Report – Kids – Do We Care… Enough?
Presenter and actor Cel Spellman, who starred as a child actor in ‘Waterloo Road’, examined how television professionals deal with working with children
- There are challenges (but good ones) in using children in TV programmes – with The Voice kids’ version a prime example.
- There is no equity minimum for a child.
- There should possibly be a limit to the length of time for kids’ consent to appear on TV
Adapting ‘The Voice UK’ into a children’s version has been a challenge… ,’ said Jeanette Moffat, production executive on ITV’s ‘The Voice Kids’, ‘… but a good one.’
Jeanette explained that there are subtle differences between the adult and kids’ versions, including:
- All the chairs all turn around once the children have finished their performances and they are given advice in the cases where they haven’t been chosen by a judge.
- The battle stages are less confrontational with three contestants singing for a single place.
ITV monitor the participants’ social media, firstly to warn them how public their online presence is, and secondly to pick up problems such as bullying. All the way through they have a child psychologist at hand. The three coaches were chosen as they had all started their careers as children themselves, so have a good understanding of how they feel. Constants have to be seven to fourteen; it’s a requirement of the format rights holders to make it distinctive from the adult show, where the minimum age is 16.
Nila Karadia is line producer on the CBeebies show ‘Apple Tree House’. Now filming its second series, it uses child actors in almost every scene. Nila said they are rigorous in their implication of the licensing hours rules, which can create headaches for the filming crews. The children are chaperoned and also given three hours a day tuition and Nila told us how they seem to flag at 4pm, when their school day would normally end. She defended the fact that the children are paid less than the adults, but added that the adults in the show have at least 20 years’ experience. There is no equity minimum for a child. There are pitfalls, of course, such as one child normally tiring before the others, and they have to make special arrangements for the smokers in the crew. Nila said there was one situation when a child said something that was less than politically correct and this upset a member of the crew. This was deal with by having a quiet word with the child’s parents.
The final speaker was Laverne Antrobus. She works as a child and educational psychologist, behind and in front of the cameras. She said that she sees the value of having children working in television. Her children enjoy seeing people like themselves on the screen. However, she said she is also aware of some of the problems, and a lot of them centre around social media. Answering a question from the floor, Lavern thought it was important to continue to engage with children who appear in shows. The content is often online for years and there are repeats. She wondered if there should be a limit to the length of time their consent should last. ‘A year in a child’s life is not a long time,’ she observed.
Presenter & Actor
Child & Educational Psychologist
ITV, 'The Voice Kids'
Green Bay Media
Head of Content