Courtesy of "Jon & Kate's" Eight, a New Look at Child Labor Laws?
One positive upshot of the whole "Jon & Kate Plus 8" mess could be new guidelines about kids featured in reality shows. Much discussion has been devoted to the question of whether or not Jon and Kate Gosselin have broken any child labor laws by chronicling their brood's every move on a reality show and as mentioned in this morning's Mix, the state of Pennsylvania is investigating after receiving a complaint.
Reality shows are a blind spot in current child labor laws. E!'s Leslie Gornstein last week interviewed labor attorney Paul Moretti, who doubted the Gosselins were violating any current standards -- standards set up to limit the amount of time kids spend acting on movie and TV sets.
"Chances are, courts would say this doesn't count as labor, because the children are doing things they would be doing whether there was a camera or not," said Moretti. "Show producers are not taking the kids away from their studies, making them memorize lines, or taking them away from socialization."
"The (state) law forbids temporary employment. The state does not authorize temporary employment under any circumstances for children this young."
But with the proliferation of kid-focused reality shows ("18 Kids and Counting," "Raising Sextuplets," "Table for 12" and -- announced over the weekend -- a reality show for Octo-Mom Nadya Suleman), maybe the states, the Screen Actors Guild and the Department of Labor -- which exempts kids in the entertainment industry from the Fair Labor Standards Act -- should update their guidelines to include children who, unlike their acting peers, are not only chronicled 24/7, but filmed in easily identifiable locales (which could make it easier for their privacy to be violated).
Update: I asked Dr. Andrea Bonior, licensed clinical psychologist and Express Baggage Check columnist, for her thoughts from a child development point of view. Her considered answer is below:
Since these kids have been professionally filmed from so early on, the main risk is that they can have a very blurred sense of what's normal. Many people argue that they're probably so used to these cameras that they are not 'bothered' by them, but the other side of that is that they also have no real sense of typical notions of privacy, anonymity, or even just others being uninterested in their antics at any given time. They might gradually learn to play to the cameras in order to stand out from their siblings and get their parents' attention, or, conversely, they may grow to shun and resent healthy attention, or doubt the motives of someone who really wants to get to know them. In short, they've had very artificial, external factors -- producers, ratings, plot lines, and sponsors -- be a constant force in determining how people react to them in daily life, which could certainly affect the habits they develop. -- 11:24 a.m. ET.
Comment of the Week:
"So Mary Jo Buttafuoco and Jody Sweetin are writing their memoirs. Are they also planning on inventing a time-machine, so they can sell their books to someone who gives a rat's tucchus about them?" -- from last week's Celebritology Live chat.
| June 1, 2009; 10:55 AM ET
Categories: Reality Check
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