In an interview with magazine Der Spiegel, to be released next week, the minister, a mother of seven, called on the broadcaster to either stop the show or fundamentally alter it.
“You’re asking yourself the whole time: What about the children? What about their rights?” Von der Leyen, who reportedly watched the episodes, told the magazine.
Called “Adults on Trial,” the reality show is to be aired on the private RTL channel starting June 3. It will feature four teenage couples who want to start a family grappling for four days with all the responsibilities of caring for a baby.
“Changing nappies, sleepless nights, screaming babies and a whole lot of responsibility … are they really mature enough for the hardest job in the world – having their own children,” RTL said in a statement.
The planned show has caused an outcry in Germany with children welfare groups and church leaders slamming the programme’s creators for exploiting defenceless babies and endangering kids.
Von der Leyen said the program was based on a negative portrayal of young children.
“You’re suggesting to the viewer: daily life with small children is purely stress, means confrontation and fuels conflict,” she said.
The Cologne-based broadcaster has defended the show, saying the babies “lent” to the teenagers for the programme will be monitored around the clock by child psychologists and doctors. In addition, the real parents are in an adjacent house and can break off the “experiment” at any time, it added.
RTL entertainment chief Tom Sänger said the show, based on Britain’s “The Baby Borrowers” aired last year on the BBC, wanted to draw attention to the growing problem of teenage pregnancies in Germany.
“Teenage pregnancies is a serious topic and a real problem in Britain,” Von der Leyen said. But the minister added that the rate of teenage pregnancies was very small in Germany thanks to years of sex education in schools.