Reality shows kids usually unprotected by child labor laws due to lack of rules, confusion

Kids are increasingly part of reality TV shows that star adults, and The Los Angeles Times investigated their participation, and “found that dozens of kids are appearing on reality programs without legal safeguards because of widespread uncertainty about how to classify the shows.”

The paper “found rampant confusion within the television industry and state agencies about what rules apply to reality shows” and “found that a majority had not obtained work permits to employ minors,” as “11 shows filming in eight states had not filed paperwork to hire minors. Regulators in California, Florida, Georgia and Virginia are now looking into whether production companies violated child labor rules. But they may be in the clear legally.” That’s because “there are few government safeguards in place to monitor these productions” and “producers say reality show kids are participants in documentary-style programs and not employees, child labor laws are rarely applied.”

The paper also notes that “SAG and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists have little clout when it comes to kids on reality TV shows because most of those programs are nonunion,” so “union leaders want lawmakers in Washington to take on the issue. In February, AFTRA officials met with an aide to the House Labor and Education Committee to call for federal standards for wages, work conditions and educational requirements for child performers across all genres.”

Reality TV kids don’t have a safety net [Los Angeles Times]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.