The Wrap has a provocative column by Domnic Patten about the impact of reality television programs on the children who participate in them.
One problem is a loophole in the law. If children are working as actors on a film or television show, there are very strict limits on how many hours they can work. They are required to have a teacher and a parent or guardian with them. But if it is a “reality” show, it is not considered a job; the theory is that they are just going about their lives and being filmed.
“Jon & Kate Plus 8’s” treatment of the Gosselin children is now being investigated by the Pennsylvania Labor Department.
At the core of the investigation is whether the Gosselins’ Wernersville, Penn., home constitutes a formal TV set, where the children are being instructed and directed. If so, it would bring the production under the state’s child labor laws.
If not — if it’s considered merely a domestic environment where they are being observed and filmed with little direct interaction with producers and crew – the state would have no grounds for violation and the investigation will be closed.
Therapist Drew Pinsky (better known as “Dr. Drew”), put it directly:
“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.”