Kid Nation: Reality TV or Unethical Treatment of Children

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News writers, political candidates and the talking heads have been going bananas over CBS’s new show Kid Nation.  The show is basically Survivor meets the wild west but with kids, not adults.  The real beef these folks have with the show is the ethical and moral questions behind this social experiment.  Is this right?  Should this be done to children?  Where are the parents?

I have watched the first two episodes.  I am not alone because nearly 40 million other Americans have tuned in.  Here are my conclusions on this controversial show.  Just my opinions.

1.  Are these children being mistreated?  No.  There are adults everywhere.  Adult camera men, adult producers, adult medical team, the list goes on.  They are not starving.  They are not being left unattended.  They are not completely blocked off the outside world.  Much of the interaction with adults is simply being cut in the editing room.

2.  Is this show a social experiment on unwilling children?  It IS a social experiment, but so is elementary school.  The children are not being held unwillingly, their parents allowed them to come.  They knew what they were getting into before they signed on the dotted line.  If this show aired on Nickelodeon it would not be a problem, just kid-friendly TV.  Many other social experiments with children have been aired way before Kid Nation was ever conceived.  Just not on network TV.

3.  Is this show producing a Lord of the Flies, survival of the fittest, Darwinian world view?  Unequivocally, yes.  Not a positive to the show.  The emotional and social development of children and adolescents are not ready to handle these types of confrontations and stressful scenarios.  The older children will become leaders.  The younger, smaller children will become obedient and fall in line.  The Strongest will survive.

4.  Is this show reality?  Would children really run “their” world differently than adults?  No, this is not reality.  And no, children are not going to run their world differently.  The show has already proven in 2 episodes that while these children have the right to do whatever they want, they still follow the guidelines of society no matter who is in charge.  Basic things like create order and structure, do work, build relationships, savor victories, and avoid pain and suffering.  Not much different that an Adult Nation or Teen Nation.

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