Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of Jon and Kate Gosselin. How can you miss them? They have been tabloid fodder for weeks. People can’t seem to get enough of them, especially since allegations of their marital infidelity have emerged. However, long before U.S. Weekly and People began profiting from their sinking relationship, America has been fascinated by the Gosselins. Millions tune in to TLC each week to watch Jon & Kate Plus Eight, which chronicles a day in the lives of a Pennsylvania family with eight children—twins and sextuplets—under the age of ten.

America loves families of multiples, and Jon and Kate is certainly no exception. The show has been a cash cow for TLC since its inception. This season, the Gosselins have continued to profit. The family reportedly earns $20-50K for each episode, which is a dream come true for a clan that struggled to make ends meet when the sextuplets were born. The current season is slated to air 40 episodes, and the lure of money, lavish all-expenses paid vacations, book deals, and paid speaking engagements have proved a powerful lure to continue the show. A record 9.8 million viewers tuned in for the Season Five premiere last month, and the Gosselin train shows no signs of stopping. Although the Gosselin children are growing up with the best that money can buy, there has been a tradeoff–the loss of a normal childhood.

Won’t someone please think of the children? Most five-year-olds have never even heard the word “paparazzi,” but the Gosselin children certainly have. They use a code word (the “P people”) to alert their mother when they are sighted. Even if the cameras stopped rolling tomorrow, would the children have any chance at a normal childhood? Maybe so. Maybe not. But shouldn’t they be given the chance to find out? I’m as big a Jon and Kate fan as the next reality television voyeur viewer, but watching this season is just painful.

Apparently others agree, and TLC is being investigated for possible child labor law violations in Pennsylvania where the show is filmed. TLC and the Gosselins deny any impropriety. Some experts agree with them, especially in light of the current Pennsylvania child labor laws. Unlike California, which treats reality television actors like traditional stage actors, Pennsylvania does not. Furthermore, Pennsylvania’s child labor laws have no provision for reality stars. Therefore, it is unclear whether or not the Keystone State’s child labor laws apply to the show.

However, recent international events might be somewhat informative. Last week, the stars of a French reality television show won the right to overtime pay and holidays. By extending this ruling to the Gosselins’ situation, one might argue that the sextuplets are due five years’ (the entire duration of the show) of camera-free overtime and holidays. On the other hand, the argument is easily made that there is no “labor” going on in the Gosselin household, since TLC cameras merely follow their daily lives. However, where the show once focused on diaper duty with six kids and the difficulties of budgeting for a family of ten, their daily lives have turned into contrived last-minute spa vacations to the West Coast and guest appearances on other TLC shows.

So, what’s best for the kids? Some fans and extended family members are on a mission to have the show cancelled. They have dedicated a blog toward exposing the truth behind the cameras at http://www.gosselinswithoutpity.blogspot.com/ (GWP). They report details of Kate’s diva-like attitude on the “set” and Jon’s recent absences from family outings, and speculate about the children’s welfare. If GWP is to be believed, the kids are not happy and the family is falling apart. Each week, Jon and Kate tell their audience, “It may be a crazy life, but it’s our life.” Maybe their lives have gotten a little too crazy, and TLC should bow out.

Abbey Morrow

Image courtesy of Barnes & Noble

3 Responses to A Minor Consideration: Reality TV and Child Stars

  1. Dee says:

    Michael Jackson’s childhood was filled with difficulty and sadness. So was mine and some friends of mine. But I am still poor. At least he had his career to make his life better. I see nothing wrong with what the Gosselins are doing in helping their kids to have money and fame. A normal Life? To hell with that.
    The kids are in the public eye, and we need to care for them as well as the kids being quietly abused, beaten and neglected with no cameras on them.

  2. laura says:

    Have to agree with the coorelation between Jackson and what we are seeing with the Gosselin children now.
    When is someone going to MAKE these parents take responsibility for the children they have by working, oh my yes, and letting these children have a chance at a normal upbringing. There is still hope they could.
    Where is the pastor grandpa, the aunts, uncles, etc. that should be filing claims against the parents. While this sounds extreme this is an extreme case made public by two people who seemingly just wanted the fame and the money but FORGOT about the darling children they were dragging along.
    Given the facts we know in this case a judge would be obtuse to give custody to the mother knowing these children will probably never see any of the extended family ever again- at least with the dad they have a chance of not being hit, yelled at, or berated in public.

  3. Donna says:

    http://blog.imperfectparent.com/2008/03/25/jon-and-kate-plus-8-color-me-gosselin/comment-page-535/#comment-253660

    Post From: Color Me Gosselin ( link above)
    16045. Donna said:
    July 1, 2009 @ 10:18 am

    Michael Jackson might be the reason that I am on this blog.

    Michael was an adorable kid .. with a talent that had no end. His father beat and abused him. He was forced to perform under all situations. Scared, tired or emotionally drained. Joe Senior drove his children as if they were cattle going to slaughter. I am amazed that those kids survived as well as they did.

    Michael had some strange ways about him … but I think he had a private dream ….
    to turn an extremely hurtful childhood into something positive filled with love.

    The mother, Katherine Jackson, was a wonderful person. Michael loved her very much as I am sure all the children did.
    Yet she allowed Joe to have full rein over the household. She gave him her blessing to mentally abuse, beat and pimp out her children in the music industry and on national TV.
    Joseph Jackson – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    What has all this got to do with today? Well … the Jackson behavioral history .,… has just put 3 celebrity children .. of unknown bio parentage … into society. There are no adoption papers & birth certificates have been tampered with. No one knows of … or where to look for one child’s bio mother or father.

    *******************************************************
    Jon and Kate Gosselin have 8 children. When you have minor children … something is desperately wrong when you involve them in family adult matters. Not to mention airing them .. and the troubles to the nation in the name of “Reality TV.”

    If nothing is said .. like in the 60’s when the Jackson 5 started out, then we are sending the message that its okay for people to exploit children for entertainment. And this parental behavior is acceptable to the public.

    We are also telling these people who chose to finacially live off their children …
    That there are no responsibilities when it comes to the use of minors in the entertainment industry.
    Television, radio or public entertainment.

    The people who disagree with Jon and Kate Gosselin and TLC … are concerned about how the two …. entertainment & minor children … work together.

    We care a great deal about what is going to happen to those children after the camera’s are gone and what type of influence they will have on our society.

    Will these kids have a normal happy life .. with its usual ups and downs after the equiptment is packed up. Or will their life be misserable .. will they become a danger to themselves and society.

    There are people who would like to leave society a little better after their gone, for the younger ones to use and enjoy.

    America is not a dumping ground for misguided influence. At least it shouldn’t be. Dumping celebrity kids … with overwhelming childhood baggage into our society costs everyone in the long run and is not acceptable.

    my view on the subject.
    thanks ……… take care .. !