A Kid Nation Divided

A reality-TV flap captures the horror of separating young children from parents--and its appeal

Monty Brinton / CBS

Go West, young 'uns: Kid Nation put its kids to work in a frontier town, far from parental doting.

If the measure of a successful reality show is how many people it ticks off before airing a single frame (think Joe Millionaire), then CBS's Kid Nation is one of the most successful reality shows of all time. The series, in which 40 children, ages 8 to 15, create their own society in a New Mexico ghost town, has been accused of violating child-labor laws. Various publications have reported that several kids mistakenly drank bleach from an unmarked bottle, and one was spattered with hot grease while cooking. Embarrassment-wise, CBS is only lucky that the cast is by definition too young...

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