Should Kids Be On Reality TV?
With Jon & Kate Plus 8 and “Balloon Boy” making headlines, we ask experts if there needs to be a law to protect them.
In the last two years, we’ve watched kids on reality TV working like dogs for 14 hours per day (Kid Nation), getting yelled at by surly caretakers (Nanny 911), exposed to incompetent parenting by clueless teenagers (Baby Borrowers) and undergoing toilet training in front of a national audience (Jon & Kate Plus 8).
All bad enough. But it took the sight of Falcon Heene, the child who has sadly come to be known as Balloon Boy, getting sick on the Today Show to make the entire nation nauseous as well.
Millions of us stayed glued to our TVs on October 15, praying and watching the live drama as helicopters and jets flew over Colorado tracking a silver balloon supposedly holding 6-year-old Falcon. But, we ultimately found out, the child had been hiding in the attic, per his father’s orders.
The purpose of the hoax: To get the Heenes their own reality show. (“You guys had said we did it for a show,” Falcon innocently said on TV. “Man,” his father replied apprehensively, knowing that the truth couldn’t be hidden any longer.)
“Balloon Boy barfed for all of us,” said commentator Jere Hester on www.nbcmiami.com. “His saga—along with the plight of other children irresponsibly thrust into the reality TV spotlight—is a stomach-turning affair.”
The national reaction against Falcon’s parents has heartened activists long pushing for ethical treatment of kids on reality TV.
“Now everybody gets it! We cannot keep doing this to kids,” Paul Petersen, a kid star on The Donna Reed Show and now an advocate for kids on TV, told BettyConfidential. His organization, A Minor Consideration, (minorcon.org) has been trying put an end to the exploitation of children on television for years.