Quiet on Set: How Adults Fail To Protect Children From Abuse

Quiet on Set: How Adults Fail To Protect Children From Abuse

Milo Santamaria | March 2024

After the release of the shocking documentary Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV, a 4 hour exposé on the abuse that took place on Nickelodeon sets, viewers have taken to the internet criticizing parents and other adults on set for failing to protect children from abuse.

Many are asking:

“How could they leave their children alone with them?”

“Why didn’t they stand up to the producers?” 

Or  “Why didn’t they call the police?”

Viewers who grew up watching Nickelodeon feel betrayed after finding out that their favorite actors were being exploited and groomed behind the scenes.

However, these feelings of betrayal are not new to survivors of abuse, who face immense obstacles and backlash for coming forward. Despite recent movements such as #metoo which have made conversations on abuse and workplace mistreatment much more mainstream, our culture still has a tendency to brush accusations of abuse under the rug.

Several former child actors have come forward about their experiences only to be dismissed and met with ridicule. Stars like Britney Spears, and Amanda Bynes have constantly been criticized by the media, despite their attempts to share their experiences of abuse. 

Children are also especially dismissed by adults when they speak out against abuse. When former child actor Drake Bell revealed he had been sexually assaulted by his voice coach, several actors and TV executives wrote letters defending his abuser saying Bell must have done something to “tempt” or “provoke” the man who assaulted him. 

Years later, Bell was also accused of inappropriate conduct with a minor and the young girl who came forward about the sexual assault she experienced was dismissed because she was only a teenager.

One of the lawyers on the case stated “A grown man does not engage in inappropriate text messages to a teenager. There’s a reason why a 14 or 15 year old does not have the right to drive, does not have the right to vote, does not have the right to serve in the armed forces. They don’t have the emotional or mental maturity to properly gauge their conduct.” 

This case shows that the law reflects our skewed perceptions of teenagers. Children and teens who come forward with their experiences of mistreatment and abuse are often dismissed for not being “emotionally mature” enough to understand what was done to them. Their abusers are also rarely held accountable despite being “emotionally mature” enough to understand the harm they have caused. 

This concept of emotional maturity is often used to deny child actors agency over their finances. Parents and managing teams often take advantage and financially abuse child stars. Many child actors are also the breadwinners for their families, which puts additional pressure on them to accept mistreatment in order to continue working in Hollywood. As Senior Research Fellow Dr. Mike Males argues, “No one has a good solution when “protecting kids” collides with profits.”

Furthermore, Quiet on Set reveals why abuse is so prevalent in all aspects of our society, not just in Hollywood. As Journalist Scaachi Koul stated in the documentary, “The person at the top sets the tone for the entire production. If you run a show dealing overwhelmingly with children, then you are responsible for creating an environment where those kids feel beyond comfortable to tell you they’re not comfortable. It needs to be so safe that your most vulnerable person on set is able to say to you, the most powerful person there, “I don’t want to do this.”’

Quiet on Set shows that our society is not a safe place for survivors of abuse and exploitation to come forward. Parents that tried to defend their children were pushed out of Hollywood, leaving their children even more vulnerable to harm. 

Nickelodeon executives such as Dan Schneider, created extremely abusive environments that pushed out anyone who chose not to conform or enable abuse. Many parents tried to be agreeable to protect their children’s careers, often at the expense of their children’s wellbeing.

Quiet on Set shows that capitalism makes us extremely isolated and vulnerable to abuse. Living under capitalism often makes us feel replaceable and inadequate, which makes it much harder to stand up for ourselves out of fear of being excluded and replaced. It’s also much harder to rely on people around you for support when you are told they are your “competition.”

Hierarchical structures make us afraid of being disobedient and disagreeable but Quiet on Set reveals that our silence will not protect us. It only upholds the status quo of abuse and exploitation. 


M. Robertson (Executive Producer). (March 17-18, 2024). Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV  [TV series]. Maxine Productions, Sony Pictures, Television, Business Insider

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