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Childhood as a Tough Role

Once upon a time...  child stars were innocent.  (At least in the media.)  They were hyped in Tigerbeat and People magazine.  Growing pains, and awkward phases, tended to be  played out in secret.

Vanessahudgens At some point, that media innocence was lost.  It's hard to pin down the precise time.  A confluence of changing times, changing media focus, and increased interest in the private lives of stars created what I'd call the Entertainment Tonight effect:  Nothing is private once you've appeared in a successful film or TV show.

But the effect has escalated, especially in the last year.  From major flameouts by Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan to minor missteps by Vanessa Hudgens and Haley Joel Osment, actors can no longer have that awkward phase with any privacy.   

Now, add to that the blogosphere: Imagine the harsh scrutiny of high school click-clacking, except it's done anonymously and by thousands of people with no editorial oversight, no one telling them they've gone too far.  In an excellent story in the New York Times  over the weekend, the effect on young actors, in particular, is damaging:

“Someone can blog about how terrible your outfit is or somebody can post a rumor and, whether it’s true or not, it’s out there,” said Leesa Coble, the editor in chief of Tiger Beat and Bop magazines, which cater to the 10-to-14 set.

“When you’re 13 or 14, that’s hurtful,” she said. ”You’re trying to figure out who you are at this stage. You may have money and fame, but you’re still 13.”

Even though, as an actor, you choose a life that includes a bit of media attention, it's completely unfair and disgusting that people can comment on you without being subjected to 1/180th of the scrutiny they are unleashing on performers. 

But it's also a reality. 

Like it or not, this kind of harsh spotlight is here to stay.  And young actors have to deal with it. I just hope these performers learn quickly that it's not about them -- it's more about the insecurities of the person writing the comments from the safety of their tiny bedroom, who is acting out of cruel jealousy of the attention you are getting from having the courage to pursue your dream.   Please don't let it get to you.  (Photo by Phil McCarten/Reuters)

-- Tom Penketh 

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Yet another case-in-point:

This past weekend actor Miley Cyrus, aka Hannah Montana, became yet another young victim of internet rumors gone too far when it was reported that the 14-year-old was expecting her first child.

"It is 100% not true," a rep for Miley later told Access Hollywood.

Being a 14-year-old girl is hard enough, people. Stop looking for imaginary baby bumps.

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