Sunday, October 18, 2009

Concerns for Children in Reality TV

More attention needs to be brought to the fact that Reality TV can be very harmful, especially when there are children involved. It's been almost 2 years now that I was made aware of issues surrounding the filming of Jon and Kate plus 8, and the intense stress the children were under. Those who state that the children are just "playing" and are not affected by the stresses of being part of a TV show are lying. Since then, more and more shows have popped up. We've also had the controversy earlier this year surrounding Nadya Suleman and now the Heene family.

A few excerpts from The Wrap:

A Wrap investigation shows that the reality of reality shows is not nearly so benign: at least 11 reality-show participants have taken their own lives – and two more who have tried to – in tragedies that appear to be linked to their experience on television shows.

You can read the entire article HERE. This article is only referring to the stresses that adults have experienced as a result of Reality TV. These adults gave their consent and understood, to some extent, what they were signing up for. Imagine how devastating Reality TV can be for children who are unable to give consent and are forced to participate because their parents are in complete control.

“Children can't give informed consent by definition, only the parents can do that -- and reality shows generally don't cast adults who have the highest level of mental health. They are severe narcissists who are obsessed with celebrity.”

“The permanency of the images of the children potty training, bathing and having temper tantrums on camera will open them up to derision and bullying as they get older,” says Paul Peterson, who starred in “The Donna Reed Show” in the late 50s and 60s.

For Peterson -- who with his nonprofit group A Minor Consideration has been a long-time advocate of safeguarding Hollywood’s on-camera children -- long-term pain is the likely consequence of short-term fame.

“Down the line, once the show is over and the cameras have gone,” he asserts, “there will likely be no help for them from predators and others seeking to take advantage of them.”

You can read the entire article HERE.

I was a little surprised at the huge backlash against Nadya Suleman earlier this year, when the same media outlets seem to ignore the fact that Kate is using her children in the very same way. She has been successful, and now it seems like more people want to follow in her footsteps and use their children to achieve fame and fortune.

Just look at the recent actions of the Heene family, and their history of appearing in a Reality Show and their pursuit for their own show.

An excerpt from

When a television camera is invited into the home, even little kids feel the pressure to get with the program, psychologists say.

Viral videos, reality-TV shows and any other mass-media exposure disrupt normal family dynamics, said Miami psychologist Jamie Huysman, whose practice has treated more than 800 "victims" of reality shows.

The camera, he said, introduces an agenda that has nothing to do with nurturing — and everything to do with entertainment.

"It is exploitation," Huysman said. "Nobody wants to watch normal behavior. Kids have to be co-conspirators to get the camera to stay on." has posted their position on the use of children in Reality TV shows. You can read the entire article HERE.

As it is now, ‘reality’ show children are, for the most part, treated differently from children classified as actors. This is because they are regarding as ‘participants,’ like people in a documentary. This classification excludes them from federal and state child labor laws as the camera is recording their activities as opposed to their performance of roles. As such they do not earn a wage, are not classified as employees nor do they receive the benefits that a classification of ‘child actor’ would give them. The TV production company is therefore not employing these minors and ignore child labor laws.

It's obvious that some people will go to extreme measures, even using their young children, in order to gain the fame and fortune that Reality TV shows provide. Unfortunately, these shows are successful, and controversy sells. It's time to get laws in place to protect ALL children involved in these Reality TV shows. I personally don't believe any child should participate in Reality TV. Although I know there will never be laws to prevent parents from forcing their children to appear on TV, at the very least, these children deserve the same laws that protect child actors.

As I said recently, timing is everything! The Heene family balloon saga is just another incident that should bring to light the fact that some parents will use their children for their own agenda. We can't trust parents to make the right decisions when their judgment is being clouded by hopes of fame and fortune. With all of the recent media coverage, I continue to hope that the right people will step up and that change will happen very soon!