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Los Angeles

T he only thing worse than putting small children in reality television shows is making them appear before TV critics. Which the cable channel UP did the other day at the Television Critics Association press tour. Twice.

So, yeah, I'm going to rant about it. Again.

Children should not be used as ratings fodder on reality TV. It's exploitation. Nothing good can come out of it, except lining the pockets of their parents, the producers and the programmers.

The potential downside is not worth that. And there's a huge potential downside in this age of social media, where nothing ever goes away and bullying runs rampant.

I've written this before, but just look at "Jon & Kate Plus Eight," which started as a sweet little show and turned into a train wreck. I've long felt sorry for those poor kids.

On Jan. 28, Jo Frost is returning with her latest permutation on "Supernanny" — "Nanny on Tour." She travels the country helping bad parents deal with their naughty children.

When she appeared along with a couple and their two young children, it was unpleasant. The kids were clearly uncomfortable. And what the mom said was more revealing than, perhaps, she was aware.

Irene Sauers said her son was "excited" to learn that Frost was coming to their home, but her daughter "started crying because, as smart as she is, she said, 'I don't want her to see me be a bad kid.' "

Soon, viewers will get to see her being a bad kid.

I don't care what adults do on reality TV. They can make themselves look like fools or villains. Whatever.

But putting children on reality TV is a form of abuse.

You could argue that watching Frost demonstrate how to be better parents is a good thing. Frost certainly argues that.

During the news conference, I tweeted, "We know these are bad parents on 'Nanny on Tour' because THEY PUT THEIR KIDS ON REALITY TV."

(Yes, I was so upset about this I USED ALL CAP on Twitter.)

Frost tweeted back at me: "Watch the show. You will see what a positive difference we are making for American families."

If this is all about teaching parents to be better parents, use actors. Use re-creations. Don't exploit kids.

That will never happen, of course. Because this isn't about helping families, it's about attracting viewers/making money by using those families.

I've watched Frost's shows. If I were she, I'd have trouble sleeping at night.

She appeared well rested.

And, oh, the follow-up to "Nanny on Tour" was a panel for an upcoming reality show about Ro and Mia McGhee and their 5-year-old septuplets. And the kids were marched onstage (briefly), sort of like exhibits at a zoo. Sort of like a reality show.

Apparently, the McGhees never saw "Jon & Kate Plus Eight."

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune . Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.

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