”Organizations, public opinion leaders and civilians have complained about the increased use of children in the media channels. There is a lack of clear guidelines, and the media bodies see the children as an instrument to get money from their parents,” the head of the Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child said Tuesday during a discussion on the use of children in commercials and reality TV shows.
”Children must be protected from unworthy exposure and influences, because the damage caused by television shows such as `Supernanny` are shocking,” Orly Levi-Abekasis said. ”The ratings monster doesn`t really take into consideration what`s best for the child,” she said, while calling on the commercial channels and the Second Authority for Television & Radio to present agreed upon guidelines on the matter. In case these guidelines prove to be insufficient, the Justice and Communications ministries must prepare a bill on the issue, she said.
Ariana Melamed, Yedioth Ahronoth`s TV critic, said television ”defines what is desired, not what is real, but not in every household this can be explained. Television brings into our homes American culture and norms, such as senior proms and the way children speak to their parents.”
Melamed`s 12-year-old daughter and her friend also participated in the discussion. They complained that girls appearing on the Children`s Channel, as well as the female hosts of the channel`s programs, are dressed provocatively. In addition, they said, while watching the network`s programs they were exposed to numerous incidents which involved violence, theft, fraud and debasement.
Children`s Channel director Hili Horev Cassuto said the shows Melamed`s daughter watched won international awards and that many women who work at the network are mothers. ”It is important for these mothers to present strong women who are leaders, and the children`s appearances are always approved and supervised,” she told the committee. ”A game show is not humiliation, just as a child in an amusement park does not think it is real life. We are a commercial network and want children to continue viewing us.”
Sivan Carmon, who represented Keshet Broadcasting at the meeting, said a psychologist was present at all times during the taping of ”Supernanny,” but the Education Ministry`s chief psychologist, Chava Friedman, said ”don`t let them fool you with the `accompanied by a psychologist` claim, because no one can predict the damage caused to a child who appears on reality shows, how he will be treated in school and on social networks, what the publicity will do to him and how it will influence the family.”
MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) said, ”Today children want to appear on television, so the parents cannot be gatekeepers. The legislator must intervene and safeguard the minor`s judgment, because the existing law is no longer suitable. The very appearance of children must be reexamined, and we must also raise the minimum age of children appearing on television.”
David Regev of the Second Authority for Television & Radio admitted that a child who appeared on ”Supernanny” was ”severely hurt emotionally, and it is doubtful whether he will be rehabilitated.”
Maria Rabinowitz of the Knesset Research and Information Center presented a study conducted in 2010 by Maagar Mochot which showed that 48% of Israelis are against the participation of children in reality shows; 71% of the respondents said appearances in reality shows violate the children`s privacy; 62% said children who appear on reality shows face social difficulties, while 59% said such appearances hurt the relationships in the family. The survey showed that 66% of Israelis believe the appearance of children on reality shows should be banned entirely.
However, 69% of those who took part in the survey said children who appear on reality shows enjoy the publicity, and 60% said taking part in reality shows helps families deal with problems and receive professional assistance. Thirty-one percent of the respondents and 29% of the parents who took part in the poll said they would allow their children to appear on a reality television show.