“We are sorry, but it’s time to say goodbye”…“You have been chopped”…
How often do we hear these words coming from judges on TV reality shows like MasterChef or Chopped? Elimination and rejection is never a nice feeling. And when it happens on the junior iteration of these reality shows, it is heartbreaking, to say the least. From the look of terror on the child’s face to be named among the bottom two or three, to the tears rolling down their cheeks upon hearing their name being called in the elimination round, these moments make for great TV because children are open and hide nothing – but how good is it for the kids themselves?
Are we exposing children to failure and success too early in life? Is it right for a 6- or 8-year-old to face rejection so blatantly and worse still in front of a worldwide audience? In a bid to show off our pride and joys, are we putting too much pressure on our children to perform — with winning as the ultimate goal? Are reality TV shows like this added pressure on the child’s mind which is already bogged by many other everyday challenges?
Of course not every child is going to grow up to be a Masterchef or compete in reality TV shows, but our society – with its focus on tuition centres and extracurricular activities – is competitive in its own right.
“There are pros and cons to everything, but if winning is the main goal, then children are unnecessarily exposed to the pressure of performance,” Vidya Shankararaman, a learning support teacher at an international school here. “The situations have potential to get exacerbated depending on the personality of the child,” she warns. “Even if feedback and criticism is given with good intentions, there is the possibility that it could backfire, resulting in children reading more into it or taking it too seriously”.
Zheng June Sen, Centre Director at MindChamps Preschools, agrees, although she feels that it is okay for children to learn about success and failure from an early age. She also believes it’s important to differentiate for children between reality and a show that is designed with the main objective of garnering views. “It’s more important that we explain to our champs the difference and how success and failure occurs in real life.”
Both agree that competition can help in building confidence, not to mention being a veritable showcase of exceptional talent. However, it is important that the objective be teaching them that good sportsmanship is more important than winning.