Who Protects Them? The Danger of Being a Child Actor

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Children working on set are completely vulnerable. Their daily lives are in the hands of people in power on set. Parents who pawn their children for money, violent directors, and laws with known loopholes are all causing these children to be exploited within Hollywood.

Actors like Jennette Mccurdy, Brooke Shields, and Drew Barrymore were all once children who were forced into acting as children due to their parents. These parents have pushed them into acting causing them to be put in dangerous and uncomfortable situations. In Jennete McCurdy’s memoir, she remembers when she had told her mother she wanted to quit acting. “She bangs on the steering wheel, accidentally hitting the horn. Mascara trickles down her cheeks. She’s hysterical like I was in the Hollywood Homicide audition. Her hysteria frightens me and demands to be taken care of.” McCurdy writes the truth that is so apparent in many child actors’ lives. Because the parents live vicariously through their children, their children now suffer the consequences of a life they never asked for. 

The pressure that goes into this can then cause a rift and a lack of trust between a parent and child because now if anything goes wrong they won’t feel compelled to tell anyone at the risk of being blackballed and losing out on their parent’s dream. Alexa Nikolas, a former child actor from the Nickelodeon show, Zoey 101 remembers times when children were being sold out for money by their parents. “He had a digital camera and he would go around with money and ask to take photos of the kids’ feet.” Nikolas remembers “I remember thinking it was weird and silly almost as a kid. I remember my mum going, ‘Don’t, go over there!’ but I saw other parents allowing their kids to do it.”

There are loopholes even with child labor laws protecting children from being overworked on set. These loopholes have been deliberately exploited time and time again. Things such as conventions, interviews, and signings are not a part of child labor laws. Conventions are usually eight hours long and held for 3-4 days at a time. These conventions usually consist of interviews, meet-and-greets, and various photo-ops. More often than not they don’t even pay the personalities themselves and may only get a portion of the autograph and photo fees. Child actors such as the Strangers Things cast are often subjected to hours at these conventions and signings on a weekly bases in order to promote their projects.

Children working on set are ultimately extremely vulnerable. It has been shown in concerning numbers as to how many children have been exploited, abused, and taken advantage of. If not the parents, If not the people in power, and if not the law, who will protect these children?



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