The passing of Erin Moran once again brought to light the struggles faced by child stars. While it now seems she died from stage 4 cancer, the immediate thought in everyone’s mind was she had overdosed unintentionally or had taken her own life. We weren’t being quick to judgment, we were basing our guess on the troubled lives of the stars we grew up with: Tracey Gold, Corey Feldman, Dana Plato, Gary Coleman … the list goes on. In fact, Moran did struggle with depression.
I often think I should try to get my son, Charlie, into acting. Unlike the rest of my kids, he doesn’t seem to love sports and does love to sing, dance and play-act. Then, I reconsider because so many child stars lead unhappy, unhealthy adult lives. Maybe kids just should not be thrust into the limelight. Perhaps there are too many expectations to please, too many demands put on their young minds and bodies, and too much pressure to perform.
Can these sad examples shed some light on the struggles our own young adults have with depression, anxiety and addiction? Have we not come to treat our kids like stars in their own homes and communities? We spend time and money to boost their talents on stages, on fields and in the classroom. We act as their agents to coaches, teachers and even college admissions offices. We boast of their accomplishments on social media. We find particularly flattering pictures of them to post and solicit “Likes.” Local papers and news websites write polished articles depicting student athletes as they do professionals. High school teams can now be watched on television, and we can video every moment of their lives. Successful kids are in fact, superstars in their towns.
I am as guilty as the next mom. I don’t know why my kids are often providing my entertainment. I don’t know why I stress over their successes and failures as if they were monumental, as opposed to simply a part of growing up. I do know kids today are under way too much stress. I do know depression among teens is on the rise, up 37% from 2005 to 2014. I do know our kids are suffering from more sports’ related injuries than ever before.
Most people will agree the anecdotal evidence points to child stardom as being an unhealthy way to grow up. Most people will agree our kids are more in the public eye than previous generations. The statistics are clear about increasing mental illness and stress among our teens. Perhaps it is time to take the gold stars off their bedroom doors.