Young performers on Britain's Got Talent could be left psychologically damaged by the "brutality" of the judging process, according to a leading children's charity.
Kidscape said ITV should consider running a separate show for pre-teens which does not subject them to the harsh comments of Simon Cowell.
This year's series has seen a number of young children reduced to tears by their failure to reach the final. Natalie Okri, a 10-year-old singer who appeared in the first semi-final heat, was distraught after Cowell rejected her in favour of a rival act, dance troupe Diversity. Another 12-year-old, aspiring drummer Kieran Gaffney, appeared crestfallen when he was denied a place in the last rounds.
In tonight's [SAT] final, 12-year-old Shaheen Jafargholi, from Swansea, will compete with favourite Susan Boyle for a Pfund100,000 prize and the chance to sing for the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance.
Claude Knights, director of Kidscape, said: "Talent has to be celebrated and developed, but within the context of reality television it is really asking a lot of children. These children are excellent performers and yet they are having to face rejection. It is a big emotional and psychological thing to cope with at that age.
"Certainly it seems that there are many more young contestants than in previous series, probably by chance. Young performers are not new - music halls had children singing - but these children are competing. The programme-makers need to look at the brutality of the format. What is being done to ensure they don't suffer a dip in self-esteem? More safety nets are needed.