The article “Balloon Boy Plus Ei8ght? Children and Reality Television” from the Culture Reviews section of the Spring 2010 issue of Contexts is short and class-room friendly piece that explores the use of children in reality TV. As a big part of their popular culture, students will likely have a lot of say about reality TV in general and its use of child stars. Use the following questions either as a group or individually to spark an interesting discussion:
1) What are some reality TV shows that you know about that use children as their main stars? Do you watch them?
2) What do you think it is about using children in reality TV that makes so many people tune in?
3) Levey argues in the article that the children are being exploited by their parents and producers. Do you agree? Why or why not?
4) If you had the opportunity to put your children on a reality TV program, would you? What would be the benefits? What would be the drawbacks?
5) Do you agree with the author that the children currently on reality TV will suffer consequences for it down the road? If so, what are some examples?
6) Imagine how your childhood would have been different if you had been on reality TV. Do you think it would have been a positive or negative experience for you?
Or use this activity:
Bring in a clip of a reality TV show that utilizes child stars to share with the class. Discuss the way the filmmakers and the adults on the program are interacting with them. Do they seem to be enjoying their time in the spotlight? Do you think this is child labor?