Critics say kids on reality TV are exploited

Wed May 27, 2009 6:23pm EDT
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By Claudia Parsons

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hollywood abounds with child stars whose lives went off the rails but the boom in reality TV raises new ethical questions that have come to a head in the case of Jon and Kate Gosselin and their eight children.

U.S. celebrity magazines, blogs and tabloids are in a frenzy about the new series of reality show "Jon & Kate Plus 8," in which the parents of sextuplets and twins appear to be barely speaking to each other and contemplating divorce.

The season premiere on Monday, when both parents brushed off rumors of infidelity, drew in nearly 10 million people.

The episode was ostensibly about a fifth birthday party for the sextuplets, but that was overshadowed by the drama of the parents' disintegrating marriage. Kate dabbed away tears as she said parents of multiples have higher divorce rates.

Jon complained about the paparazzi who follow the family everywhere and said he "might as well be in prison."

The show is one of several, such as "Table for 12," about large families on Discovery's cable network TLC, which specializes in reality television -- famously cheap to make.

Recent viewer feedback on web sites has tended toward vitriolic attacks on the parents, especially Kate.

On Wednesday, her brother and sister-in-law, Kevin and Jodi Kreider, appeared on CBS News' "The Early Show" to appeal to the couple to stop exploiting their children.   Continued...