As a parent who's also worked with hundreds of other parents over the years at my acting school for kids, teens, and young adults, I know how nerve wracking it can be to set your child free on a film set for the first time. This is especially true if you’ve heard negative stories about show business as you and your child get started on the journey.
But I can guarantee that there are many honest, caring people working in this industry, and it's definitely possible to surround your child with an amazing and hard-working professional team.
If you want to be proactive about being protective, here are five ways to keep your child actor safe:
1. Know the on-set rules.
It’s important that, as the parent, you understand all the rules and regulations for union and non-union sets. For comprehensive information on this topic, check out the SAG-AFTRA site for information for parents of minor performers.
On union sets, there will always be a SAG-AFTRA representative whose job it is to ensure your child’s safety and well-being. These reps are there to make sure your child is getting adequate meal and rest periods, learning in a safe teacher/student environment, has an appropriate dressing room area, and isn’t working overtime.
Most importantly, per SAG-AFTRA rules, you as the parent have the right to be in sight of your child at all times. A union SAG-AFTRA production will provide monitors to aid you in keeping tabs on your son or daughter. Should you choose to send your child to set with someone other than yourself, you must send along a permission letter authorizing that adult to supervise and look after your child on set.
On non-union sets, you’re unfortunately not protected by the same rules and regulations, so you must always use your best judgment. If filming in a dark alley or private residence feels weird to you, listen to that feeling; if something seems “off,” it probably is. Know your child’s limits and don’t be afraid to speak up! Also, on non-union sets, expect that your child will work longer hours for less pay.
READ: What Role Should Parents Play for Child Actors?
2. Use a stage name for privacy.
Stage names are more than just catchy marketing tools: They also serve to allow your child to keep his real name, and personal life private and separate from his public persona. Consider creating a stage name with and for your child.
Not only will this keep your family’s name out of the press, it can also serve as a great psychological tool to enable your child to separate his private and professional worlds, labeling each one with a name.
3. Keep an eye on your child.
Though you’re not able to stand right next to your child for her entire day on set, you can still keep track of her and watch out for her safety. Again, on union sets, you have the right to be in sight of your child at all times. You can always watch the on-set monitors, and you can make sure your child is never alone in a room with an adult.
Though it’s important for us as parents not to hover too closely, we know that we’re always going to be the biggest advocates for our children’s safety. So be vigilant, but also allow your child the freedom she requires.
4. Check for Child Performer Services Permits.
First of all, let’s set the intention that your child will be surrounded by top-notch, supportive, and respectful professionals throughout her career. But let’s also be proactive. If there is someone working with your child who isn’t already licensed by the state, you have the right to ensure that he or she has a Child Performer Services Permit (CPS Permit) via the AB 1660 Bill.
In short, this bill requires anyone working with your child performer—agents, managers, coaches, publicists, photographers, camp counselors, etc.—has undergone a background checked to ensure that no registered sex offenders are working with children. To verify that someone holds a CPS permit, you can search this online database.
Now, if you're feeling a bit nervous, here’s the good news: On-set teachers are sometimes trained social workers, meaning they’re trained to protect your child and mediate conflicts that come up between children on set. Even non-union productions must have an on-set teacher. So rest assured that teachers are on your side.
READ: The 5 Most Important People in Your Child Actor's Career
Children are very honest and good judges of character (often better than adults!). If they don’t trust someone, they’ll feel it right away. The single most important thing you can do to protect your child is to keep the lines of communication open.
Create a safe space in which your child can share about his experiences at work without feeling judged or embarrassed. If he’s shy about sharing in a pointed conversation, try chatting while out of the house, going for a walk, and moving about freely (your child may feel less “on the spot”). Listen openly and carefully.
If your child says he felt uncomfortable about an interaction on set, honor those feelings and concerns, and respectfully investigate the situation. Building this kind of rapport will serve you both as his career evolves, so be sure to set a precedent of open communication early on. But above all, the most important thing you can do as a parent is to stay connected to your child, to make her feel safe, and to allow her to come to you with any concerns. This will work wonders for your long-term relationship. And the safer she child feels, the more she’ll experience a sense of freedom to play when she is on set.
Inspired? Check out our kids auditions!
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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.