Could reality shows corrupt celebrity children? Thoughts from a Vietnamese singer

By Thai Thuy Linh   April 20, 2016 | 05:17 pm PT
Following China's decision to ban reality shows featuring minors, Thai Thuy Linh, a famous Vietnamese pop singer, writes about the relationship between stardom and children.

Nep - my daughter - recently qualified for a big television show. When I found out about the results, I hid the news from my daughter for more than a month because I was scared about where this would go. I had to call a family gathering to discuss this problem.

I initially allowed my daughter to register for the show in the hope it would have a positive effect on her: she would have a chance to face pressure and responsibility. When she was small, Nep used to follow me to shows and was always confident on stage where she was surrounded by me and my colleagues. The first time I saw her cry before getting on stage was at the qualification round for that television show. Even when she stopped crying, she still had to sing on stage on her own. These shows helped my daughter mature and gain ambition. She, once a girl who refused to learn to sing, now sticks around when I give singing lessons to my students, to learn… unofficially.

Everything comes with its good and bad. After years in showbiz and working in the arts, I understand how bad competition can be for children. Social networks allow slander to spread, making it the norm. Children compete with one another; the crowd discuss and won’t hesitate to abuse one in favor of another. But the kids are innocent - they've done nothing wrong.

I had been keeping the news from Nep for a long time, but finally I sat down to talk with her. I explained to her all the challenges waiting for her on stage. To my surprise, Nep replied: “It’s nothing, because I won’t read or listen to people who say bad things about me.”

I let her move on. I realized she had the childish resilience to cope with the pressure that I lacked. I couldn’t, on behalf of all parents, strip her of the right to take part in a competition.

My story coincided with news from China that authorities had banned the broadcasting of reality show “Dad! Where are we going?”, saying that “reality shows should protect the mental and physical well-being of minors and limit their participation. They should not damage children’s psychological development with ‘overnight fame’.” The news caused debate in Vietnam, both for and against.

Chinese authorities had their reasons for making the decision. "Dad! Where are we going?", a show in which celebrity dads appear with their children, gives children ‘overnight fame’. I also have my own reason.

As a singer, I saw many kids spoiled as they rose to fame on the television shows they performed on. I think the main reason is their parents. If their parents suffer from "diva complex", their children will follow in the same footsteps. But if in the face of fame the parents can tell their children that, even with some talent, life out there is tough. This lesson helps children understand their place in society, and will stop them from turning into brats.

In the show “Dad! Where are we going?”, the children can hardly be spoiled by fame. Their parents are celebrities. They have experience and knowledge of fame, and all the tools necessary to protect their children: they are not the kind of parents that force their children to get into showbiz for money. They will have a good idea of what will happen if they let their children participate on reality shows.

As parents, we are all very proud of our children, and want them to be loved by everyone. Because my daughter always looks cute to me, I always feel the urge to show her off. It's like an instinct, and if anyone wants their children to appear on television, it’s understandable.

As for Nep’s case, I understand that every coin has two sides, and the life of a child after the show is dependent on their protectors.

By and large, the fate of a person in the morning after ‘overnight fame’ is their own choice.

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