Thursday, June 26, 2008

NBC's Baby Borrowers: Harmful to Children

I've recently read on line discussions about the new reality show from NBC called Baby Borrowers. When I first heard about it, my first thought was as to where these "babies" come from. I decided I'd rather not know and tried to forget these type of reality shows are still in existence.

Then, just yesterday, I received a statement from the Zero to Three organization which explained the great risk the parents are putting their child under for the sake of entertainment, and I'm assuming, money.
From the NBC official Baby Borrowers' website:

NBC's upcoming reality series "The Baby Borrowers" is an intriguing new social experiment based on the hit British program that asks five diverse teenage couples -- ages 18-20 -- to fast-track to adulthood by setting up a home, getting a job and becoming caring parents first to babies, toddlers, pre-teens and their pets, teenagers and senior citizens -- all over the course of three weeks.

As the social experiment begins, the five young volunteer couples are asked to literally grow up overnight when they are each given a home in a quiet cul-de-sac outside Boise, Idaho and attend pre-natal classes as each "mother" wears a simulated "empathy" belly to prepare them for the arrival of their "baby."

When a real baby (all aged six-11 months old) appears at their door -- courtesy of five pairs of real volunteer parents (some of whom were teen parents themselves) who entrust their infants to one of the couples -- the nervous, fumbling teens are in for three long, arduous days that make chilling out a distant memory. They must stick to rigid routines, handle the feeding chores, diaper duty and crying jags that might be shared by baby and teens -- all the while under 24-hour supervision by nannies and the real parents who are stationed next door, watching via monitor, and able to step in at any time. Plus, one teen from each of the couples must start a job, ranging from working in a local vet's office to a lumberyard, leaving the other alone as caregiver for the day.

After three surprising, intense days, each teen couple will bid bye-bye to the baby and receive a toddler as their fast-forward adult life progresses. They will have to cope with typical "terrible twos" behavior, including pouty tantrums, potty training and other messes. Three days later, the weary couples must face the reality of parenting several sassy pre-teens/"tweeners" at once -- each with a family pet in tow, adding to their responsibilities.

While the idea behind this show is one that I agree with - Yay for trying to prepare young people for the "reality" of parenthood and even a committed, adult relationship - surely there must be other ways to go about this that don't involve removing a baby (between 6 - 11 months old) from their parents for 72 hours. Here's the official statement from Zero to Three:

“It’s not TV, it’s birth control” is how NBC promotes its new reality series “Baby Borrowers.” On June 25th, the show will be launched on national television as an “intriguing new social experiment that asks five diverse teenage couples to fast-track to adulthood by setting up a home, getting a job and becoming caring parents.” Unfortunately, the NBC series exploits very young children in the pursuit of entertainment.

The babies and toddlers participating in this series will be separated from their parents and caregivers for three days. Unfamiliar teenagers will take care of them during this time. This setup can be very harmful for the babies and toddlers involved. For the past 80 years, many studies have shown unequivocally that babies and toddlers suffer when they are exposed to this kind of prolonged separation from family and left with people that they do not know or love. As all parents know, babies and toddlers are very distressed by separation. They cry, cling, and search for their parents. The longer the separation, the more upset they become. Some children are unable to sleep and refuse to eat. The responses routinely last long past the child’s reunion with the parent. Prolonged separations heighten young children’s separation anxiety and damage their trust that their parents will be available to protect and care for them. Children can become angry and rejecting of their parents after being reunited with them, damaging the fabric of the child-parent relationship.

These findings have become the basis for a new science of early childhood. A robust body of early childhood development and brain research clearly confirms the critical nature of early development. It is a time when young children form attachments with parents and caregivers, develop security and a sense of self, and learn what to expect from the world around them. Studies show that babies and toddlers need to feel safe and secure in order to form a positive sense of self, to form healthy relationships, and to feel confident to explore their world. This sense of security is dependent on the availability and stability of their trusted primary caregivers. Being separated for a three-day period from a parent or trusted, familiar adult, and being thrust into the care of a total stranger who has no experience with the child—how he or she is comforted, likes to be fed, held, etc.—and who has no experience caring for young children at all, can be very stressful for the child.

As a “safeguard,” NBC has hired a nanny to be nearby in case there are concerns. However the nanny is no more familiar to that child than the two strangers who will be caring for him for three days. The nanny does not know him or what his signals mean — such as what he needs when he cries out in the middle of the night, or how he shows he is hungry, tired, or is overwhelmed and needs a break from play. Moreover, even though the parents of these young children are watching via closed-circuit television, the babies are not aware of that and have no way of knowing how long the parents will be gone.

Legitimate social experiments are not conducted on national television or on reality shows. "Baby Borrowers" may have a catchy theme, but it exploits young children with potential harmful consequences. This is no social experiment. It is an extremely misguided endeavor that puts at risk our most vulnerable citizens, young children who need our love and protection.

As a parent, I cannot imagine leaving my baby with someone else for longer than an hour with someone who wasn't family or familiar with childrearing. The whole concept of this show is completely disturbing to me and is is a "trend" in reality television that I hope ceases to continue.

Here's a reality show for you [insert sarcasm]: Let's follow up with these borrowed babies in fifteen years and see "how they're doing." Better yet, let's follow these young "couples" and see where they end up - together or otherwise.


Candace (Mama Luxe) said...

I feel the same way about the show. I applaud the goal of showing teenagers how challenging parenthood can be, but am shocked about the idea of turning a child over to a teenage couple you don't know.

Even with someone watching, it only takes a moment for something terrible to happen. And the idea of leaving your baby with strangers for three a situation that is completely really upsetting to me.

Anonymous said...

I agree and will not be a viewer.
I will be contacting the TV station and express my concern.
Grandma S. :)