to take a closer look at child stars and performers once more. It makes us examine how we're treating these innocent ones who have no choice but look to older people for protection.
Are networks protecting them or pushing them deeper into a quagmire they may not get out of? Are they pawns -- of networks or lazy, ambitious parents -- or typical children who think acting in front of the cameras is what else — child's play?
Showbiz psychologist Dr. Randy Dellosa has not-so-good news.
"The entertainment industry is an adult-oriented work environment and therefore an abnormal venue for children to grow up in," he observes.
Thus, little ones who eke out a living in this industry suffer the same frustrations and pressures their adult counterparts do. Children feel the heat when people pit them against other young stars in the name of intrigue. Very young showbiz wannabes who audition and fail to get the nod in reality talent shows, Dellosa continues, feel a big blow in much the same way their elders do.
Another source of pressure, he adds, is acting out adult scenes and situations. What does the child know of violence, death, sex, etc.? And yet, he is made to act out scenes surrounding these issues.
Dellosa warns that this "creates a damaging impact on their minds which may affect their personalities as they grow up."
Now, do you wonder why some child stars grow up regretting their lost childhood in their pursuit of fame and fortune?
'Child Star Syndrome'
Dellosa points out that the whole thing is called the "Child Star Syndrome." Its symptoms are achingly familiar. The former child star turns into a major problem. He becomes rebellious teenager, suffers eating and anxiety disorders, turns to drugs and alcohol and gets very depressed.
Once they grow up, Dellosa says, they are forced to adapt to the harsher experiences of the real world. Some can't accept the fact that they're no longer the center of attention. A younger, cuter child is. And the truth hurts.
Others, adds Dellosa feel trapped in a goody two-shoes image. They can't be themselves.
What can the parents, and the network do? Dellosa offers suggestions.
"Parents must make sure showbiz is merely an `extra-curricular activity'. They also must make sure it doesn't create undue stress or pressure on the children, and should not keep them from leading balanced lives."
TV hosts, he goes on, must be more sensitive to their guests and everything that happens on the show. Dellosa thinks a good TV host must take charge whenever something is getting out of hand on stage. He must respect age-appropriate games or activities.
As for the all-powerful networks, Dellosa is all out for values education, spiritual formation, sensitivity training and personal growth programs for young talents. Sadly though, he notes that life coaching and counseling services are hardly offered to stars despite the pressure they're going through.
For now, Dellosa says Jan-Jan may not even understand what all the fuss around him is all about. But it's wrong to think he doesn't need help.
Dellosa insists someone must help Jan-Jan make sense of what's happening. Someone must help him overcome guilt, shame and humiliation. His classmates, playmates and even cruel adults will still ridicule him. And Jan-Jan must learn how to deal with this.
Finally, someone must check on him for signs of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and psychosomatic illnesses.
The issue has become a wake-up call for networks. ABS-CBN is drafting a child protection handbook that will apply to minors and news coverage on children. TV5 has its Guidelines on the Treatment of Children as Viewers, Subjects, Talents or Participants. A child psychologist will make sure these guidelines are followed. The network has vowed to assign a child welfare coordinator in every stage of production. It will also hold regular seminars and sensitivity training sessions for its talents and employees.
Let's hope these measures are not just band-aid solutions. Let's hope they last. And make life a little better for the little children who are sometimes victims of parents hungry for fame and fortune.