Sunday, June 21, 2009

Jon & Kate Plus 8: Cashing in on their kids?

Where do you draw the line between entertainment and exploitation? A thoughtful post at one of my favorite parenting blogs, Looky, Daddy!, and the most-recent controversey over so-called reality cable TV program Jon & Kate Plus 8 prompted me to pose the questions to my readers at's Child Caring blog recently.

The problem I have with reality shows is that they're rarely realistic. But when the shows involve kids, I really have a problem.

The hub of family-focused reality TV is the cable channel TLC, formerly known as The Learning Channel. Some of their most popular shows offer a peek into the lives of large families like the Duggars (18 Kids and Counting), the Hayes (Table for 12), and, of course, the Gosselins of Jon & Kate Plus 8.

Jon and Kate have been in the media cross-hairs lately, as the more sordid aspects of their private lives became public. Once "news" of their respective affairs hit the tabloids, it seemed like every formerly off-camera moment in their lives became up for public debate. For example: Kate was recently photographed spanking one of her daughters, and thus yet another controversy was ignited.

But is trying to be a supermom in front of the camera while having a ton of help (and personal problems) off-stage really "reality"? And is watching the Gosselin family "fall apart before our eyes" offering us an important glimpse into another way of life, or is it just voyeurism? (For the record: Jon Gosselin tells People Magazine that he thinks his show doesn't exploit his children.)

Brian of Looky, Daddy! writes: "There is a fine line between chronicling the daily harm that comes both to and from children and exploiting it. Sometimes I wonder on which side of that line I am."

I'm not on reality TV, but I blog about parenting. I blog about juggling full-time work and parenthood. I blog about career and finance issues. And, in doing so, I write about my kids -- to an extent. I don't publish easy-to-identify photos. I might use something they did to illustrate a point, but they're never the point of the post themselves.

Do you blog (or, for that matter, post videos of your kids online)? Which side of the line do you think you're on -- and have you ever crossed it?

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