Abby Sunderland: Cashing in on Kids for Fame

As for the children who are part of these reality shows, "I can't imagine it's good for them," she said. "Kids need privacy and need to make mistakes without doing them in public. We have lost the ability to have a normal childhood."

Reality shows may run their course, just as other television fads like Westerns and monster shows have withered away.

"There will be a time when people get tired of them," said Cantor.

Meanwhile the Sunderlands are adamant their daughter's adventure wasn't misguided.

In an interview earlier this year with Mom Logic, Marianne Sunderland defended her parenting choices: "I understand that need to protect, but you've got to let go at a certain point."

"Look at your own life," she said. "Think about your kid in the future, when they are in their late 30s or early 40s and have followed someone else's plan their entire time on the planet. They went to school, got a degree, got married, got a house. Maybe they're successful, but they're not really fulfilled. In the long run, they are going to be their own person. I think you have to remember that."

Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, agrees it's important that children be challenged, but with a safety net when there is "potential harm."

When are childred ready to spread their wings and fly?

"These are some of the hardest questions we get," he said. "We don't have a good handle on how age is a proxy variable for when they can handle challenges," he said. "And parents have to make those decisions daily."

"Kids try new ideas and tasks and they sometimes fail," he said. "We want them to do it in an environment where we don't have life and death consequences. By definition, they push and fail and that's how they learn. On the playground they reach and jump and if they fall on concrete, there are bad consequences. That's why we keep cushioning."

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