For Kids on Reality TV, Every Show Might Be 'Survivor'

Now the Heene parents are suspected of having coached their three sons -- Bradford, Ryo and Falcon -- to make false statements to police and the media.

That kind of coaching would violate bedrock rules of raising kids, Kaslow said.

"I thinks that it's really important to teach children about integrity and honesty, and one of the concerns I have when they're used in this kind of fashion is that we are not modeling that for them," she said. "And those are of course values that are really essential for healthy development.

"It's very confusing to this child. Here you watch on TV that you're up in the balloon, when you're really in the attic, it's incredibly confusing."

Paul Petersen, a former child actor who starred on the 1960s sitcom "The Donna Reed Show," is founder of "A Minor Consideration" a nonprofit organization founded to support current and former child actors. He sees reality TV as deeply problematic.

"Our traffic ... increased dramatically" in 2009, Peterson reports on his site. "It's not just Michael Jackson's needless death that is driving this increase, but the combined news of the children now thoughtlessly exposed on reality television without even the barest of protections, let alone fair compensation for the obvious work they are performing. History tells us that the coming years may be difficult."

Child Labor Law Loophole?

Labor laws designed to protect child actors do not apply to reality shows, McCall pointed out.

"The law that applies for movies doesn't apply to kids who are in reality shows," he said. "The gist is, there are child labor laws that apply to child actors in movies and prime-time TV shows that don't apply here -- because, presumably, [the kids are] not actors."

McCall called on television networks to do more to protect children on TV.

"I really wish there were somebody sitting at the network who would say, 'What are we doing? Certainly we want people to watch our network, but are there no other avenues to take?'" he said.

Even Larimer County, Colo., Sheriff Jim Alderden had two cents to add on the state of reality television, in an aside to today's news conference.

"Half of the garbage that's on television I can't believe that people watch anyway," he said at a Sunday news conference. "That's your peoples' business."

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