Millions of Americans watch the hit reality TV series "Jon & Kate Plus 8"on TLC.
They are now following Katie Irene Gosselin and Jonathan Keith Gosselin into a fifth season of parenting their eight children - fraternal twin girls and a set of fraternal sextuplets.
The show is taped in the Gosselin home - the "set" includes permanent light fixtures.
Lately, the drama has focused on whether Jon did or did not cheat on Kate with either of two women spotted with him over Memorial Day weekend and, more recently, at a mall. He insists the women are the wife and daughter of plastic surgeon Dr. Larry Glassman who performed Kate's tummy tuck surgery.
I don't really care whether Jon has been faithful to Kate or not. My question about him and his wife is about how they can justify turning their kids' lives into entertainment, with unknown, possibly severe, psychological fallout.
No one knows the precise psychological impact of having parents who are "acting" like parents for the cameras or having producers around who are hoping for high drama, but the impact could be significant and negative. Life has to stay interesting to keep viewers around, after all. Decisions about how to handle family crises, including the question of whether to stay a couple at all, might well be colored by worries about how it all will play out on TV.
Kate Gosselin recently went on a vacation with her eight kids to North Carolina. They were accompanied by body guards and camera crews.
This is like having a stage mother (and father) on steroids. Because in this case, she's on stage, too. How does one of the children decide to drop out of the series? If he or she did, would that child risk losing parental attention and love? Who has the moral right to decide that another human being's life story will be played for television audiences?
Movie stars and politicians often have enough good sense to understand - as good parents - that they need to protect their children from the glare of bright lights and media exposure. They understand that their own notoriety shouldn't be a ball-and-chain for their kids. They don't want their sons and daughters defined by them. They want them to have their own lives - for real.
I hope that each and every one of the Gosselin children grows up to be happy and healthy. But if they should end up depressed or on drugs, I hope they find therapists who will explore whether part of their pain is a feeling that their lives were stolen from them, whether they were put on display like zoo animals under glass, all for fame and profit.
Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatry correspondent for FOX News Channel and a New York Times bestselling author. His newest book, "Living the Truth: Transform Your Life through the Power of Insight and Honesty" has launched a new self-help movement. Check out Dr. Ablow's Web site at livingthetruth.com.