Conversations with my 9-year old...
Me: Son, when you're done with homework, I want you to come to our room cause we're watching a show that will help you grasp what responsibility means.
My son: What is it about?
Me: 40 Kids, left alone to be build their own city, with no adults. It's kinda like Survivor or like Big Brother.
My son: Mommy, that's crap. I don't like Reality TV.
Me: Don't think of it as Reality TV first. I want you to observe what the kids are made to do, maybe you'll pick something up.
20 minutes into the show...
My son: Two kids already cried!
Me: How are you liking it so far?
My son: It's okay, I guess.
45 minutes into the show....the kids are asked to compete in four teams.
My son: Ang galing! I love it.
- The first team to finish the task would receive $1 each as their "wage" and will be regarded as the council members, sort of the upper-class. They can pitch in whatever work they would like to do.
- The second team would receive a quarter each and would be the merchants who will have to take care of the stocks and inventory (The kids have a mini-Willie Wonka store to tend to!!! My son's eyes lit up!).
- The third placing team would receive $.10 each and would be the cooks slaving in the kitchen. - The last placers would receive a nickel and they' will be assigned to clean up the rest rooms, the bunks and the kitchen.
I think I got my figures wrong, but you get the idea.
In addition, for finishing the game in less than an hour, the kids are made to choose between 8 additional toilets (since they only have one, shared by 40 kids) or a television set. The kids are made to decide collectively....which is part of the test.
One kid reasons they need the TV since they will need something to do at the end of the day, after the work they have to put into running their little society. Another kid reasons the TV is a distraction and they might not be able to do work...in the meantime, their toilet situation is pretty bad because they all share just one seat. In the end, they went for the toilet, which was the best choice to make.
Me: What would you have chosen?
My son: The TV, of course!
We then watched the council meeting...where one kid is rewarded by the leaders the golden star (worth $20,000) for showing exceptional work in the last week. We also witnessed one kid quitting, an 8 year old who cried earlier because life this place was harder than he had expected saying ---"I'm not old for this ----" [corrects himself] "I wish I was old for this."
After the show...
Me: Did you like it?
My son: Yes!
Me: Did you think it was wrong to leave those kids out there, without the adults?
My son: Nope, they have the cameramen. And Jonathan (the host).
Me: Did you think it was wrong they had to work for themselves, like wash their clothes, prepare breakfast?
My son: Eh, that's what you make me do at home!!!
Me: Would you like to be part of something like that?
My son: Nope
Me: Why, I thought you liked it?
My son: Just the candies and the rewards. Mommy, I read one kid burned himself and two kids accidentally ate something they were not supposed to. That would happen to me! I also don't want to be away from home and my bed. I will be forced to work there so I can eat. Here, you give me a break with the chores.
That reasoning is precisely why I wanted my son to watch the show. Because lately, as echoed by his teachers, he has really been slacking a loooooooooot.
For this parent, Kid Nation, this "social experiment", is something I would've allowed my son to experience. Why? Because sometimes parental persuasion, guidance and influence only go so far. If you're already a parent, you will understand what I'm talking about. There are things your own child needs to learn from other factors other than yourself. If they falter, get hurt or make mistakes because of this, the experience would have taught them valuable lessons that would make them better and stronger people.
Granted Kid Nation is a manufactured situation particularly built to raise TV ratings, as most Reality TV shows are, the bigger picture is --- you cannot take away that experience from the kids. They must've learned something about themselves in those 40 days, something they can hopefully bring when they are a lot older and faced with more decisions.
The only thing that bothers me about this show was the amount of crying some of the younger kids did. Surely, they were feeling so stressed out, faced with something they're not used to. If only that can be dispensed with, because I personally do not want to see a kid stressed out....but then how are the kids going to learn how to tough themselves up, right?
It goes without saying that, along with my 9 year old, I did enjoy this show. It's not the best on TV, far from it. But it's not as bad as what has been said in the press a few weeks back.
Watch for the premiere of Kid Nation on local TV, Studio 23 this October. The show will run for about 3 episodes only, I think.