Editorials & Opinion

Are Junior Eurovision and The Voice Kids just too cruel on children?

“Children probably get told “No” more times in a day than most adults do in a year. But this doesn’t discourage a child from trying again. Children know that if you want something in this world, you have to ask for it. Sometimes one or seventy times.

Adults will go to great length to avoid rejection. Children, on the other hand, know that it is only a part of succeeding. For every couple of times they are told “No”, they are probably told “Yes” at least once. And those odds are good enough. Kids know that basking in their victories feels a whole lot better than sulking over their defeats.” These are the wise words of Heidi Priebe, written for Thought Catalog in 2014.

Children’s contests and the criticisms they face

The first season of The Voice Kids, airing on ITV this summer, has been the surprise ratings hit of the year so far. Yesterday, the show, which has featured Irish Junior Eurovision star Zena Donnelly, was criticised in the UK media “for putting too much pressure on young acts”. The Digital Spy article continued to explain that the show has “received backlash in some quarters for putting children through such a rigorous competition on primetime TV”. For fans of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, these are criticisms that are all too familiar. Yet, in my opinion, are criticisms that are mostly lacking in substance.

Following the 2015 Junior Eurovision Song Contest, a picture of a very upset 11-year-old Kamilla Ismailova did the rounds of the internet as she struggled to pick up points for San Marino. Some fans of the contest took views similar to those that are being put forward at the moment for The Voice Kids. Nevertheless, Kamilla has proven our opening quote to be completely true. Just a month after the contest, she was performing on Russian TV. Less than a year later, she was taking top prize in the famous New Wave Junior Festival as part of girlband EY’VA. Kamilla may have suffered rejection, but she knew it was just one part of a longer journey. We must also remember Kamilla is the only Sammarinese entrant to have scored a douze points too!

“The best experience of my life”

As a viewer of The Voice Kids in the UK this summer, I was immediately drawn to the feel-good nature of the show. The whole environment seems so supportive. Every single kid seems to be loving the experience and grateful for the opportunity. They know it isn’t the end of their career if it doesn’t go well. This is something adults don’t always have the same belief for. On Sunday evening, a The Voice Kids contestant called Marby broke down after missing out on a place in the semi-finals. Nevertheless, she was still insistent that this experience was the best experience of her life so far.

Once again, I believe this can be easily compared to the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. The most memorable moment of last year’s contest was the winner’s reprise. I had never seen such a heartwarming moment as when I saw every single contestant supporting, applauding and cheering for an overwhelmed Mariam Mamadashvili to finish her winner’s reprise. The wonderful group of different ages allowed the kids to form an extended family. Notably, 14-year-old Zena Donnelly fulfilled the perfect big sister role during that final performance.

“The younger they are, the more fearless they are”

The Voice Kids host Emma Willis and coach Pixie Lott both had their say on the criticism of putting children through a primetime TV competition. “They tend to take it better than the grown-ups because they’re innocent,” says Emma to the Daily Express. “It’s fun for them, whereas grown-ups are more like, ‘This is my last chance!” Some of [the kids] get a little bit upset but it’s normally the ones who are a little bit older.”

Popstar Pixie agrees with Emma: “I think from my experience, because I started really young, it put me in good stead for everything that has happened to me. I think it’s great to have this experience at this age; the younger they are, the more fearless they are. They can learn and keep going and having amazing experiences like this and the show is exciting because it’s just kids.”

Children are so much more fearless than they are given credit for. Heidi Priebe of the Thought Catalog expresses her belief that “children harbour an enduring belief that the future will be better than the past, and they move towards that future enthusiastically. It doesn’t matter if the future actually delivers. The optimism gives them momentum and that momentum moves them forward.”

“At this moment in their lives, singing and performing is their dream”

From what I’ve seen and read about Junior Eurovision and The Voice Kids, they are opportunities children thrive to grasp. They make full use of a supportive and friendly environment with like-minded kids who share the same passions as they do. As long as the environment is a suitable one, these shows should be applauded for letting kids fulfil their dreams. They may grow up and want to choose a different career path. In that case, having the eventual eligibility to enter the adult competitions may come too late. But at this moment in their lives, singing and performing is their dream. Let’s not take that away from them.

What is your opinion on holding competitions for children? Do you think the criticisms they face are warranted? Perhaps, like me, you think kids are being underestimated? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and via our social media pages @ESCXTRA!

Ryan Cobb

My first memory of watching the Eurovision Song Contest was back in 2001 and, over the years, my passion and enthusiasm for the contest has very much turned into an obsession. I adore music and I love geography, so this contest is a natural fit for me. If la la loving Eurovision was a crime, I'd certainly be a criminal!

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