Barnardo's, MediaWise, Bullying Online and the British Institute of Learning Disabilities are among the groups that have expressed concern about the treatment of children on programmes such as Channel 4's Brat Camp and ITV's The Jeremy Kyle Show, which feature poor behaviour.
Pam Hibbert, policy officer at Barnardo's, questioned whether Brat Camp helps tackle the root causes of teen troubles. "Portraying them as brats whose problems can be resolved by a short period of 'tough love' sends out the wrong message," she said.
The British Institute of Learning Disabilities has written to Channel 4 warning of the risks of the painful physical restraints used on children in Brat Camp.
"Your programme consistently ignores the rights of young people and the ethics of the practices to which they are being exposed," the letter said.
Mike Jempson, director of MediaWise, said a "pandemic of programmes" such as Brat Camp "has ushered in a new age of voyeurism". The way children's private lives were presented as 'infotainment' raised questions about how much parents and broadcasters "balance human rights against the dubious benefits of short-term media exposure", he added.
"These programmes make me cringe," said Liz Carnell, director of Bullying Online. "Children receiving such exposure could face bullying when they go home and get back to school."
The TV regulator Ofcom said programmes were governed by a code that includes a bar on causing "unnecessary distress or anxiety" for the children involved.
A spokesperson for Channel 4 said the Brat Camp children were well looked after.
- See Opinion, page 24.