Impact of Reality TV on Children

The face of Indian Television has gone through complex plastic surgeries since its birth into our society. From a single soap Hum Log which the entire village used to watch on a single television set, with unimaginable zeal, to the crispy sitcoms Shriman Shrimati, Dekh Bhai Dekh, Tu Tu Main Main, to Ekta Kapoor’s melodramatic Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, to the youth centric drama Sanjeevani, the Indian audience have relished them all. Then, when these production houses found it tough to drag their shows beyond a  certain limit and plummeting TRPs started glaring them straight in their faces, came the need and the era of something refreshing and this something refreshing was  our own friendly monster - Reality Television.

Reality Television is a genre of television programming that presents purportedly unscripted dramatic or humorous situations, documents actual events, and usually features ordinary people instead of professional actors. These people are put in some altogether extraordinary situations or unnerving locations and are told to act in a certain way by the story editors, so that they are able to strike an emotional chord with the gullible glue watchers of TV. Highly sensitized and overtly manipulated, these scripted realities are responsible for spoiling the smooth fabric of our society, thus encouraging money mindedness, voyeurism and sadistic pleasure. Some popular types of reality shows are game shows, talent hunts, dating shows, supernatural and paranormal shows, talk shows, etc. These shows, despite all criticism, have become an essential part of our daily lives and a spicy topic of idle gossip at social gatherings.

But amid all the gala time we’re having, what we fail to realize, is that we’re harming our naive ones big time. Children with their impressionable minds and over sensitive nature susceptible to the slightest of forces, become hapless victims of these scripted realities. Having no sense of discrimination between right and wrong, reality and fiction, they tend to believe in whatever they see on the television screen and try to emulate the protagonists instinctively. And this, most of the times becomes dangerous, both to their moral system as well as to their precious lives. Shows like Emotional Atyachar, Khatron Ke Khiladi and Roadies are very much responsible for these kind of mishappenings. Recently a game show, Sach Ka Samna starred by the TV channel Star Plus was taken off air by the government for showing unethical and corrupt content harmful for the innocent minds and unacceptable to various strata of our society.

As far as the child participants are concerned, they are no less victimized than their viewer counterparts. Talent Hunt shows like Jhalak Dikh Laa Jaa, India’s Got Talent, etc. are responsible for playing dirty and grave with the physical and emotional health of children. Though these shows play a very positive role in providing our talented Indian kids with a platform, rather really huge, to showcase their uncapped talents, compete with the tough world and thus fulfill their cherished dreams, but all that doesn’t come without paying an unreasonably high price. It is observed that the child participants in these shows are subject to strenuous routines of continuous singing and dancing, exposed to harsh lights for long hours and victimized by harsh and unnecessary jibes by the judges on board.  In 2008, a  sixteen year old girl, Shinjini sunk into depression and eventually was paralyzed after being severely rebuked by the judges in a Bengali dance reality show. Shockingly, facts about the girl’s asthmatic contion, were hidden by the parents from the concerned authorities. Here, though the parents are to be rightly blamed for prioritizing expected and much dreamt of fame over their child’s safety, but this case validates the need of a strict medical examination of the participants prior to being allowed to participate, something which is completely missing in these shows. Such talent shows are not completely undesirable, provided they do not let child participation become CHILD LABOUR, for we want more Abhijit Sawants, Shreya Ghoshals and Sunidhi Chahans rather than another Shinjini out of their profit flooded pockets.

All said, making hay while the sun shines though with precaution and responsibility is the need of the tough hour. Television production houses need to realize that, they, being the biggest form of media, have huge social responsibilities to fulfill- towards children, towards households, and towards society, for they can’t escape scot-free from the sharp glare of the society and law. And our budding flowers need to be loved, taken the best care of, and emboldened enough to traverse the rough patches ahead, with their minds free and heads held high!!!

Nikita Dhingra

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