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Abuse on Reality TV Essay

An incident of child abuse occurs every ten seconds, and more than five children die every day as a result. Approximately 80% of children that die from abuse are under the age of four. Reports have kept a steady growth rate for the past ten years, with the total number of reports nationwide increasing 45% since 1987. Since 1985, the rate of child abuse fatalities has increased by nearly 40%. These statistics were taken from a National Abuse Statistics survey. ​

CAPTION: Taken from a study on child abuse by Childhelp.org, this graph represents the number of child deaths per day due to child abuse and neglect. As shown, the number has significantly increased, and is still continuing to increase. ​Many cases of child abuse have been recorded, and in many of those cases, innocent children have died. This is a growing problem and it continues to get worse. ​Most everyone is familiar with the various types of abuse such as neglect, sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological maltreatment, and medical neglect. Sadly, there is a new type of child abuse added to the list, the exploitation of young children and their privacy on reality television. ​According to AbuseWatch.net, children must be recognized as child actors if they are to be used in reality shows or any other type of TV production. This is not the case today. Basically, having these children on television without any pay is child labor, and they should legally be protected by child labor laws.

The sad fact is TV producers are not employing these minors and are ignoring these child labor laws. ​They’re getting away with this crime because the children are considered as “participants”, like someone in a documentary. Due to this classification, it is excused from federal and state child labor laws as the children’s activities are being recorded on camera, opposed to the performance of a role. The children are not classified as hired employees, and do not earn a wage. They also do not get benefits that they would receive if they were to be called a “child actor.” Therefore, the child labor laws are being ignored and these minors are not being employed. ​In 2007, the series, Kid Nation, abandoned 40 kids, ages 8 to 15, in a fake Old Western town. While viewers watched in agony, these kids spent their days literally left alone.

A little girl burnt herself on a stove. These children were neglected for goodness sake. Complaints were made and authorities investigated. Not only is this against the law, but it is taking away children’s rights to privacy and, most importantly, their childhood. In a recently aired TLC reality show Dance Moms, children were yelled at and belittled in front of the camera, and thousands of viewers. Andy Dehnart describes his experience with the show in an article. He wrote, “During season 1 finale, Mackenzie, 7, started crying while rehearsing for a music video and ran out of the room, ponytail bouncing over her hot pink sports bra. She found her mother in a back room and ran toward her.

“Please don’t make me go!” As she hugged her mother, Melissa, Mackenzie’s head was turned, and her eyes made contact with the camera, staring right at us. She pulled away, her face a mess of sadness and anger, and pointed accusatorily at the camera and its operator’s instructiveness.” It was extremely evident that this was televised child abuse. This is not the kind of abuse that consists of making a child do something that they don’t want to do in that particular second, but abuse that broadcasts moments of a little naive child’s life that should never be shown to the public.

CAPTION: This picture, taken from an article written by Nichelle Strzepe, shows a young girl crying to her mom after her teacher has just finished yelling at her and giving her negative feed back. From a recently conducted interview with Kara Acosta, a young girl with experience in the dancing agency, she stated that, “The teachers on that show are way too strict. It would be difficult for a grown parent to deal with that type of teaching let alone a young child. Plus their way of teaching is not effective. The kids in my dance class learned best by positive reinforcement.” In the article by Sherry Rickmeier, Katherine Heigl states that she “watched with open-mouthed amazement as girls as young as seven were encouraged to dress provocatively and shimmy around a stage doing a dance performance that could just as easily been a burlesque routine.”

Not only does she comment on the disturbing sexual aspect of the show but also comments that, “I was also horrified by the way their instructor spoke to them when she felt they weren’t up to snuff. It was demeaning, belittling, and downright unkind. There is no reason to break anyone down in order to prepare them for inevitable disappointment or unkindness. Especially not a child’s.” There is a clearly defined line between giving helpful criticism and yelling nasty things at children telling them they are “dumb”, and “stupid”. It is highly degrading and pure verbal and emotional abuse. Society as a whole is implying to our children that this is ok. The fact is, its not.

​This brings us to the television series Toddlers and Tiaras. ​ The show Toddlers and Tiaras began three years ago, and has since drawn in more viewers. In this series, little four year old girls parade around in flashy dresses; wear fake eyelashes, fake teeth, and globs of makeup. Not only is this taking away their innocence, but it’s submitting them to child pornography. Girl’s outfits include those of sex idols such as Daisy Duke, Dolly Parton, and a prostitute from Pretty Woman.

CAPTION: This picture, taken by a college student from a blog on why child beauty pageants are hazardous to children’s health, shows a seven year old who has the face of a twenty year old woman, and is showing off her body to win more points from the judges. An interview conducted with a high school teacher and role model, Mrs. Gorenstein, was recently conducted to show the view of adults on this subject. When asked what she thought the message of the show Toddlers and Tiaras was, she replied saying, “This show sends the message that kids can get what they want by being bratty, looking pretty and flaunting around their looks.” She also said, “These shows are pushing a very fine line between showing child abuse and providing entertainment. I would say these shows should be taken of the air, but I worry what they’ll replace it with.” A high school student, Delaney McGinn said, “These shows are dumb, pointless, and a waste of money.

It is showing kids that it’s ok to be extremely fake; in fact it’s teaching them how to do it. These parents are selfish and aren’t letting their children be themselves. Children learn the most in their first couple of years, and all these kids are going to learn is how to be snotty and how to throw a fit when you don’t get what you want. ” ​These children run around looking like miniaturized twenty year olds. The parents of these kids would do anything to have their child win, including hair extensions, caked on makeup, fake eyelashes, spray on tans, fake teeth, and extremely revealing clothing. The want of girls to be happy with natural beauty is punted out the door when it comes to this show. There is absolutely nothing natural about these young children. They look like Barbie dolls.

CAPTION: This picture is taken from an article written by Dabney B. about why this show is so messed up. This picture shows how fake these little girls are made. They are sexualized, and are freely shown off to the dangers of the world, just for a couple bucks. This little girl looks like a porcelain doll, not a cute natural little girl. ​There have also been cases of parents “doping” up their children to make them perform better. A pageant mother claims she prepares her daughter by giving her an unidentified juice drink, “pageant crack” or “go-go juice”. No one knew what was in the concoction, and some people were led to believe it had a small amount of alcohol in it along with extremely caffeinated soda drinks.

According to the article “Are Toddlers and Tiaras mothers DOPING their daughters?” by Sadie Whitelocks, the mother, Mrs. Holler, told her daughter to take “two big gulps” of the drink from an unlabeled drinks bottle. In a couple of seconds the change in the young child was wildly apparent. Moments after having her “special drink” the young girl started doing stomach spins on the floor. ​Defining the exploitation of children’s privacy on TV, such as these, as child abuse is a bit complicated. But after looking at all of the evidence, it will be extremely difficult for people to say that it is adequate for this to continue. You’d think after all the child abuse cases related to rape and sexual abuse, one like the John Benet Ramsey case, people would want to end the use of reality TV shows that illustrate these young girls in a sexual way, but these shows continue to play on televisions all throughout the country. ​


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