Teen Mom OG officially made its way back to MTV on August 22, 2016. We all know about the drama with the original cast and how much the moms have been through. But what about their kids? Should they be subjected to the dramatic world of reality television before they can properly consent to it?
The answer is an obvious no.
Kids can’t consent to their lives being filmed constantly for television. It’s very simple. Farrah Abraham’s seven-year-old daughter Sophia can’t say “yes” or “no” to having cameras around, nor can any of the other kids. They have no choice, and in the end, this lack of choice is completely unfair. How can having cameras around from such an early age, documenting even the most unflattering moments, be healthy to a child?
With Sophia’s television popularity, Abraham’s parenting has been called into question. She allows her seven-year-old to wear a full face of makeup to school, and also allows Sophia to have her own Snapchat account and therefore connect with random strangers. Does life in the limelight seem to make this worrying behavior okay?
Child superstar Drew Barrymore states in reference to her own life as a child in the limelight, “Nobody is solid and perfect all of the time, and if you’re trying to keep that act up, it’s exhausting.” By forcing kids to behave for a role on television, their parents are doing them a disservice. With cameras around them all the time, kids can’t be themselves and feel forced to be more grown up, to be perfect, and to live their life constantly under the glare of the public eye.
Even Kanye West elected to minimize the roles his children have on Keeping Up With the Kardashians. West did not allow his daughter North to be on the show for the first year of her life, and it is likely the same rules apply to his son Saint West. While this doesn’t protect the Kardashian-West children for long, it at least lets them partially live out their infancy in peace.
The effects of reality television on young children can be devastating. Think of the Gosselins, better known for their tumultuous TLC show, Jon and Kate Plus 8. After a few years of their lives becoming a widely-viewed and highly-discussed TV series, the parents, the titular Jon and Kate, split up. There is a definite connection to having your lives documented to family dysfunction, seeing as the whole world is peering into the good, the bad and the ugly of their family life. A child watching their parents fight and eventually divorce on television from an early age will have a disrupted sense of security and attachment, and that damage very well might be irreparable.
For example, Teen Mom’s Amber Portwood and Gary Shirley’s fights often led to domestic abuse in the early seasons. Is it really a good idea to have their daughter Leah be a part of the show and to be a captive audience in the negative environment? Leah, a seven-year-old, should not have to bear witness to this kind of dangerous behavior.
Even if the kids of the TV stars aren’t watching the show, they are still active participants in a narrative they did not sign up for, to quote Taylor Swift. Teen Mom is a show depicting the difficulty of raising children during your teenage years or in early adulthood. Ethically, kids should not be forced to participate in something that brings them into the limelight, of which they might not ever escape the shadow of their parents’ television spats, trials and scandals. This is not something kids aspire to do, or want to go to school to be known for, let alone to enter the greater public’s social consciousness for.
The only ethical solution is to take the kids out of Teen Mom OG. While some argue that there would be no point to the show without the kids in it, aren’t we supposed to be focused on the moms anyway? The show would be just as chock-full of senseless drama as always, with or without including defenseless children. Let the show be about the continuing drama of the moms, dads and everyone else involved in the tumultuous lives of the cast members. Let the kids be kids, and leave them to have a happy childhood.