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Reality Shows Exploit Children

James Hirsen By Monday, 06 August 2012 12:01 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

When first created back in 1972 by NASA and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, The Learning Channel made its cable television debut as an educational network.

In 1991, The Discovery Channel acquired The Learning Channel, which is now called TLC; however, the public perception of the cable channel was then, and for many who have not had a recent opportunity to tune in still is, primarily that of an educational network.

The idea of today’s TLC mainly being educationally oriented could be considered absurd, perhaps even laughable, in light of the dubious content of its current programming lineup.

TLC s “Toddlers & Tiaras” is a reality show that overtly exploits young children of the tender 3-to-5 age group. The little ones are shown rivaling children of their similar age in intensely competitive beauty pageants.

The sexualization of the innocents is displayed in a highly explicit and disturbing manner. Costumes in which the children have been dressed include reproductions of some of the most provocative outfits worn by celebrities Madonna and Lady Gaga.

In one instance, a toddler was dressed up as Dolly Parton, complete with the enhanced physical attribute for which Ms. Parton is most famous. In another instance, a tiny tot was outfitted as the onscreen lady of the night character portrayed by Julia Roberts in the film “Pretty Woman.”

The innocence of the little ones on the reality show is further shown to be in jeopardy at the hands, of all people, the adults in their lives, to whom they look for protection and guidance, love, and acceptance. Instead, the adults deem it necessary to apply colorants to their skin, veneers to their teeth, fake extensions to their hair, makeup to their eyes and cheeks, and enhancements to their tiny bodies.

It would be difficult to argue that such measures, imposed upon a child at such a vulnerable age, would have no detrimental effect on self-image, no harmful impact on the psychological and emotional development of the individual. But even if the impact were found to be relatively minor, although mere common sense tells us otherwise, those who are in charge have the responsibility of preventing such negative consequences from ever occurring.

Unfortunately, the above topics do not seem to be being addressed in earnest by enough parents and psychologists, and are certainly not being considered enough by creators of television programming and by entertainment industry executives. In fact, the opposite appears to be occurring, and the decline seems to have steepened.

It turns out that Alana Thompson, a.k.a. Honey Boo Boo, an especially outgoing six-year-old girl who has been featured on “Toddlers & Tiaras,” has been given her own show by TLC called “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.”

Alana rose to “Todders & Tiaras” stardom after she was shown enthusiastically partaking in a beverage referred to as “go-go juice.” According to the show, the “go-go juice” that Honey Boo Boo drinks is a super-caffeinated blend of Red Bull and Mountain Dew, given to her to boost her energy before performing in a toddler beauty pageant.

In one episode, after drinking the beverage, Honey Boo Boo begins to run around in circles, twirl around on the floor, and engage in suggestive dance moves.

Her mother explains the following in the segment: “Everybody has their different concoction. ‘Special juice’ is to help energize her. A lot of moms say, ‘Oh, you’re doping up your child.’ No I’m not. I’m not hurting her.”

Other child contestants are shown gulping down powdered candy.

“We had tried Pixy Stix, as they’re called ‘pageant crack,’” June explains. “We went through 15 bags at one pageant, and it just doesn't do anything for her,” June says. “She just drinks it [the juice] for pageants, to give her that extra ‘oomph.’ So, whatever works for your child, use it.”

The new “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” show reportedly features the members of Alana’s rural Southern family: mother June, father “Sugar Bear,” and sisters “Pumpkin,” “Chubbs,” and “Chickadee.” Among other things, the Thompsons are shown four-wheeling through mud pits and picking up road kill for the family cookout.

Quite frankly, it is getting more and more difficult to try and reason through, make sense of, and/or provide any kind of sound justification for a significant portion of the reality show programming that is currently being broadcast.

Our young people have grown up in a television world that exposed them to the likes of reality show stars Snooki and Kim Kardashian.

Now the youngest in our society are watching their peers take things to an even lower level of coarseness, and sadly become TV stars in the process.

James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax.TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.

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Monday, 06 August 2012 12:01 PM
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