Sanity Borrowers

The new NBC television show Baby Borrowers was brought to my attention via a newsletter from Zero to Three, a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to support the healthy development and well-being of infants, toddlers and their families.

To summarize Zero to Three's response to NBC's "intriguing new social experiment...that asks 5 diverse teenage couples to fast-track to adulthood by becoming caring parents to babies, toddlers, pre-teens and their pets, teenagers and senior citizens," they are considerably less than thrilled.

To quote the Zero to Three website: "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."

So what was my first reaction? I headed to the Baby Borrowers website to find out more about the show before I jumped to any conclusions. Last season, CBS raised a similar ruckus with their Kid Nation reality show, which I didn't find nearly as offensive as many of its critics.

Did I have problems with it? Yes, a few, but I figured that a) the children participating in Kid Nation were old enough to take part in their own welfare and b) hopefully the consenting parents knew their children well enough to judge whether or not their kids could handle the grueling nature of the show.

Baby Borrowers, to me, is stepping into some pretty iffy territory. My main issue is that the infants involved in this "social experiment" do not have a voice to speak for themselves. They cannot tell their teen caregivers that they are hungry, sick or tired. They cannot express that three days without their mom and dad- with 2 complete strangers in their place- is extremely upsetting and nerve wracking. Despite the fact that NBC has a nanny in the house and the actual parents are watching on a live camera feed, I don't think that's very comforting to a baby that needs the people he or she is attached to.

You may be saying to yourself, that three days of a little discomfort is worth the life lessons that the teen couples will learn. I don't disagree that they may learn a little something (although I doubt that 3 days is really going to make a massive impact), but at what cost to the borrowed babies?

When it comes to the demand for entertaining and cutting edge reality TV, my feeling is that the creators and producers of shows like Baby Borrowers have had their sanity borrowed by their greed for a hit show. And I have to question the participating infants' parents as well. If their children have nothing to gain from the experience, what is the motivation for parents to participate? Unfortunately, no reasonable (read: acceptable in my opinion) answers come to mind.

If you have thoughts on children participating in reality TV shows or care to share your what you think of Baby Borrowers, I love to hear some other opinions!



Multiplication effect?

Andrew Wheeland's picture

Maybe the parents justify it by thinking that the lessons learned by the teens who participate are multiplied out to many other teens who are viewing the televised result?

Interesting Theory

Hi Andy,

I think that your "multiplication effect" theory is very valid and it is one that I had not considered. In thinking about that, I would be curious to see the children's biological parents' bios posted on the Baby Borrowers website (the teen parents' info is already there), just to know a little more about them.

Also of interest, the Baby Borrowers website has posted a few quotes from reviews of the show:

"The cleverest conceit of any reality show in a long time" - New York Times

"One of the most innovative forms of birth control..." - Star Tribune