Guest Commentary: “When Children Work; A Dialogue”

By Paul Petersen

[Paul Petersen is the founder and president of A Minor Consideration, a non-profit advocacy group that seeks to protect the welfare of juvenile performers. Mr. Petersen was a prominent child star himself, most famously as “Jeff Stone” on the long-running TV comedy, “The Donna Reed Show.” The following commentary, also posted on his website, is inspired by the hearings this week on proposed child labor legislation in Pennsylvania, where “Jon & Kate Plus 8” was filmed. The legislation proposed  by State Representative Tom Murt defines reality television and would require all minors to have work permits issued by the state Department of Labor and Industry to ensure all adequate provisions have been made for the minor’s educational instruction, supervision, health and welfare. The bill also provides that minors can only work between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., and sets guidelines for the amount of hours, work, recreation, school and activities per day. A certified teacher would be required on the set of any production to monitor working conditions, and the bill would require 15 % of a child actor’s gross earning be set aside by the employer in a trust.]

Imagine if your boss unilaterally declared that your time spent in a commercial workplace wasn’t work at all but merely “participation.” That might be said of the drug store cat, or a barnyard animal, but to say that about a living, breathing, conscious human being passes all understanding. Yet that is precisely the position taken by reality show Producers and the Networks that broadcast commercial products called “reality shows” that feature children. Continue reading