Jim Lewis has an article in Slate this week about Jill Greenberg's photo project where she made some toddlers cry (by, for instance, giving them candy and then taking it away) and then took big glossy photos of them. Like this one.
I'm not completely outraged by this the way some people are - I agree that as long as it doesn't happen often, it's probably fairly harmless to make a little kid cry, given how often they cry on their own over the slightest thing (like, er, having candy taken away). It's hard to really call it child abuse. I don't think I'd let my own kid participate in a project like that, though.
At the same time, I can't imagine wanting to have one of these photos on my wall, and not just because that cartoon-like lighting is ugly to me. The idea of making a kid cry for my enjoyment makes me feel dirty.
I know there are great photos that document suffering, though, being a total ignoramus, I can't tell you which ones I'm thinking of. But those photos are documenting something that happened on its own; they're journalistic and tell us about a moment in time. And it's not like I'd want a famous photo of some atrocity on my wall either.
I tend to think that most of our use of children for entertainment is basically exploitative. But I'm not sure it's worth never portraying kids in movies, TV shows, etc., just to stop it. But I wish I could watch the Olympics, for instance, without wondering what kind of abuses the little girl gymnasts endure as part of their training.