Saturday, August 25, 2007

Kid Nation and Allegations of Child Abuse?

I blogged last month about "Kid Nation" and said that I was really curious and interested in viewing the new reality show "kid Nation" which is set to premiere in September 2007. CBS has been advertising it with commercials since at least the first week of July.

My children also are excited to see a show where the kids run a town, and create their own society. They think the idea is fantastic and right now my older son wishes he could audition to be on the show. I’d probably never let him do it, at age 10, and knowing who he is as a person, I don’t know if it would be good for his emotional health to be ‘thrown to the wolves’ with a pack of other kids of various temperaments and personalities. Going to the extreme to live without one’s parents for 40 days and also without any other direct supervision of a trusted adult is probably not something I’d ever agree to.

Note that now the media suspects parents put their kids on this show so they’d become stars. I want to be very clear that I would never do that. A main reason is that most reality shows don’t end up churning out new stars from their cast members. I also realize that editorial tweaking can greatly alter the reality of what goes on to be more like depicting what the editors want the viewers to perceive went on.

I thought that it would be great to see children given more independence and was curious to see how they would do socially, when interacting with each other about serious issues such as preparing their own meals, negotiating on living arrangements and such. I did worry about sensitive children or wondered how some might make it, emotionally, but figured that the producers would be doing something to make sure that the children were kept safe and healthy.

In my excitement, back in July, I told a friend about this, an unschooling mother who I know is of the mindset that children and teenagers are capable of doing so much more than our American society allows them to do. I thought she’d love to see a show where children are given free reign. But much to my surprise she got upset. She said she worried that the producers would put children into positions where they possibly could be exploited for the entertainment value of viewers. She also worried about their safety and well-being, wondering if they were too vulnerable to be put into a situation such as living for over a month with no parental contact. She didn’t like the concept at all.

The other day, my husband told me he heard on the news that a parent was suing the producers for child abuse, child safety violations and also for violating child labor laws. Here is one story on the Internet that you can read.

I did wonder about accidents, and the issue of if for the purpose of this show, children are forced to do work and to work without close direct adult supervision, if they might have an accident. An accident is an accident, I know, but if an adult intentionally puts a child in a position to have to do work that might injure them and no adult is there to stop it, there is a problem.

Here is a quote from the Boston Globe article:

"Despite off-camera adult supervision, accidents occurred on the set of "Kid Nation." An 11-year-old girl suffered minor burns on her face from a cooking mishap, and several other children required medical attention after accidentally drinking bleach."

Washington Post ran an article today as well.

I will contrast this with my friend who enrolled her ten year old daughter into a summer camp whose focus was to teach cooking and baking. It was a small group of girls and the teacher, who also runs a professional business, working in a professional kitchen. Despite that close supervision and small teacher: student ratio, my friend’s child burned her arm pretty severely by accidentally getting touched with a hot cookie baking pan, with a burn over an inch long in a visible place on her arm. There is still a scar but I’m not sure if it will remain there or if it will heal over the long term.

So now people are buzzing about how far reality shows should go. Should children be involved? How much will parents consent to be done with their children for money or for the lure of possible stardom? How far should producers of television shows go in order to get good ratings and to make money? I don’t have the answers.

There sure is a lot of controversy swelling around this show before it even premieres. I don’t quite know what to think. I guess we’ll have to wait and view the show ourselves if we want to judge ourselves. Or those who oppose the show can choose to not watch it and choose not to form their own opinion.

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1 comment:

Shawna said...

I thought about your post when I read an article on this in the LA Times a week or so ago LOL I do have to wonder about parents signing away consent for so many liabilities and for such young children--that minimum age limit should have been raised, but I also have to wonder about producers and executives who aren't on super vigilant watch while doing such a show as well....maybe even a full-time attorney on set at all times view everything **shrug**

I think the concept is fascinating and neat--I think the execution is off and I think the motives selfish all around. I think we will watch it.