'Supernanny' Jo Frost addresses device addiction, same sex parents

Jo Frost has not stopped being Supernanny since her original show premiered in 2004. Courtesy of Lifetime.
1 of 3 | Jo Frost has not stopped being Supernanny since her original show premiered in 2004. Courtesy of Lifetime.

Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Before its New Year's Day revival, Supernanny last aired in 2011, but Jo Frost never stopped playing the role. Through private work with families, seminars, authoring books and going on tour, Frost saw families facing new challenges.

She said a new season of Supernanny could show how issues like a recession, home foreclosures, unemployment, healthcare and gun violence exacerbate family discord.


"There's a lot of external issues that have a ripple effect on a family and a lot of internal, practical parenting challenges that families are trying to overcome every day," Frost told UPI in a phone interview. "Children become the silent witnesses of such worry within their families."

Frost became a television star when her reality show, Supernanny, crossed over from Britain to the United States. Every week, viewers saw Frost work with families on their individual child-rearing challenges. Frost emphasized positive reinforcement over negative punishment and spoke out against spanking.


Some modern parents have adapted to new challenges by relying on new technology. Frost is concerned that parents are using devices like phones and tablets to distract their children. In the season premiere of Supernanny, Frost taught the Braido parents to connect with their children and make sure an issue is resolved before letting them use a device.

"We have to find balance and we have to recognize how we regulate the usage of that," Frost said. "[Devices] can still be fun and entertaining, but not dependable where it's replacing what is so vital and necessary in families."

The Braidos' use of devices speaks to a larger social phenomenon. When parents allow their kids to turn on devices in public, it can be distracting to others. As much as Frost wants to teach parents not to use devices to distract their kids, she also wants to teach onlookers not to jump to judgment.

Frost hopes viewers of Supernanny can extend the compassion they may feel for the families on her show to families they see in real life. If children with a device in public are bothering you, Frost asks that you show compassion for parents who may have used the device as a last resort to quiet their child.


"Look, every family is struggling," Frost said. "I want to see more families have more compassion, more empathy in understanding that not every family is sitting there intentionally saying, 'I don't care about everybody else.' They're just trying to do the best that they can."

It may be annoying when children are acting up and making noise in public. However, Frost suggested that adults should be more tolerant of natural childish behavior. If one does find themselves surrounded by unruly kids, Frost maintains that positive support of the parents would be more helpful than a scolding.

"Rather than to throw a negative when that parent is already having a tough time, be supportive," Frost said. "Give a smile. Give 'em the old wink."

Subsequent episodes of Supernanny this season will offer more tips for parents to manage kids during public outings. Frost still discourages using devices too often, but will suggest toys and games that could occupy children when the family goes out to dinner. She will also sometimes suggest just staying home.

"I think there's something to be said for going to certain fine dining restaurants and knowing that after a certain time, it would be inappropriate to take young children," Frost said. "And, unrealistic for them and unfair to the child and to the others that are dining."


Frost will spend time this season with at least two same-sex parents, a set of moms and a set of dads, to show that their struggles are the same as heteronormative families.

"Love is love," Frost said. "Family is family. A family's sexuality does not define the wonderful parent that they can be for their children."

Wednesday's episode with the Corry family deals with a father, Ben Corry, who is in the military and is deployed for several months at a time. Frost hopes to show that the absence of a parent for long periods is one of many challenges to military families.

"Forty years ago, the narrative was on the deployed parents," Frost said. "Now we talk about our whole family serving and truthfully what that means to a military family. It's not just the person who's away deployed fighting a war or supported. It's the entire family."

Frost uncovers Maria Corry's struggle with postpartum depression. Just as Maria kept her feelings hidden, Frost fears that women suffering from postpartum depression won't seek help because they feel shame. She cited the bad precedent when Brooke Shields spoke about her postpartum depression and faced further judgment and scrutiny in the press.


"Brooke Shields was not treated kindly when she was very vocal about having postpartum depression," Frost said. "I'd have hoped and wished when I saw that in the press that she was given more kindness and empathy for her medical condition."

Supernanny airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on Lifetime.

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