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Posted at 10:55 AM ET, 06/ 1/2009

Courtesy of "Jon & Kate's" Eight, a New Look at Child Labor Laws?

By Liz Kelly
Comment Box

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 of Pennsylvania (child labor laws are state specific) may have one tool at their disposal, though, according to according to attorney Timothy M. Kolman, who spoke to RadarOnline:

"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).

The issue last flared up in 2007 when CBS aired the ill-conceived "Kid Nation" -- a show that followed 40 unsupervised kids while they tried to create a new society in a New Mexico ghost town.

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.

By Liz Kelly  | June 1, 2009; 10:55 AM ET
Categories:  Reality Check  
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I am sooo tired of "Yawn & Hate"...

Posted by: jezebel3 | June 1, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

I find myself agreeing with jezebel again!

Posted by: hodie | June 1, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse many drug addictions and suicides did we have before Hollywood was forced to employ child labor laws?

Even with those laws in place, child stars still have a tough road once they grow up.

Posted by: mdreader01 | June 1, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I hear ya Jes and Hod. The reason I went back to the Jon and Kate well one more time is because I think it is important to get at the real issue here -- the kids.

I've said my piece and am ready to start pointing and laughing at Speidi on "I'm a Celebrity" tonight.

Posted by: Liz_Likes_Celebs_Not_Baseball | June 1, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

i'd think the effect on the kids would be like it is for pageant kids only 10 times worse because the attention is so constant.

i wonder if anybody ever looked at reality moms and pageant moms in terms of how they compare to someone with munchausen by proxy syndrome. do kids that grow up under that kind of stress turn into munchausen syndrome victims themselves?

Posted by: memphis1 | June 1, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I've said it before and I will say it again, any parent that thinks putting their kid on a reality show is an unfit parent.

At least with child actors, they know they are playing a role and they are just a kid at home. Reality show kids are "on" all the time. It's abusive.

Posted by: epjd | June 1, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

I'm withholding judgement until next season's kid-filled reality series, "Raised By Wolves" concludes.

And those kids in that new, albeit non-televised, reality thing from India ("Slumdog Millionaire Kids Lose Their Shanties") seem to be rolling with the punches better than anyone expected.

And then there's the Lindbergh baby, of course.

Posted by: byoolin1 | June 1, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Did the Buttafuocos ever have a reality show?

No? Well I guess we can take some small comfort from that.

Posted by: memphis1 | June 1, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

I'm withholding judgement until next season's kid-filled reality series, "Raised By Wolves" concludes.

Brilliant! Can we get Lassie to be the celebrity host?

Posted by: Bawlmer51 | June 1, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I find myself agreeing with jezebel again!

Posted by: hodie | June 1, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

I often agree with you on the!

Posted by: jezebel3 | June 2, 2009 7:50 AM | Report abuse

If you really want "a new look at child labor laws," compare Jon and Kate's 8 little TV stars with the 6 kids living in a slum in India who were terribly burned recently. Why? Because a perfume-maker said he would pay them if they filled aerosol cans with gasoline. Yes there was an explosion, but the business owner was 'surprisingly' not there. You can read more at:

Posted by: s_mceachern | June 4, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

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