When kids appear on reality TV shows, are they working like actors, or being filmed like a documentary? That's at the heart of the question of whether they're being exploited in violation of child labor laws.
In May, Steve Almond wrote about the overall exploitation of the kids for Salon, arguing that reality stars like the Real Housewives are entitled to do whatever foolish things they want, except they're dragging their unable-to-consent children along for the shenanigans.
Today, The Los Angeles Times takes another angle: Are these shows actually violating the law?
Because producers say reality show kids are participants in documentary-style programs and not employees, child labor laws are rarely applied. And because these productions have largely resisted unionization, they do not have to comply with guild rules set up to protect child performers.
The backlash is already evident in Pennsylvania, where the Gosselins are inspiring toughened labor laws. "When I see that children were filmed going to the bathroom, that's totally, totally inappropriate," state Rep. Thomas P. Murt, told The Times, meaning when the kids were shown getting potty trained.
In Pennsylvania, the new laws would require limiting working hours and the provision of a teacher. Does that go far enough? Or should we talking about child endangerment and neglect when relevant?