The Destruction of Child Actors

Is the curse of the Disney channel just a coincidence?

American singer/actress Demi Lovato released a documentary titled Dancing with the Devil in 2021 where the singer speaks on her issues with addiction, both drugs and alcohol. Coming out with her near-death encounter, the actress goes into depth about prior trauma and her methods of coping. Demi began her career at the early age of 7 and has starred in popular kid’s television shows such as Barney & Friends. She then moved over to the Disney network when she starred in her breakthrough roles, Camp Rock and Sonny with a Chance.

The Disney channel also happens to be where many other well-known celebrities have begun their careers, some of which have also struggled with addiction and/or trauma-related experiences.

Because of this, speculations that the Disney channel was cursed began to circulate.

Do child actors have a higher chance of substance abuse? If we examine the lives of other popular artists who found their fame through Disney such as Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, and Lindsay Lohan, to name a few, all of which have also had similar substance abuse issues. This isn’t to say that all Disney child actors have struggled with trauma but an overwhelming amount has come forward either openly or through the brutal public lens.

Could this just be the combination of child actors exposed to an adult business? Or maybe these particular children were not properly monitored by any responsible caregivers.

Whatever the case may be, Hollywood is infamous for its party scene where drug and alcohol use are commonly heard about. More and more stories of young artistic individuals are falling down the rabbit hole of fame.

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13 thoughts on “The Destruction of Child Actors

  1. Child actors are exposed to a different realm. I feel like they have relinquished a lot of themselves and their person before even being able to develop it. Whether they have managers or parents someone is instructing them and they have boundaries broken for them before they are able to understand themselves.
    I personally believe that rich people are out of touch with reality in general. These children are bombarded with too much access and opportunity for drug consumption and “work-related parties”. Not to mention the conundrum of pedophilia and abuse of power enacted upon them.

  2. I believe that child actors being exposed to drugs and alcohol from a young age most definitely affects their development because it becomes as something normal since they are consistently seeing it. On top of that I think child actors develop these addictions because they observe how adults take them and possible it seems to the children that is help decompress from a hard day at work, and since these children are undergoing so much stress for someone that age. The more stress that children are put under, the easier not is for them to be pressured into doing things such as drugs and alcohol. And the more drugs and alcohol these children consume the more dependent they might become and the more they will work so that they can continue feeding into these addictions.

  3. I agree that child actors are especially vulnerable to eventual drug and alcohol abuse. The idea that children are basically working from as early as 5 years old for our entertainment is insane to me. The pressure these children must be under to basically provide for their family and work under even what some adults say a strenuous work schedule can have serious negative consequences for children. As many other people have said, I’ve also grown up watching Disney and Nickelodeon shows, and watching what they did to some of these actors devastates me. These kids are expected to maintain such an innocent demeanor and once they brake free, they go in the complete opposite direction. Question is, how do we support child actors and prevent them from going down this road?

  4. Just like Disney, I thought about Nickelodeon shows as well. I feel l like child actors from Dan Schneider’s shows got lost in translation, and then we tend to find out later about their past when the stars are more comfortable bringing up the topic (ex. Jennette McCurdy). Thus, it is tragic that the child actors have to go through such traumatic experiences, which could be a reason why they end up taking the substance abuse path to cope with the past.

  5. This is a case of correlation, not causation. As humans, we like to make associations, simply because it makes it easier for us to remember things, but in this case, I think that it is very important to emphasize the environment these child stars are in. They might be actors, but most importantly they are children, and their family is essential to keeping them in line because, for as many child actors who destroyed their lives, there is an equal amount that turned out really successful, either in other business endeavors or continuing acting. It really depends on every individual case by case. Parents forget that because the child is the one that makes the money they no longer need to do any parenting or seem more lenient, but it’s not about being super strict or any of that, it’s just keeping the children grounded and loved, by a tangible family, so they don’t feel the need to look elsewhere to satiate that need.

  6. As I grow older, I have realized and would also have to agree on the amount of destruction of child actors. Not only is it Disney, but Nickelodeon has some as well. For instance, look up “Drake Bell” from the T.V show ‘Drake and Josh’. I found it crazy to think a child actor, someone who always had eyes on them, was willing to: risk their child’s life, inhale unknown substances, exchange sexual texts with a minor, and hide in Mexico to escape his charges. Having almost everything you could ask for, fame and money, you would think one would try to better themselves and their family; not take it for granted. It is almost sad to think majority of these individuals were controlled as a young adult/child until now; making some feel almost “lost” in the world after fame.

  7. This article sheds light on the abuse child actors face in the industry. Addiction works in many ways but the correlation of the industry cannot be overlooked, especially when it affects actors and artists at such young ages. The courage to speak on this could not have been easy, but this is a conversation that must be had to prevent a repeat of history.

  8. Hi Shannon!

    Very interesting topic! Growing up I admired a lot of child actors and actresses. For the fact that even some of my own idols started their career journey from there. However, recent years, with the increase in suicidal rates, drug and alcohol abuse, and other forms of abuse or violences have brought to my attention that these people are undergoing inhumanly treatments. As much as they look great in the stages, they may be faced with so many circumstances behind the scenes. These are anxiety and pressures that cannot even be properly managed by adults, then imagine the children. In order to generate the maximum profits possible, many at a times, they are forced to perform things against their will. The sad part is, even though the person is still a child, they are not in the eyes of the employers. For them, they are simply money generators. A child is still yet too innocent and young, instead of working under stressful environments like this, they should be utilizing their time to enjoy their only childhood and also earn a good degree. Mental health and depression have become a popular issue in younger generations. As such I believe there should be an age limit, or at least, the company should prioritize their happiness and joy over work.

  9. Good article, as it sparks a lot of ideas and conversation. Child actors and their upbringing in Hollywood have always been an interesting topic because Disney was not the first place where we noticed this. Look at The Wizard of Oz’s Judy Garland and actress Marilyn Monroe. You see a similar story with them as you see with Lovato and it not only speaks to the industry but to those that support them, like us. Because we support the countless shows, movies, and endeavors that these actors take part in, are we a part of the problem?

  10. I really liked your article mostly because it touches on a topic that no one really wants to talk about. I believe that more attention needs to be focused on the mental health of childhood actors to make sure they are on the right track to becoming successful, even if they continue acting or not.

  11. It’s definitely a thought-provoking topic to consider whether the Disney channel and the early fame it provides to child actors contributes to their substance abuse issues later in life. While it may not be fair to label it as a curse, it’s worth examining the factors that may play a role in this trend. The intense pressure and scrutiny of the entertainment industry, coupled with the transition from child to adult roles, could certainly contribute to these struggles.

  12. Hey Shannon, great article!
    The pipeline of child stars to addicts with mental disorders is such a well-known transition that it baffles me that there aren’t more guidelines to protect child actors. Having that much attention on a person, as well as increased chances for access to drugs and alcohol at such a young age, they’re bound to get to the point at which they’re overwhelmed. Ultimately, these are children that are working for adults and it’s pressure that most cannot handle at such a young age. This is why there should be more conversations about how to better equip these kids to handle possible mental problems or even more conversations about whether children should be put to work in the film industry at all.

    1. Hi Gazel,

      Definitely children can experience an overwhelming amount of pressure entering a world that adults have all the power. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be in their position, but god did I love watching Disney shows starring them! I think that it is crucial to introduce conversations about how to equip kids to enter this overly demanding world, but how? I don’t think anybody has come up with effective methods to support child actors in this transition. I’m curious if you have any ideas on how the film industry can change to help children entering the acting world? Do you think we just shouldn’t have children actors, or what would be a good solution?

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