Reality family TV stars get more than they bargained for

Sitting down to enjoy a night of television may be a bit unsettling these days. Flipping through the channels you may see contestants trying to find love in a pitch black room, or perhaps the classic Survivor where contestants are still forming alliances to try and outsmart the other contestants (although after a decade on air, people have caught on).

Finally, you may land on a channel featuring shows about the joy of parenthood, with children running through the house, playing and laughing. But as the show goes on, it’s evident these are not child actors. They are real children who are living their lives in a fishbowl.

From toilet training their children, to dealing with their marital problems, Jon and Kate Gosselin have exchanged their privacy, as well as their children’s, for fame and fortune. America has watched their eight children grow over the past five years through their television show Jon and Kate Plus 8, which documents the family’s daily lives.

The show has created a huge fan base, spawning books and five seasons of hit television. Viewers even have their favorite child, and speak as if they know these children personally. However,what started as a regular family with eight children (a set of septuplets and twins) that captivated viewers with their antics of parenthood, has now taken a turn for the worse.

Viewers tuned in by the millions for the announcement of Jon and Kate’s divorce over the summer, which was the highest season premiere in the history of TLC. The family has turned into a train wreck, hooking viewers with the possibility of seeing a meltdown from Kate or a glimpse of Jon’s new girlfriend.

This may be acceptable if this was a primetime drama on NBC, but it is not. This is a family like any other one out there, that are now being criticized by the country for their parenting skills, personal choices, and even the clothes they wear. Viewers are blind to the fact that these children will be able to view their parents’ divorce on the Internet and realize how dysfunctional their childhood was.

Everyone has experienced painful family experiences growing up that they wish they could forget, but for the Gosselin’s and other reality show children, that will never be possible. Americans, more than ever, have been captivated by shows with “real people” but how real are these families featured on reality programming? Normal families do not get paid to drink a certain type of juice, or open their doors to the harsh light of camera crews.

Although the adults of the families consent to the taping and are being compensated for it all very graciously, it is the viewers that fuel networks to keep producing shows similar to Jon and Kate Plus 8.

It seems that America is intrigued with any family that is different. Another TLC program, 18 and Counting, chronicles a strict Christian family that has 19 children, ranging from 20 to less than a year, all natural births.

ABC offers programming such as The Bachelor, and Dating in Dark, where love is found in abnormal ways, forcing intimacy upon complete strangers on a sound stage. NBC aired Welcome to the Neighborhood this summer which locked families in an area together, to compete against each other for a cash prize.

These reality families are not the only ones in America that have to step back and question their ethics. Aren’t the viewers just as guilty for the demise of these families, by fueling the interest in their lives even though they know it cannot be healthy?

If it was a normal family that was not on a television program, it would be considered unhealthy, and in some cases illegal, to become so engrossed with a particular family in which one has no connection to. Sadly, these children that viewers adore so much will have to spend their hard earned money from reality television to pay for years in therapy dealing with a distorted childhood being tabloid headlines.