This story, if true, illustrates something I’ve said for a long time. Children shouldn’t be on reality television shows.
This Daily Mail article, taken from a report in the New York Daily News, says that Kate Gosselin told her daughters, “You embarrassed mommy,” after they didn’t “defend her” during an interview on NBC’s Today Show.
I know I’ve said it to people I know, and I think I’ve written about it and/or talked about it on podcasts. What have I said? That kids shouldn’t be on reality shows. It’s not fair to them. They aren’t able to make an informed decision about their privacy.
Now, what do I mean by “kids”? I would say “18 and under” but that’s both unrealistic and a little silly. What would be reasonable, though, is 13 years old. That’s the age used by COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
COPPA establishes rules for websites collecting information about children under the age of 13. Seems reasonable, right? Maybe we could apply the same cut-off age to whether or not a kid is allowed to be on a reality TV show.
Now, you might say, “what about child actors?” Well, there are laws about child actors — the hours they are allowed to work, what happens to the money they make so that unscrupulous parents can’t spend it all. Also, those kids are ACTING. They don’t have cameras in their homes recording their real lives.
Yes, I am aware that “reality television” isn’t reality. These shows have writers on staff, and much of what is purportedly real is staged. (I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said before by hundreds of other people. If this is the first time you’ve heard it, my apologies.) Still, would you like to grow up and discover that you were a reality TV star when you were two years old?
Here’s an idea. As the Marx Brothers said, there is no sanity clause.
But maybe there should be. It doesn’t seem fair that young children should be allowed to have their lives broadcast on television, even with parental consent. Many news outlets fuzz out the faces of kids in photos. Why? Presumably because they respect the idea of a child’s right to privacy. Why not extend this same right to reality TV?