Zayn Malik. We’ve been here before.

As I watched Sky News during night feeds last night, the headline ‘Zayn Malik’s shock leave from One Direction’ made me think.

Was it a shock? There had been rumours for a couple of weeks before since he left their tour with ‘stress.’

As a 30-something though, have we not been here before? Some 20 years ago, Robbie Williams left Take That and the fans then were heartbroken.

Like Robbie, Zayn was just a child when he joined One Direction. Granted, he voluntarily auditioned for X Factor and no doubt thought that fame, fortune and music were what he wanted.

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Who am I to argue that he was wrong? He probably wasn’t wrong. At the time, it probably was what he wanted but were you mature enough to make big, life-changing decisions at 16/17? I certainly wasn’t.

I watched the X Factor in 2010 with interest. At times, when One Direction were formed, you could almost see the pound signs in Simon Cowell’s eyes.

He has been in the business for years and knows what sells. He saw something in those boys and knew they would be a success. For him, as well as themselves.

Did he know how much of a success? Probably not but those young boys were catapulted from their homes, education and families to a world that isn’t always nice.

Probably their parents still did their washing and cooked their meals. After X Factor, this didn’t happen. They lived together but essentially alone and both them and their families were thrust into the media spotlight and scrutinised.

Now don’t get me wrong, despite being old enough to be their mothers, I love One Direction and have a number of their albums. I know. There, I admit it.

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On a number of occasions though, I have been worried about them. Not least during Boot Camp at X Factor when Zayn ran off, refusing to dance. Even back then it seems he was not 100% comfortable with it all.

What did the X Factor team say to him to change his mind? One can only imagine but I certainly believe those pound signs may have had something to do with it.

Is it not even more ironic that Robbie joined them on stage in the final of the X Factor? Maybe it’s hindsight but it made me think.

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The case of Zayn and Robbie before him, should force our society to really think about these young boys (and girls) who are, essentially plucked from the bosom of their families. Fame hungry with the promise of fame and riches but at what cost?

Their mental health undoubtedly must suffer. Despite Zayn saying he wants a normal life, it will be incredibly hard work for him to achieve one now.

I remember back in the day when girls at school took day trips to Oldham to camp out at Mark Owen’s house in the hope of a glimpse of his idol. I may have been driven to Frodsham with a school friend to see Gary Barlow’s house. The point is, he can’t even go home to his family without the media and a gaggle of young girls watching his every move.

With a son and a daughter now, I wish that them happiness in whatever they choose to do but would I be happy if they thought reality shows like X Factor was the only way to achieve that happiness? No I would not.

They are ruining young lives as is the fearsome music business where young people are being exploited to their own detriment. Remember Britney Spears shaving her head? Justin Bieber punching the camera man? Dare I even mention Michael Jackson?

For every child star that has escaped unscathed, there must be five others who have gone off the rails and had their lives ruined by the money hungry music industry.

If it was up to me, there would be an age limit of 18 on the X Factor which, I think for boys especially, is still too young.

There will always be boy bands and they will always disband and have teenage girls distraught but I don’t want to see another Zayn Malik or Robbie Williams leaving a boy band in their early 20s in another 15 years.

Enough is enough. Money isn’t everything.

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