How to keep your child actor safe... that is what every stage parent should focus on when pursuing acting opportunities for their child. The pride and excitement that a parent feels when their child is up there on stage performing can be an amazing experience. Whether it be theatre, film, television, modeling... the overwhelming sense of accomplishment for both parent and child can be very powerful. But for many, that wonderment can drive parents to overlook some of the most basic safety precautions, resulting in terrible exploitation of their child - and great harm both physically and emotionally. A parent must be perfectly responsible with no room whatsoever for error in a business where pedophiles infiltrate and thrive.
Sometimes it is the parent who has a dream for their child to be a performer and pushes their child in that direction. Other times it is a child who wants to pursue being a performer. And of course, it is often both who desire stardom. Regardless, the same rules apply as to how to keep your child safe.
So what is a parent to do? First and foremost, educate and learn as much as possible about the entertainment business and what is acceptable in the industry. Then decide if allowing your child to be involved in the industry is something that you feel is acceptable to you. Not all parents are cut out to be "biz parents", just as not all kids are cut out to be professional performers. Learning absolute safety and teaching it to your child without frightening them requires a great deal of tact and special communication skills, as well as the capability of encouraging them.
Here are just a few of the many safety precautions to always adhere to:
• Never let you child out of your line-of-site. Ever. Anywhere.
• Do not take your child to meet an agent or casting director outside of a professional environment such as an apartment unit or motel room. Always meet in a professional location such as studio or office building.
• Only allow a photographer to take photos or video of your child in swimwear if it is a professional modeling job, booked through a legitimate licensed agency, and the photos/videos and monitored carefully for any inappropriate usage. Swimwear photos are NOT necessary for a child actors portfolio. It is NOT acceptable to allow your child to model in undergarments under any circumstances.
• Do background checks on the people who will be involved in your child's career and bookings. This can be done through such websites as Intelius.
• Carefully monitor your child's internet activity. Remember that pedophiles and child molesters are abundant online and very often target aspiring child actors and models.
• Always understand and never forget that YOU are your child's first line of defense, and never rely on anyone else to protect your child.
• If you suspect anything that could be even slightly considered exploitation of a minor or illegal activity, report it to the authorities immediately. What you do not expose, will in all likelihood harm other people's children.
• And don't let your guard down just because a child's agent, casting director, photographer, producer, acting teacher, etc., is female. It may be a statistical fact that 95 percent of child molesters are male, but don't forget the other 5 percent of child molesters are female. It is best to practice the same safety precautions with everyone regardless of gender, age, race, or sexual preference.
• Do not assume that if you sign your child with a reputable talent agency and they book legit roles in films, television series, commercials, etc., that they are safe from being victimized. There are pedophiles in all areas of the business, some of whom are reputable and have not been checked out. And there are those who have no criminal convictions and thus would not show anything of that nature on a background check. Never let your guard down.
A great resource is the non-profit corporation BizParents Foundation - the nation's largest charity serving professional child actors and their parents. An amazing amount of information and resources regarding child performer safety can be found on the site.
Always be a diligent parent, and work hard to keep your child safe. Never let your guard down. Teach your child actor about the rules of being safe. There is no margin for error as a parent, so please use these rules of safety. Your child can achieve greatness as an actor, and with your guidance and diligence, there can be a safe and wonderful dream that comes true!