Jon Gosselin says he and his wife, Kate, are not exploiting their children on their hit show Jon & Kate Plus 8.
"Exploited? I don't even want to use that word," he tells People, "because I think it's ridiculous."
Last week, Gosselin's brother- and sister-in-law said the couple treats their eight kids as a "commodity" and said the children were unhappy with the cameras. Gosselin, however, tells the magazine that the children's happiness remains his top priority and that he will do everything to ensure their happiness — even if that means quitting their series, currently in its fifth season.
TLC has said it has no plans to end the show, which is under investigation by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor over child-labor-law compliance after a complaint was filed. The network denies any wrongdoing.
Dr. Michael Brody of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry tells Us Weekly that the children are being "exposed and exploited." "Kids at this age shouldn't be working at all," he says. "They should be playing."
Brody adds that it's not normal for 5- and 8-year-olds — the ages of the Gosselin children — to support their families. He also points out that numerous "child stars" have not coped with fame well into adulthood.
"This family, like other families on reality TV, is working to support the brand and so forth," Brody says. "It's a commercialization of children. There should be some sort of child labor laws about this. ... It's not normal that they should have their privacy invaded. ... They are helpless in this situation."
Jon & Kate Plus 8 and other family-centric reality shows remind him of "the 1700 to 1800s, [when] it was important to have a lot of children so they could work on your farm," Brody says.
If the series continues, it may feature more solo interview segments and trips. In the past week, Jon and Kate, who have said they are uncertain about their future, were photographed in different cities. Jon was seen in Newburgh, N.Y., with two female friends, while his wife and children vacationed in Bald Head Island, N.C., where, according to Us Weekly, Kate ignored her kids.
"When Kate sat on the edge of the pool, she told one of [the twins], 'If you splash me, you're dead meat,'" a fellow vacationer, Ann Michele Sweeney, told Us. "She was not joking at all. [The twin] said, 'Mommy, you are mean!'"