Is it too much pressure for kids to answer difficult academic questions on TV to possibly win hundreds of thousands of dollars for their families?
That is the question being asked about the new game show “Our little Genius,” which will premier next Wednesday night on Fox.
The game show will ask 6- to 12-year-olds to choose academic subjects, such as astronomy, and answer increasingly difficult questions. There are 10 levels worth $1,000 to $500,000. They can stick with the money they’ve earned or try to go to the next level and win more. Once they get above $10,000 they are guaranteed at least that amount.
The twist on this is that the kid doesn’t decide whether to go on but his parents must make the choice based on the confidence they have in their child. They have to basically bet if they think their kid will know the next answer.
“ ‘We thought genius kids would be a great subject,’ said Mark Burnett, the prolific reality show producer who conceived the series along with Mike Darnell, who oversees reality programming for the Fox network.”
“Noting that talk shows like ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show,’ ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ and ‘The Tonight Show’ occasionally feature child prodigies as guests, Mr. Burnett said that the new series showcases something that rarely earns the spotlight in our celebrity- and sports-obsessed culture.”
“ ‘I love that we’re shining a light on these academic geniuses,’ Mr. Burnett said. ‘So much light is shined on gymnasts, football players, singers and actors. It’s not often that you get a light shined on academics.’ ”
However, some children’s advocacy group and media outlets see it as exploitation that can deeply affect the child’s self-esteem.
“In essence, they either believe in their child’s ability or simply don’t. We are not talking small amounts of money either. The payoff is upwards of $200,000 — an amount that could change an entire family’s future. The pressure to perform for a large payoff will be a huge responsibility for any of these children. In essence, these parents are pimping out their children in hopes of a huge monetary return with little or no safeguards for the welfare of the children. This is not a judged show on talent (an inherently subjective experience). It is a quiz show with parents in control of the destiny while kids are expected to be little computers spitting out information. This is a recipe for a self-esteem nosedive.” …
“When it comes to reality TV and game shows, there are no guidelines for the welfare of the children. The laws are not the same as for child actors, who have numerous laws in place to protect them emotionally, physically, and psychologically. Paul Petersen, who was a child star himself on “The Donna Reed Show,” has been an advocate for children in television for years. His organization, A Minor Consideration, has been fighting exploitation of children, including Jon and Kate’s children and many other reality TV kids. “ …
“The problem is, when there is money involved and no laws regulating the situation, it leaves those who have another agenda other than the health, safety, and welfare of the children in charge. The parents, the producers, and the networks are the ones in control. The top priority of those people (including parents) is most often making money — which is usually at the expense of the kid’s well-being.”
I agree with Dr. Golland that more painful than actually missing a question would be if the parents don’t have faith in the child and don’t want them to continue to the next level. That lack of confidence on national television would be a devastating blow to a child. It’s a parent’s job to always believe in our children and not to bet against them.
The New York Times story points out that there are already high-stakes competitions that kids compete in like the Scripps-Howard Spelling Bee.
My husband offers up the Little League World Series as another high stress event. He covered it for several years for the AP and witnessed how much pressure those little guys are under competing for the pride of their country and being watched on TV worldwide.
What do you think: Will the game show “Our little Genius” put too much pressure on a 6 to 12-year-old? Is there a way to change the premise to make it less stressful? Would it be more painful for a child to lose or for a child’s parents to admit they don’t have faith in the child and not let them go forward?
Is it fair to compare this type of game show with a sporting competition like the Little League World Series?
Should there be regulations to protect kids from their parents in reality game shows or is that just up to the parents?