Will ‘Our Little Genius’ put too much pressure on kids?

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.

From The New York Times:

“ ‘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.

From Dr. Michelle Golland, a licensed Clinical Psychologist, on Momlogic:

“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?

57 comments Add your comment

Lisa

January 7th, 2010
7:14 am

I think folks are making wayyyyyy to much out of this. It’s an opportunity for folks to make some money – with money making opportunities comes a little stress.

Just let the kid know up front that we’re not going to stay in the game long, just long enough to get some money. If the kid doesn’t expect to finish the game, when the parents pull the plug s/he won’t be surprised.

motherjanegoose

January 7th, 2010
7:23 am

Good Morning Theresa….I am reading and find this topic interesting.

I believe I was basically taken to task late yesterday for my opinions and wordiness ( not sure with everything piled and running together) , so I will excuse myself today and hope the rest of you have fun.

I absolutely do agree that teachers: ” tend to think their opinions should be given more value for their insight into things”. No problems there. When teachers see hundreds of kids and their parents, patterns and beliefs are formed. Just like farmers who plant hundreds of seedlings each year or truck drivers who log thousands of miles on the road. We do not know everything but we typically know about kids.

Remember….if you can read anything on this post and are able to reply with a sentence or two

THANK A TEACHER

I have many I would love to thank as their insights impacted my life.

"so I will excuse myself today..."

January 7th, 2010
7:39 am

And then she goes on for another 105 words…..

Lisa

January 7th, 2010
8:03 am

“so I will excuse myself today…” – at least she added more to the conversation than you did!

mom2alex&max

January 7th, 2010
8:03 am

This is just another way for deranged parents to PIMP their children. I HATE it.
Earn your own damn money and let your children be children for pete’s sake.

Hi there

January 7th, 2010
8:06 am

While I think there may be added pressure put on kids being on the show, they are agreeing to be on the show in the first place. I just don’t see how it will be harmful since there have been kids and parents on shows for a long time now. (Anyone remember Double Dare?) There might be some stress and pressure, but it opens up the door to talk to your child about stress and pressure in the real world. It might not be at that level, but it will allow for other stressful situations to possibly be more manageable in the future since they have learned coping skills at a younger age. Think about it, life is full of stress and it all depends on how you handle and process that stress to how life turns out and situations come to a resolve. I think as parents it’s our jobs to not avoid all stressful sitiuations just for the sake of saving the child, since that does nothing to teach them life skills.

Just my opinion mind you.

Hi there

January 7th, 2010
8:08 am

Who knows, maybe the parents see this as a way for them to have college money or to pay for college and beyond. While I agree that most parents “pimp” their kids out, what if the kid really wants to be on the show? Is the parent still the bad guy?

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

January 7th, 2010
8:17 am

Guys — i truly believe that MJG has good intentions and is just sharing knowledge. You may not agree with her but I think people are ganging up and being a little bit mean. I just want us all to get along.

mom2alex&max

January 7th, 2010
8:19 am

To “Hi there”: have you seen the Nick show “Brain Drain”? My children LOVE it. My oldest (9 and a half) asks me every time they see it “mom would u let me be on that show?” I don’t really answer. But inside my head I say “Heck no!”

But your point is actually well taken. I don’t know what I’d do if the opportunity presented itself and my kid really, really, really wanted to do it.

You gave me a lot to think about.

Well, Lisa...

January 7th, 2010
8:35 am

…just what did YOUR comments add to the discussion? And, please address how the comments of motherjanegoose added to the topic at hand.

Jane

January 7th, 2010
8:37 am

mom2alex&max – If you had the opportunity to have your family on National TV with the chance to win a couple hundred grand, you honestly wouldn’t? I’m sure the questions leading up to the guaranteed $10,000 are really easy – the show doesn’t want to look like jerks.

So, you walk away with at least $10,000 and your family – and child – get to have fun. Not a downside. Course, maybe your family already has millions so that why you think this is “pimping” out your child.

If you’re against it, I guess you don’t want your Alex or Max to ever compete in any contests since they might lose. That’s a great way to raise your children – don’t ever try anything because you might fail!

Lisa

January 7th, 2010
8:40 am

Well Lisa… – are you TOTALLY CLUELESS?

How did my comments add to the conversation? I ADDRESSED THE TOPIC AT HAND – WHICH IS THE POINT OF THIS BLOG. DUH!!! SERIOUSLY? DUH!!!

MJG comes on here alot and contributes alot. She has explained several times before why she comments like she does. But YOU absolutely added nothing to this blog, just your b**ching.

So, since you aren’t adding anything to the blog (but griping about others), how about not throwing stones at others until you actually contribute?

oneofeach4me

January 7th, 2010
8:45 am

First I would say that this is actually a little more stressful than a Little League World Series game.. we are talking green here. Kid’s KNOW what money can do.

On the flip side, I really don’t see how this is any different from kids in acting.. other than the fact that the kids that will be on this show will only be there for a day or so versus MONTHS. I personally don’t think it’s a big deal. As a parent, I would be able to look at my child and tell they are stressed beyond continuance and would therefore pull the plug. My kids know I believe and have faith in them. My kids also know how intuitive I am (they still can’t believe that I know they are lying without even seeing what really happend! lol). Teaching your kids, even little geniuses to be independent pays off in more ways than one.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are going to be CRAZY parent’s that are going to take this WAY too far. The beautiful thing about that is everyone will know they are crazy at that point… no more hiding behind their kids. I think it would be more beneficial to regulate parents versus the kids. If your kid hasn’t eatin in 12 hours and is exhausted, it’s time to LET IT GO.

mom2alex&max

January 7th, 2010
8:56 am

Jane: my children compete and win and lose ALL THE TIME. Just not for MY sake, for theirs.

Also, “Hi there” made me rethink my position. She gave me something to think about. My worry about shows like that is that it will encourage insane parents to pressure their children JUST for the sake of the money. Again, “Hi there” made me rethink my position there too. Maybe the kids really want to do it. Like I said on my second post, my oldest asks me all the time if I would let him be on Nicks’s show “Brain Drain” cuz he loves it.

Lisa

January 7th, 2010
9:13 am

Remember, we’re talking about 6-12 year olds. And, I’m sure most of the kids will be in the 6-8 range (generally they’re cuter and better for ratings – even the current commercial has a 6 year old).

How many 6 year olds REALLY understand the kind of money the show is offering and how it will affect their families lives? Most kids I’ve seen really have no concept of true money. The only real stress would come from the parents if they are so inclined. As long as the parents are cool about it and just tell the kid to try their best and we’ll get some money out of it, all should be well.

Sug

January 7th, 2010
9:15 am

MJG likes to hear herself talk. And she constantly pats herself on the back and brags about her kids. It’s getting old…….and I for one am tired of hearing about it. She says she has nothing to contribute, then goes on and on for another 5 paragraphs……..

Jane

January 7th, 2010
9:20 am

You know, about a week ago, mom2alex&max was griping and complaining because this blog wasn’t posted by 7am as she required. Since then, Theresa has been good about having the blog post promptly at 7am. BUT, mom2alex&max doesn’t comment until around 8am.

She’s posting at 7am for you – so at least be commenting with your hatred by 7:10 (like today’s hate filled 8:03 post). Otherwise, why were you so RUDE to her?

Lisa

January 7th, 2010
9:21 am

You’re right Sug. I’m sure having anonymous posts on a small blog like this really boosts her ego. Yep, that’s it.

Julia

January 7th, 2010
9:45 am

Good morning MGJ, were is my trivia today.

Sug if you dont like her dont read her post and keep your comments to your self.

Does every one in here wake up on the wrong side of the bed? ;)

Julia

January 7th, 2010
9:46 am

I dont see this show any worse that are you smarter than a 5th grader.. there has been game shows centered around kids since the start of tv…

Julia

January 7th, 2010
9:55 am

FCM – when you get on here.. good morning.. We had a great night at choir practice :)..

Teresa – did you take that plunge you were talking about? I do believe some of us will support you and cheer you on :)

FCM

January 7th, 2010
10:10 am

MJG you missed what I posted to you this morning: MJG you are a needed perspective on the board too. Certainly your travels and experiences are an important part of the discussion. I just don’t give them “extra” over other valid points. I wouldn’t if it came a First Lady (and Mom), my Mom, a MD or a PhD. To me the idea of not questioning those in “authority” or “experts” is wrong…Research has been known to over turn well held beliefs. Whether it your Grandma, Dr. Spock, Dr. Ferber, or Dr. Suess if you find benefit in what is being taught then use it, if comes from a newer source that works too.

Morning Julia.

As for this particular show. If you want to put your kids through it and think they can emotionally handle it, then I so no issue with it. If you think it wrong for parents do to this then do not tune into the show. If people don’t tune in they will cancel the program.

FCM

January 7th, 2010
10:12 am

oh MJG I have heard your quote but it came from a vertran solider and went like this:

If you can read, thank a teacher
If you can read English, thank a soldier.

Prof

January 7th, 2010
10:17 am

FCM:
“I wouldn’t if it came a First Lady” – whaaaa?
“Whether it your Grandma” – Whether it BE your Grandma…
“then I so no issue” – whaaaa?
“If you think it wrong for” – If you think IT’S wrong for…
“vertran solider” – VETERAN SOLDIER

You shouldn’t be thanking any teachers.

Actually, Lisa...

January 7th, 2010
10:19 am

…I am CLUELESS – however, I was referring to this in my previous question -

“Lisa

January 7th, 2010
8:03 am
“so I will excuse myself today…” – at least she added more to the conversation than you did!”

Just what did that add?

And what did the following, posted by you at 8:40am, add to the topic at hand:

“MJG comes on here alot and contributes alot. She has explained several times before why she comments like she does. But YOU absolutely added nothing to this blog, just your b**ching.

So, since you aren’t adding anything to the blog (but griping about others), how about not throwing stones at others until you actually contribute?”

Inquiring minds want to know…..

Julia

January 7th, 2010
10:23 am

I have extra meds here Lisa if that would put you in a better mood

DB

January 7th, 2010
10:24 am

I don’t have a problem with kids competing with other kids on a game show — let’s face it, a producer probably won’t let a kid on the show that isn’t enthusiastic and doesn’t want to be there, because it would make the show look bad!

MY distaste for THIS show’s premise comes from the involvement of the parents, basically active betting on their kid. I don’t have any problem at all with the KIDS competing — if they win or lose, a wise parent can celebrate/console/counsel them afterwards, and it’s something that the KID can add to his body of experience. But I see this as a parent USING their kid, and it just leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. I see all sorts of opportunties for the kid to feel like dirt if they miss “the big one” — seeing the disappointment on their parents faces. Kids hate to disappoint their parents, and while it’s hard enough to lose on your own, I would think it would be even harder if the parent was sitting there with an expectant, encouraging look on their face, and basically betting the bank that you might know something.

I wouldn’t put my kid through it. But if they wanted to be on a kid’s game show on their own, then, hey, yeah — have at it! But as long as it’s FUN.

On the other hand, I guess it isn’t THAT much different from those kids who spend megahours prepping for the National Spelling Bee or the National Geography Bee — there are a lot of parents who really get involved with their kids “training” for competitions such as this, with the unspoken (and sometimes spoken!) expectation that “Hey, this is your chance to earn some serious money, kiddo — don’t blow it!” Of course, I don’t particularly admire THOSE parents, either . . .

Lisa

January 7th, 2010
10:30 am

Julia – and what EXACTLY did I say that makes you think I need to be in a better mood?

...

January 7th, 2010
10:31 am

I am interested in seeing this show to see how my child compares with these children. I would not seek an opportunity to appear on it. I also am doubtful that I would watch more than one episode, but I am interested in seeing how my child compares with these.

DB

January 7th, 2010
10:31 am

Guys — let’s not feed the trolls. We’re not going to change anyone’s mind about how they perceive other people. I suggest the best thing to do is what we did when we were in first grade: When someone isn’t playing nicely with the other bloggers, then we simply ignore them and let them play by themselves. They might become increasing shrill for a few posts before they get the message, but eventually, they get tired of talking to themselves — it’s not hard to ignore posts that aren’t interesting :-)

Lisa

January 7th, 2010
10:33 am

Actually Lisa… – in my 8:03 post I was merely addressing a troll who wanted attention. Try to keep to the topic at hand.

DB

January 7th, 2010
10:33 am

Just wondering: On this show, does the KID win the money? Or does the PARENT win the money?

Julia

January 7th, 2010
10:35 am

Sorry Lisa, I meant the Well Lisa,…. :)

Julia

January 7th, 2010
10:42 am

how is this show any worse or better than child models??

Lisa

January 7th, 2010
10:47 am

Julia, okay thanks. I wondered.

I sort of feed the “Well Lisa…” and “Actually Lisa…” troll. Shouldn’t have done it, but it’s just so pathetic I had to feed it.

And, Lisa...

January 7th, 2010
10:57 am

..I appreciate your efforts, but I still do not see where your snarky comments are benefitting this blog (other than your original comment that WAS in response to the blogs original intent)! 2 for 8 is pretty good, if you are a baseball player!

Julia

January 7th, 2010
10:57 am

she is the one that needs my mood stabilizer :)

Hey, Julia...

January 7th, 2010
11:10 am

…you have us all confused now….

FCM

January 7th, 2010
11:11 am

Prof–when I have about 30 seconds to come in I do…if the fact that I do not proof my post bugs you that is fine. You don’t bother me.

DB I have a miagraine (due to the weather front) — just don’t want you to think I am tired of hearing myself talk ;)

We'd never think that, FCM...

January 7th, 2010
11:23 am

…oops – I’m confusing you with MJG!

Prof

January 7th, 2010
11:26 am

FCM:
“miagraine” – migraine
So, in 30 seconds, you managed to read my post about a dozen earlier? Yeah right. Just admit it – you can’t spell. Geez.

Hey, Prof -...

January 7th, 2010
11:30 am

…go back to the dating blog – or has the library closed so that you are unable to continue with those other miscreants?

FCM

January 7th, 2010
11:40 am

Tell you what…I will admit to being a poor speller and that in my work I proof more than I do here if you will admit that studies have shown Spelling and Intelligence are not indicative of each other and stop tryint to make it look like they are:

Gentry (1987, p10) argues, since “expert spellers are born, and cannot be developed in school”. Thus, he submits, there is no significant relationship between correct spelling and intelligence. That is, the “visual memory” necessary for proficient spelling is “not a skill one can consciously acquire”. Neither is learning the rules for correct spelling effective as a way to become a good speller, he cautions teachers.

FCM

January 7th, 2010
11:46 am

tryint = trying

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

January 7th, 2010
2:42 pm

New topic up for the afternoon —- Are you rooting for a snow day from school???

http://blogs.ajc.com/momania/2010/01/07/are-you-rooting-for-a-snow-day-from-school/

Tara

January 7th, 2010
3:29 pm

I can’t decide how I feel about the show, but I would like to offer this thought:

Theresa says, “It’s a parent’s job to always believe in our children and not to bet against them.”

I don’t know how I feel about that. I do think it’s a parent’s job to always be there for their kids, but isn’t it important and necessary for us to teach our kids they have limits? And that that’s ok? I’m not saying we should beat our kids down and make them feel stupid or talentless, but shouldn’t we be helping them be realistic about their own abilities? I keep thinking of American Idol and the poor contestants on there who are mercilessly made fun of by the judges and audience. Wouldn’t it have been more loving for someone along the way to help them see that maybe singing wasn’t their future BEFORE they embarrassed themselves?

I’m just thinking “aloud” here and wondering how other parents feel.

oneofeach4me

January 7th, 2010
3:35 pm

Tara you make a good point about the American Idol contestants. I just think singing is a little different than anwering Jepordy like questions. Plus, they probably won’t do the “audition” show like AI does.

As parents we absolutely should be realistic with our kids. But ya know.. sometimes, no matter what you tell them, like that tree is too big for you to try and climb, they are gonna want to try it out for themselves anyway. ;-)

MomsRule

January 7th, 2010
4:34 pm

Tara, I agree with the 1st half of your 3rd paragraph. And I think you phrased your thoughts very well. Thank you! I’ve been pondering a similar post. :)

But for the most part, I don’t feel bad for the American Idol contestants who are absolutely awful. I have to believe that the majority of those people are completely aware that they cannot sing. This is their opportunity to get 5mns of fame even if they have to look a fool to get those mns. The trade off seems worth it to a lot of people. Its seems to me that every year the “non talent” works harder to be even more outrageous than years past.

deidre_NC

January 7th, 2010
5:59 pm

i think if people cant act like adults and be decent to each other theresa should ban them.
@prof-lots of very intelligent people cant spell…lots of people who can spell very well cant type for s**t..like me :) if you are a professor you should know that. you are just being a beeatch…like several others here today…its like watching a mean girls movie or something..except its supposedly adult men and women not teenage girls…get a grip yall…

im so tired of the crap on here i cant even remember what the topic is…i love this blog but it is becoming like others i have read and stopped…its like people have so much animosity built up they have to become blog bullies…its stupid and says nothing for the level of intelligenceof the posters to come here incognito so to speak and say the mean nasty things that get said.

Julia

January 7th, 2010
6:47 pm

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