Michelle Duggar’s great-nephew, Tyler, who the family recently took in, is the current subject of much debate among viewers. Is it appropriate to place the child’s face on public pages used to promote the Duggar family’s reality show, or is this a violation of his privacy?
Since Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar welcomed their nephew into the home, the situation has been the subject of some curiosity and publicity. Us Weekly Magazine reported in December that permanent custody had been granted, and shared some background, saying that Tyler’s mother, Michelle’s niece, had been seen in family photos, but is facing charges for breaking and entering.
However, the Duggar family has been relatively quiet about the matter. Furthermore, on Wednesday, the Duggar Family Fan Blog declared that Jim Bob and Michelle wished to protect the privacy of the minor child, who is only 8-years-old, and asked fans to avoid speculating on the process leading to the Duggar family taking custody of him.
Duggar fans immediately weighed in, opining that to protect the privacy of Michelle’s nephew, his photo and name should not be featured on the Duggar Family Official Facebook page, nor on the blog. One viewer implored the Duggar Family Blog to keep details off the blog, regardless of whether Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar share them publicly.
“Even if the adult Duggars do decide to share this child’s circumstances, and I sincerely hope they do not, please don’t share those details on your blog. This boy is a minor, this story is his alone to share, and should not be fodder for public consumption.”
The whole story behind the blog post, in fact, was that the Duggar Family Official Facebook page was featuring photos of Michelle’s nephew in posts.
This again raises the question of how much privacy and other rights can be protected when a child’s family stars in a reality series. In the Duggar family, children’s life stories are shared on television and internet from before birth.
The effects of being a child reality star have already been questioned, and when it comes to the Duggar children, a specific concern was raised over five years ago, when a production editor for the show was arrested for child porn. Figure 8 Productions responded to concerns, telling that Bill Blankinship had been fired when allegations of criminal activity came to light, and that he had never had contact with any of the children on the shows he edited.
However, it still concerned viewers, since the man had access to uncut imagery of the Duggar children (among others). If there were any private images, from diapering to bathing, that the public wouldn’t see, images that would be cut before airing, this man, who had allegedly been caught with child pornography, would have access.
It goes without saying that every human being, even one who chooses to make parts of his life public, deserves to keep some aspects private. However, a person who chooses to be a public figure can certainly expect more eyes on his life than the average person, and minors have less say over their own privacy, since their parents may choose what to share with teachers, friends, and even blog reader and Twitter followers.
A photo posted by The Duggar Family (@duggarfam) on
In the case of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s nephew, as well as their own children, being a minor is crossing over with being a public figure. If the Duggar children are given any choice in how much of their life is documented for television, it isn’t clear. Social media is a similar issue. The average parent places a photo of their child on Facebook and it is seen by family and friends. When a photo is posted to the Duggar Family Official Facebook page, it is shown directly to nearly a million followers, and is publicly visible to far more.
Clearly, toddlers and infants don’t have the ability to give consent for appearances on television or to have medical and biographical information shared publicly. Parents are entrusted with this responsibility. Like every other parent, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar must decide what to make public.
As far as placing children on reality shows, Child Abuse Watch notes that some states have stricter regulations requiring kids to be classified as actors, a rule that grants certain protections against exploitation and unpaid labor. Arkansas, where the Duggar family resides and films their show, is not one of them.
There is no official statement yet regarding whether Michelle Duggar’s nephew will be included in future episodes of Counting On, but unless the judge or legal counsel in their custody case said otherwise, there is nothing to differentiate his privacy rights — and the right of his caregivers to place him in the public eye — from those of the other Duggar children, who have spent portions of their life on camera for over a decade.
With no legal guidelines on how much Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar can place their nephew in the public eye, there is only opinion. Is it possible to simultaneously protect the child’s privacy regarding his family and place him on the show and promotional materials? Should Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar keep their nephew out of the public eye to a greater degree than their own offspring?
[Featured Image by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images]