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Where Are Our Child Stars?

“I believe the children are our future.
Teach them well and let them lead the way.
Show them all the beauty they possess inside.
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier.
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.”

Greatest Love Of All, Whitney Houston

Children have always played an important role in society. They have an inquisitive nature that directs them to observe society and question things without bias. This includes social norms, taboos, religion, sex, politics and philosophy. In the search for answers, they turn to their parents and teachers. But, in the absence of a safe space for inquisitiveness provided by parents and teachers, they turn to the media. This makes it important for society to make a deliberate effort to engage children and cater to their deep and unique interests. As well as provide them with the tools they need to integrate into society as functional citizens.

Photo: Open Doors

The media’s role in the socialisation of children via TV shows, movies, music, literature and all forms of art can be used to show ideological positions towards the general role of children in society. When they see themselves represented, it gives them a relatable reference point from which they can model their behaviour.

In the last few decades, a few examples of child stars who readily provided this reference point for their peers come to mind. Pre-teen gospel artist, Benita Okojie, rose to nationwide fame off with hits like Child of God and Osemudiamem. She gained massive airplay on radio and TV with little institutional backing even before the viral influence of the internet. Sharon Ezeamaka was her theatrical equivalent, starring in hit Nollywood movies such as Little Angel and TV series like Dear Mother alongside industry heavyweights like Richard Mofe Damijo and Oge Okoye. Olumide Oworu began even earlier than the two girls, starring in the primetime TV drama Everyday People.

“Everybody searching for a hero.
People need someone to look up to.
I never found anyone who fulfils my needs.
A lonely place to be.
And so I learned to depend on me.”

Greatest Love Of All, Whitney Houston

Yet, in recent years, it has become difficult to find child stars. Why? It seems there are no spaces for children to thrive, even in the entertainment industry. It could be argued that the type of music and movies in high commercial demand is not at par with what we would want or allow our children to create.

Georgiefa singing Halo at The Voice Kids 3 The Blind Auditions. Photo: YouTube

Yet, there are always a few exceptions to the norms like Emmanuella Samuel, also known as Emmanuella. She gained success in skits distributed via mobile phones and the internet. She is the first African to have one million subscribers on her YouTube comedy channel. Yet, her career model is not structured and would prove difficult to replicate and, even if replicated, difficult to monetise.

It is vital that we deliberately create platforms and opportunities for children to represent themselves and their ideas. They deserve to be heard and seen. We owe it their futures and our society depends on it.

Portrait of kids painting themselves with colour paint. Photo: Blue Squid

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