Abby Sunderland: Cashing in on Kids for Fame

Brown said that when a child is training for the Olympics or the next Lindsay Lohan is trying out for a movie role, she may be missing out on normal development. Children need to learn social skills, how to share the spotlight and adapt to the real world, she said.

"These kids who make careers out of experiences and talent do so at what cost?" she said. "This girl may be a great sailor, but is it wise to send her across the ocean when she is 16 without any backup? There is a health and safety risk."

The Sunderlands didn't return e-mails or ABC's calls to their home and his yacht management company.

Abby herself has said she sees nothing wrong with taking risks, even though her parents lost track of her for two days when she was alone on the open ocean.

"There are plenty of things people can think of to blame for my situation; my age, the time of year and many more," she wrote on her blog. "The truth is, I was in a storm and you don't sail through the Indian Ocean without getting in at least one storm. It wasn't the time of year it was just a Southern Ocean storm. Storms are part of the deal when you set out to sail around the world."

"As for age, since when does age create gigantic waves and storms?" said Abby, who has now said she is writing a book.

Her father, a sailing instructor who moved from Australia to southern California, denied his daughter's effort, planned since she was 13, was just a stunt. He said the reality show was "the last thing on my mind."

"I love my daughter dearly," Sunderland told the New York Post. "I love the passion of sailing dearly, and this was about Abigail following her dream. She followed the criteria that I had set out, and met all the requirements to embark on this trip."

He said at the time a show or film might encourage "kids to get out there and do things."

Joanne Cantor, a psychologist who studies the effects of media on children and wrote the 2009 book, "Conquer CyberOverload: Get More Done, Boost Your Creativity, and Reduce Stress," said any plans to sell his daughter's story were "outrageous."

"It's amazing, the draw of public attention that people are now seeking," she said.

'America's Funniest Home Videos' Started Trend

That is exactly what happened with ABC's "America's Funniest Home Videos," which launched 21 years ago, highlighting mishaps and accidents, much of the time involving children.

"They were having kids do dangerous things and they had to start saying things like, 'Don't do this,'" said Cantor.

"There is this trend in the media to focus on outrageous things and to exploit them on the one hand and encourage parents to use their children in this way," she said. "It's so bizarre and sick and certainly unhealthy for our society. We need to be able to count on parents to have some sense of the ones who guide their children to safety rather than taking the lead and engaging their children."

Reality television is the modern version of "rubbernecking," according to Cantor, and it isn't healthy. "We automatically look when we see a crash on the highway."

The human brain is "vulnerable" to television that encourages danger and hostility due to so-called mirror neurons in the brain. "Our brains are drawn to certain things, but there are negative consequences for our stress levels on our health."

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