Let me preface by saying that in my previous life I was a child welfare social worker and a Court Appointed Special Advocate (Guardian Ad Litem for children), so I tend to get quite soap-boxy when discussing protecting the world’s children. So, if boxes of soap bug you, I urge you, please, cease reading right now!
I’ll admit it. I caved into the hype and watched Kid Nation. You know, the new Survivor-esque reality show, that’s a lot like the other reality shows in that contestants are deprived of food, sleep, contact with loved ones, and made to endure harsh conditions, strangely difficult reward challenges, and verbal abuse from other contestants. Oh, right, except that this particular show features **gulp** 40 unsupervised children.
Okay, okay, I know it’s already been slammed in the media because parents are suing after their children were malnourished, burned, and lord knows what else. Um, yeah. What part of “unsupervised children” did you not understand when you signed the waiver, people? Does anybody, anybody, think we’ve taken this reality thing too far? Aside from the fact that they’re plopped into a freezing ghost town with nothing but a few cans of peaches and a couple chickens, and forced to feed, clothe and govern themselves, it’s harmless, right? Why is it that if I leave my kids home alone or in a hotel room, I’m blasted as a bad parent, or even arrested for endangering children, but if I leave them alone to fend for themselves in a dusty old town, with cute little bandanas and cowboy hats on, all in the name of entertainment, it’s fine?
Yes, the Lord of the Flies feel of the show is intriguing (in a sick and twisted kind of way). I mean, I watched it. Mortified, yes. But I still added to the ratings. My main concern isn’t necessarily that the kids will be harmed in the making of the show. After all, they’ve got that creepy little host guy with the Kermit the Frog voice who pops out from behind old water pumps and whisky barrels every day or so. I’m sure his main concern is their safety. No, it’s the PTSD and countless hours of psychotherapy they’ll have to endure when they get home and can’t get the chopping up live chickens flashbacks out of their damaged little heads.
Now, I’m all about teaching children to be independent and self-sufficient. But there are limits to what we should put them through, no? We don’t live in the 1800’s. We live in the world of Starbucks on every street corner and 24-hour supermarkets. 8-year-olds should not have to choose between cutting off heads of cute animals or starving.
The most impressive part of KN, though, is how sweet and rational most of the kids are. There are a few, though, who warrant concern. When the 14-year-old bad boy fails to receive the gold star (a real gold star worth $20K) awarded to the most awesome-ist kid of the day, he seems to go a little ape-sh#%, glaring into the camera with Malachai-like evilness, threatening to “do something” about being overlooked.
My advice to the producers of Kid Nation: Save this stuff for fiction. Go write an edgy YA book. Or a slasher flick. Don’t put real kids through unnecessary trauma. Unless you want them to start crawling out of the cornfields with machetes. Does “He Who Walks Behind The Rows” mean nothing to you fools? Save the children!