How Young Is Too Young?

20/20 moves to an all-new time with a provocative new hour.

ByABC News

Oct. 8, 2007 — -- At 15 years old, Emily Osment is juggling her role playing Hannah Montana's best friend in the top-rated cable TV series, about to start filming a starring movie role, sitting for photo shoots and walking the red carpet.

It sounds like a lot for a teenager, until you consider that her brother Haley Joel Osment was nominated for an Oscar when he was only 11. How young is too young to be a star?

How young is too young to pursue your dreams, when those dreams are full of risk? Would you let your child fly a plane? Or become a bullfighter, or a stock car racer?

Jessica Dubroff was a 7-year-old pilot trainee who attempted to become the youngest person to fly an airplane across the United States in 1996. Because of her young age and daring attitude, she became an instant media celebrity. But 24 hours into Jessica's journey, her aircraft crashed after takeoff in a sudden storm in Cheyenne, Wyo., killing her, her father and her instructor.

"20/20" spoke with Jessica's mother, Lisa Blair Hathaway, who was criticized by many parents when this happened 11 years ago. She still feels strongly that she would never have wanted to take away the happiness her daughter felt when she flew.

We'll also have the story of Stam and Nong Pet. In some ways they are regular young girls who love to spend time with their parents and play with toys. But their lives are far from normal.

Each day, Stam, who is 8 years old, and Nong Pet, who is 9, train for hours to become fierce Muay Thai prize fighters and earn money in the ring to support their parents.

"20/20" examines the hidden world of child boxing in rural Thailand and talks to director Todd Kellstein, whose documentary "Raised in the Ring" chronicles the two girls' emotional, often heartbreaking, journey.

How young is too young to be a preacher? They look like average school boys, maybe even choir boys, but they're actually preachers. Samuel Boutwell and Terry Durham may be only 7 and 9 years old, respectively, but many people flock to church on Sundays to hear them preach the gospel.

Terry said, "I feel a different mood come over me and that's how I know it's God talking to me." Samuel also preaches on public streets and sometimes outside abortion clinics. We'll introduce you to the two boys who are probably the youngest preachers in America.

How young is too young to start teaching your children to memorize the U.S. presidents, or world capitals? When can parents see that a child is gifted, and what should they do to encourage their children's intellectual development without pushing them too far?

"20/20" will look at the phenomenon of child prodigies, introduce you to three highly intelligent kids and talk to an expert about what qualifies as extraordinary development. Experts emphasize that it's important to not "coach" your child and to emphasize effort and hard work over and above simple smarts.

Watch "How Young Is too Young" Friday on "20/20" at a new time, 8 p.m. EDT