Unwrapping Screen-time & Finding Childhood

Back to the Basics of Allowing Children to Enjoy Healthy Play

The job of young children is to play, move, talk, and interact with people and things so as to build basic skills

Development during early childhood shapes what becomes the foundation for development throughout a person’s life. Language, motor, interpersonal, and many other skill sets have their roots in the earliest parts of childhood and, as such, this time period is incredibly important. The job of young children is to play, move, talk, and interact with people and things so as to build basic skills – and it’s just as important for this to happen as it is for an adult to do their own job every day. Read the rest of this entry »

New CCFC Guide to Help Early Educators Navigate Digital World

Facing the Screen Dilemma Separates Hype
From What Children Really Need

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood:

“Early childhood educators face increasing pressure to incorporate screens into their classrooms,” said CCFC’s director, Dr. Susan Linn, author of The Case for Make Believe. “The sheer volume of screen technologies marketed as educational, and even essential, for young children is overwhelming. It’s crucial to separate the hype from what research tells us young children really need.”

Smart boards. Smartphones. Tablets. E-books, apps and more. The rapid influx of new screen devices and software poses a special challenge for the early childhood community. A unique offering from Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), the Alliance for Childhood, and Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment (TRUCE) provides help and support for childhood educators grappling with how best to support young children’s growth, development and learning in a world radically changed by technology. Packed with relevant research and practical tips, Facing the Screen Dilemma: Young children, technology and early education is the first guide designed to help early educators make informed decisions about whether, why, how, and when to use screen technologies with young children.

Facing the Screen Dilemma arrives at a time of heightened concerns about the amount of time children spend with screen media. New technologies haven’t replaced older ones; kids use digital games and apps in addition to television and video, not instead of them. Time spent with screen media is at record highs for children of all ages. And excessive screen time is linked to childhood obesity, sleep disturbance, and poor school performance. Two brand new surveys from the Pew Internet and American Life Project and Common Sense Media highlight widespread concern among teachers that children’s constant use of digital technology hampers attention span and the ability to complete difficult tasks.

In addition to a much-needed overview of the research on young children and screen time, Facing the Screen Dilemma offers practical considerations and concrete advice for centers using screen technologies, as well as support for centers resisting pressure to abandon screen-free policies.

“Keeping an early childhood environment screen-free is a valid and pedagogically sound choice,” said the Alliance for Childhood’s Joan Almon. “Developing children thrive when they are talked to, read to, played with and given time for creative play, physically active play, and interactions with other children and adults. It’s really OK to say the iPad can wait.”

For all early childhood programs, Facing the Screen Dilemma recommends screen-free settings for children under 2. The guide encourages educators to work closely with parents around technology issues and to understand how children’s exposure to screens at home affects classroom performance and behaviors.

“Educators using screens with young children should be intentional about their choices and determine beforehand exactly how a given technology will expand or enhance classroom goals for children,” said Professor Diane Levin of TRUCE and Wheelock College. “It’s important to choose screen activities carefully, establish rules and routines for their use, and provide clear boundaries so that screen time doesn’t crowd out vital classroom activities.”

Facing the Screen Dilemma can be found at http://commercialfreechildhood.org/screendilemma.

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood Launches “Save the Lorax!” Campaign

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

"Let’s honor The Lorax’s important message by celebrating the story and saying ‘no’ to the film’s corporate cross-promotions," say CCFC director, Dr. Susan Linn. - (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield. Dr. Seuss Memorial Sculpture Park, Springfield, MA)

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood writes:

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has launched a campaign to “Save the Lorax!” from an onslaught of corporate cross-promotions.  For more than forty years, Dr. Seuss’s classic book, The Lorax, has been a clarion call for reducing consumption and promoting conservation.  But this Friday, Universal Pictures’ The Lorax arrives in theaters with dozens of corporate partners promoting everything from SUVs to Pottery Barn to Pancakes.  CCFC is urging anyone who cares about The Lorax’s original message to enjoy the story but pledge to shun the movie’s commercial tie-ins, including:

  • The new Mazda CX-5 SUV—the only car with the “Truffula Seal of Approval.”
  • Seventh Generation household products and diapers festooned with the Lorax.
  • IHOP’s kids’ menu items like Rooty Tooty Bar-Ba-Looty Blueberry Cone Cakes and Truffula Chip Pancakes.
  • In-store promotions featuring the Lorax at Whole Foods, Pottery Barn Kids, and Target.
  • Online Lorax games and sweepstakes for YoKids Yogurt, Comcast Xfinity TV, Target, IHOP, and HP.
  • HP’s “Every Inkling Makes a Difference,” a branded in-school curriculum produced and distributed by Scholastic.

“It is both cynical and hypocritical to use a beloved children’s story with a prescient environmental message to sell kids on consumption,” said CCFC’s director, Dr. Susan Linn.  “The Lorax that so many of us know and love would never immerse children in the false corporate narrative that we can consume our way to everything, from happiness to sustainability. Instead, The Lorax would join everyone who cares about children and the environment to give kids time and space to grow up free of commercial pressures.”

Read the rest of this entry »

A Recap: The Importance of Creative Play in a Commercialized World

An Intergenerational Crowd Comes Together for Hilltown Families Community Conversation with Dr. Susan Linn on The Importance of Creative Play in a Commercialized World

Jackie MacNeish of Ashfield, MA writes:

“On Tuesday night this past week I went to hear Dr. Susan Linn speak of the Importance of Creative Play in a Commercialized World hosted by Hilltown Families at the Meekins Library (Williamsburg, MA). It was fantastic – A topic I’m passionate about and yet wanted to know more about, a knowledgable and interesting presentation, and a community of different people (young, teenagers, elders, students, teachers, parents, etc) gathered together to listen, think and discuss. I would like to attend one of these discussions each month, so I hope there are more coming our way!”

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If you missed the talk last week here she is on TEDxTalks with an abbreviated presentation of last Tuesdays Community Conversation:


So what can a parent do to level the playing field? “They can begin by looking a their own patterns of consumption,” says Dr. Linn in a recent interview with the Daily Hampshire Gazette. “They can work to limit access to screen time and work to limit commercialism in their schools by urging school systems to have a policy on commercialism and marketing.”

Below we have several online resources we’ve compiled, many of them recommended by Dr. Susan Linn during her presentation last week:

Continue the Conversation

Many people are interested in continuing this conversation. If you would like to be a part of this continued discussion on the importance of creative free play for our kids, drop us a line and we’ll give you a heads up on future opportunities for gather and discuss:

The Importance of Creative Play in a Commercialized World

Hilltown Families presents…

The Importance of Creative Play
in a Commercialized World
A Community Conversation with Dr. Susan Linn
Tuesday, Nov 15th from 7-9pm
Meekins Library • Williamsburg, MA

Co-sponsored by the Media Education Foundation and the Odyssey Bookshop.

Hilltown Families presents “The Importance of Creative Play in a Commercialized World” with Dr. Susan Linn, author of The Case for Make Believe and Consuming Kids on Tuesday, November 15th from 7-9pm in the Hawks~Hayden Community Room at the Meekins Library, 2 Williams Street in Williamsburg, MA (FREE).

In the critically acclaimed Consuming Kids, Dr. Linn, the nation’s leading advocate for protecting children from corporate marketers, provided an unsparing look at modern childhood molded by commercialism. In her book, The Case for Make Believe, Dr. Linn argues that while play is crucial to human development and children are born with an innate capacity for make believe, the convergence of ubiquitous technology and unfettered commercialism actually prevents them from playing.

In an era when toys come from television and media companies sell videos as brain-builders for babies, Dr. Linn lays out the inextricable links between play, creativity, and health, showing us how and why to preserve the space for make believe that children need to be happy and to become productive adults. Dr. Linn will speak about her book and help generate ideas for preserving non-commercialized creative play, especially around the holidays. - Join us on Tuesday, Nov 15th from 7-9pm for a community conversation with Dr. Susan Linn in Williamsburg . (FREE)

This talk is free and open to all adults and older students studying the effects of commercialization and childhood development. A Q&A session will follow along with a book signing.  Titles will be available for sale on site in limited quantities.

Book Giveaway: We’re giving away a couple of copies of The Case for Make Believe to our readers. Find out how you can enter to win below.  Deadline to enter to win is November 14th by 12noon.


Susan Linn, Ed.D. is co-founder and director of The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and an Instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. An award-winning producer, writer, and puppeteer, she is the author of The Case for Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World, and Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood and lectures internationally on reclaiming childhood from corporate marketers. She has been featured on Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, The Today Show, The Colbert Report and Good Morning America.  In 2006, she received the American Psychological Association’s Presidential Citation for her work on behalf of children. Dr. Linn lives in Brookline, MA.


A Q&A session will follow the talk and Hilltown Families invites the community to submit questions to Dr. Linn in advance about the importance of make believe and how to preserve creative play for our children. Submit your questions in the comment field below and be entered to win a copy of Dr. Linn’s book, The Case for Make Believe. Must include your full name and town to be eligible to win. We’ll randomly draw winners and will share the results below. Winner does not need to be present at the event to win.

Questions can also be submitted to hilltownfamilies@gmail.com.

This is the first in a series of Community Conversations presented by Hilltown Families that invite the community to engage in conversations on the themes of helping children connect to the good inside each of them and their development of empathy for others and the world around them.

❤  Thank you ❤ to our co-sponsors of “The Importance of Creative Play in a Commercialized World,” the Media Education Foundation and the Odyssey Bookshop.

Screening of Consuming Kids in Easthampton

Reclaiming Childhood For Our Children From Corporate Marketers

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) invites families in Western Massachusetts to join them for a local screening of the critically-acclaimed film Consuming Kids, an eye-opening account of the pervasive and pernicious effects of advertising on the health and well-being of kids, at the Pepin School Auditorium (4 Park St.) in Easthampton, MA on Wednesday, November 17 at 6:30PM, hosted by the Easthampton PTO. The film is produced locally by the Northampton-based Media Education Foundation and features the CCFC staff and Steering Committee. The event is free and open to the public. Please click here to RSVP.

Consuming Kids zeroes in on the often shocking practices of the multibillion-dollar youth marketing industry, exposing how marketers have used the latest advances in psychology, anthropology, and neuroscience to transform American children into one of the most powerful and profitable consumer demographics in the world. The film has been earning widespread praise from critics, health care professionals, and children’s advocates from around the country.

TAKE ACTION: Is That Macaroni & Cheese Talking to Your Kid? Stop Grocery Shelf TV Ads!

Parents to Supermarkets:  Pull the Plug on In-Store TV Ads

"Having TV screens all over the grocery stores undermines my parenting! You simply cannot avoid the presence of television! Not only are they getting to play their ads for our kids, but they are sending the message that it is normal to stare at a screen all day...in the car, at the store, in school...It's truly sickening." - CCFC member Samantha Penrose, mother of three, Urbana, IL

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is demanding that the Food Lion supermarket chain pull the plug on 3GTv, a controversial new marketing scheme that airs commercials on mini-televisions attached to grocery store shelves — right next to the product being advertised. This fall, Food Lion and Automated Media Services will conduct a trial of 3GTv in several of its Bloom supermarkets in Maryland and Virginia. A successful test run is likely to have nation-wide consequences, spurring other grocery stores to follow suit.

That’s why CCFC is urging parents, regardless of where they live and shop, to petition Food Lion to shelve its on-shelf commercials.

“When screen-based advertising invades the public sphere, even the most vigilant parents can’t protect children from it,” said CCFC’s Director, Dr. Susan Linn. “It’s time to challenge the notion that marketers have a right to fill every nook and cranny of our lives with televisions and their blaring commercials. If we don’t stop 3GTv now, families will be forced to run a gauntlet of TV advertising in every aisle of every supermarket around the country.”

Televisions at the supermarket checkout counter are already common, exploiting a captive audience waiting in line to pay for groceries. But 3GTv, developed by Automated Media Services, ups the ante. At the exact moment families are making purchasing decisions, in-your-face TV ads will undercut parental authority by compelling children to lobby for the product being advertised.


Do you agree that families have a right to grocery shop without be forced to run a gauntlet of screens blasting commercials in every aisle? Take a moment to tell Food Lion executive Carol Herndon to pull the pull the plug on its grocery store TVs. Click here to find out how.

Take Action: Health Education Does Not Go Better with Coke

Advocates Urge American Academy of Family Physicians to End Coca -Cola Partnership

Things don’t always go better with Coke. That’s why the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has launched a letter-writing campaign urging the American Academy of Family Physicians to end a planned partnership with the Coca-Cola Company. As part of a new AAFP program called the Consumer Alliance, Coke is providing a reported six-figure grant to the AAFP to “educate consumers about the role their products can play in a healthy, active lifestyle” on the AAFP’s award winning website, FamilyDoctor.org.

“In the midst of an epidemic of childhood obesity, it’s shocking that the AAFP would partner with a company that aggressively markets empty calories to children,” said CCFC’s Director Dr. Susan Linn.

According to a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, a child’s chances of becoming overweight increases by 60% for each serving of soda they consume a day. Yet, the Coca-Cola Company markets to children in schools, on social networking sites, and through its sponsorship of American Idol, a top-rated show for children ages 2-11.

“Medical organizations should provide objective information about the negative impact that soft drink consumption has on children’s health,” said Dr. Alvin Poussaint, Director of the Media Center at Judge Baker Children’s Center. “They shouldn’t exploit parents’ trust to help beverage companies market their brands.”

The AAFP/Coke partnership has sparked protest from family physicians around the country, including some who have resigned from the AAFP. “How can any organization that claims to promote public health join forces with a company that promotes products that put our children at risk for obesity, heart disease and early death?” asked Dr. William Walker, Director of Contra Costa Health Services, as he resigned his twenty-five year membership.

CCFC has launched a letter-writing campaign to support the courageous doctors who are demanding that AAFP’s leadership end the partnership.

“It is disappointing that the AAFP would assist Coca-Cola in the company’s obvious attempt to buy credibility,” said Michele Simon, research and policy director at Marin Institute and author of Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back. “But it’s heartening that so many AAFP members are demanding that their organization stay true to its mission to promote public health.”

Hold a Commercial-Free Book Fair at Your School

CCFC’s Guide to Commercial-Free Book Fairs

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood writes: Are you tired of all the items for sale at your book fair that aren’t books–such as toys, video games, posters, and fashion accessories? Do you think that school book fairs should promote reading without promoting TV shows and movies?

A Commercial-Free Book Fair is the perfect way to:


  • Raise funds for a school in a manner consistent with its educational mission.
  • Promote literacy.
  • Provide an alternative for children who are already inundated with marketing for media-linked products.
  • Enrich classroom and library book collections.
  • Provide books to students–including the opportunity to purchase books for those who may not have the funds to buy them.
  • Support a local business.

CCFC’s Guide to Commercial-Free Book Fairs includes a directory of independent booksellers who support book fairs. (Booksellers who would like to be included in future editions of the guide should email ccfc@jbcc.harvard.edu.)

Disney Offers Parents Refunds on Baby Einstein Videos

Disney Offers Refunds on Baby Einstein Videos

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood’s ongoing campaign to stop the false and deceptive marketing of baby videos has had an important success. We’ve persuaded the Walt Disney Company to offer a full refund to anyone who purchased a Baby Einstein DVD in the last five years. The refund is only available for a limited time, so please help us spread the word now.

Read more atwww.commercialfreechildhood.org.

FCC Will Launch Inquiry into Children’s TV

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood reports:
FCC Will Launch Inquiry into Children’s TV

More than 2,500 parents signed CCFC’s Father’s Day letter to President Obama urging the President to authorize both the FCC and the FTC to evaluate their current policies to determine whether they meet the needs of twenty-first century families. Last week, the FCC announced an inquiry into its children’s television rules, including inappropriate marketing practices. CCFC applauds the FCC’s proposed inquiry and looks forward to working with both the FCC and the FTC in efforts to protect children from exploitation by corporate marketers.

Take Action: Stop PG-13 Blockbusters from Targeting Preschoolers

Stop PG-13 Blockbusters from Targeting Preschoolers

In response to a complaint filed by CCFC in 2007, the Federal Trade Commission urged the Motion Picture Association of America—the self-regulating body of Hollywood movie studios that administers film ratings in the United States—to develop a policy to “ensure that PG-13 movies are not marketed in a manner inconsistent with their rating.” Sixteen months later, the MPAA has not honored that request, and children’s television stations continue to barrage young viewers with ads for violent PG-13 movies and their related merchandise. The PG-13 rating bears the warning “Parents strongly cautioned: Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.”

Like other PG-13 blockbusters premiering this summer, the upcoming GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, based on the Hasbro action figure, promises viewers no shortage of bombs, bullets, and destruction — and another explosion of marketing that targets children. GI Joe is rated PG-13 for “strong sequences of action violence and mayhem throughout.” Since March, over 3,000 ads have aired on children’s television for violent PG-13 films as well as their licensed toy and fast food promotions.

Read more and take action at Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

Take Action: SpongeBob and Sexualization Don’t Mix

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood to Nick and Burger King: SpongeBob and Sexualization Don’t Mix

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) has launched a letter-writing campaign demanding that Nickelodeon and Burger King immediately pull a new, highly sexualized, television ad for SpongeBob SquarePants Kids Meals. The ad, viewable below, features The King singing a remix of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s 1990’s hit song, “Baby Got Back” with the new lyrics, “I like square butts and I cannot lie.” The ad shows images of The King singing in front of women shaking their behinds for the camera intercut with images of SpongeBob dancing along.

“It’s bad enough when companies use a beloved media character like SpongeBob to promote junk food to children, but it’s utterly reprehensible when that character simultaneously promotes objectified, sexualized images of women,” said CCFC director Dr. Susan Linn, a psychologist at the Judge Baker Children’s Center.

At one point during the ad, The King even measures the behind of one of the woman who has stuffed a phonebook under her dress. After the King informs children about the free SpongeBob toy they get with the purchase of a Burger King Kids Meal, the ad ends with Sir Mix-A-Lot—lounging on a couch with two female admirers—saying, “Booty is booty.” The ad ran during the NCAA men’s basketball championship and other programming recently.

“No parent watching a major sporting event with their children should have to worry about being assaulted by sexualized imagery,” said Joe Kelly of TheDadMan.com, a CCFC Steering Committee Member. “Featuring SpongeBob in an ad like this is a new low. Parents who hope to instill values in their children like respect for women would do well to steer clear of Burger King and Bikini Bottom.”

Added Dr. Linn: “Cartoon characters play a powerful role in the lives of young audiences. That Burger King and Nickelodeon would sell Kids Meals by associating a beloved, male character like SpongeBob with lechery shows how little either company cares about the wellbeing of the children they target.”

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is a national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups and concerned parents who counter the harmful effects of marketing to children through action, advocacy, education, research, and collaboration. CCFC is headquartered at the Judge Baker Children’s Center in Boston. www.commercialfreechildhood.org

Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood

Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood
New Documentary Film Premiering in Northampton (2009)

The consumer embryo begins to develop during the first year of existence.  Children begin their consumer journey in infancy.  And they certainly deserve consideration as consumers at that time.

– James U. McNeal | Pioneering Youth Marketer

This unsettling quote by a “Pioneering Youth Marketer” opens the critically-acclaimed new documentary film, Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood. Produced locally by the Northampton-based Media Education Foundation (MEF), Consuming Kids zeroes in on the increasingly brazen practices of the multibillion-dollar youth marketing industry in the wake of deregulation, exposing how marketers have used the latest advances in psychology, anthropology, and neuroscience to target American children and transform them into one of the most influential and profitable consumer demographics in the world.

I was glued to my seat as I watched a review copy of this film, feeling the heat of anger rising up into my cheeks as I learned how marketers are scheming to influence my kid (our kids) to consume their products… for life! My family doesn’t watch commercial television in our home, so it shocked me to see the different television ads aimed at marketing to children, trying to sell them everything from junk food to the family car. But as the film reveals, advertising to our kids isn’t found just on the TV, it’s also found on the school bus, the classroom, cell phones, the internet, movies, and even churches. It’s insidious!

Offering a time-line tracing the evolution and impact of this unprecedented phenomenon, Consuming Kids illustrates how the childhood of American kids has become commercialized and explores how the effect of hyperconsumerism impacts the actual lived experiences of our children.

I think the thing that upsets me the most is that it’s not just products that are being marketed to children, but values. And the primary value that’s being sold to kids over and over and over again is the value that things or stuff or brands will make us happy.

– Susan Linn | Director, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood


Read the rest of this entry »

Worst Toy of the Year Award

CCFC 2009 TOADY Award

Barbie Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader Doll by Mattel. $79.99

On February 15, the Toy Industry Association will gather to present their TOTY (Toy Of The Year) Awards. But first, in honor of the industry that has led the way in commercializing childhood, CCFC will present its inaugural TOADY (Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young Children) Award for the worst toy of the year. From thousands of toys that promote violence and/or precocious sexuality to children and push branded entertainment at the expense of children’s play, CCFC has selected five exceptional finalists. Who will win the dreaded TOADY? It’s up to you.

Read more about the TOADY Award and cast your vote over at Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

December Updates from CCFC

December Updates from Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

Click here to visit CCFC

Click here to visit CCFC

Montgomery County Pulls the Plug on BusRadio

Last Thursday, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) terminated their relationship with BusRadio, the controversial company created to force children to listen to commercialized radio broadcasts on school buses around the country. Their decision came a day after CCFC sent a letter urging MCPS to end the use of BusRadio on their school buses. Montgomery County had been using BusRadio on a trial basis. With 96,000 school bus riders, Montgomery County would have been BusRadio’s largest school district.

The events in Montgomery County are the latest indication that when parents learn the truth about BusRadio they want no part of it for their children. We are particularly gratified that local parent activists relied on resources from CCFC and Obligation, Inc in their advocacy efforts against BusRadio.

Commercial-Free Holiday Guide

Check out CCFC’s Commercial-Free Holiday Guide. Download a free copy here. Peter Rothberg from The Nation says,”CCFC’s practical tips for reducing commercialism in family celebrations this holiday season are particularly welcome.”

Help Save Small, Independent Toymakers

In August, in response to the influx of imported toys containing materials hazardous to children, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which mandates testing for all toys sold in the U.S. The intent was laudable, but only large scale manufacturers and retailers will be able to afford the substantial testing fees, which effectively closes the market to all but those able to mass produce toys. As a result, small independent toymakers – the same toymakers that almost never market their products directly to children – may have to go out of business. To urge Congress to protect both children and your favorite independent toymaker, please visit www.handmadetoyalliance.org.

Study: Fast Food Ad Ban Would Reduce Childhood Obesity

A new study conducted for the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that a ban on fast-food advertising to children could significantly reduce childhood obesity. Researchers measured the number of hours of fast-food television advertising messages viewed by children each week and found that a ban during children’s programming would reduce the number of overweight children aged 3-11 by 18 percent, and lower the number of overweight adolescents aged 12-18 by 14 percent. Sounds like a good idea to us.

More information on this study is available at HERE.

ACTION ALERT: Tell Toy Companies: Target Parents, Not Kids, With Holiday Ads

CCFC to Toy Marketers: Leave Kids Alone during Economic Crisis;
Companies Urged to Target Parents Instead this Holiday Season

As families struggle to cope with the global economic crisis, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is urging major retailers and toy and game manufacturers to suspend holiday marketing aimed at children and to target parents instead. In a letter sent to twenty-four CEO’s, CCFC urged companies not to exacerbate family stress by flooding children with ads for toys and games that their parents may not be able to afford. CCFC also launched a letter-writing campaign so that parents could share their concerns directly with companies planning to market to children this holiday season.

“It’s cruel for companies to dangle irresistible ads for toys and electronics in front of children when parents everywhere are worried about their financial future and paying for necessities,” said CCFC’s Director Dr. Susan Linn. “A barrage of holiday marketing will create unrealistic expectations in children too young to understand the economic crises and will make parenting in these uncertain times even more difficult.”

Concerns about the economy are so great that experts predict parents will spend less on toys and gifts for children this holiday season. Reports indicate, however, that spending on advertising to children will not reflect the current economic downturn. CCFC’s letter warns that the combination of commercial pressures on children with inevitable belt-tightening by parents will create a tremendous burden for many families.

Even in better economic times, buying holiday gifts can be a considerable strain on family budgets. A 2005 poll found that approximately one-third of Americans took more than three months to pay off their holiday credit card debt and 14% carried credit card debt into the next holiday season.

“It is bad enough in normal times when marketers bypass parents and encourage children to nag for products,” said Dr. Linn. “But to do so during such a pervasive economic downturn is unconscionable.”

CCFC is urging companies to adopt a different approach. The letter states:

We understand the need to create awareness of your products. We urge you to do that by advertising directly to parents instead of enlisting children as lobbyists for their holiday gifts. Since it’s parents, not children, who can truly understand their family’s financial situation in these difficult times, it is more important than ever that you respect their authority as gatekeepers. Target parents instead of children this holiday season.

The complete text of the letter can be found at: www.commercialfreechildhood.org/actions/lettertoceo.pdf.

The complete list of companies that received the letter can be found here:

Read the rest of this entry »

You Did It: Scholastic Expels the Bratz From Schools

You Did It: Scholastic Expels the Bratz From Schools

Thanks to you, Scholastic, Inc. will no longer be promoting the highly sexualized Bratz brand in schools.

In April, 2007, we launched a letter-writing campaign urging Scholastic to stop promoting Bratz items at their book clubs and book fairs.  You flooded Scholastic with emails urging them to stop selling books such as Lil’ Bratz Dancin Divas; Lil’ Bratz Catwalk Cuties; and Lil’ Bratz Beauty Sleepover Bash.

We were disappointed in Scholastic’s initial response. They claimed the Bratz books were important to reach “reluctant readers.” This claim seemed disingenuous, especially when the 2007-2008 Scholastic Bratz items included the Bratz: Rock Angels computer game and the Bratz Fashion Designer stencil set so elementary school students could design “the perfect purse.”

But we kept the pressure on. And in the end, more than 5,000 emails from CCFC members were too much to ignore. Scholastic has confirmed that they will no longer be selling Bratz Items in schools. We applaud Scholastic for this decision.

If you would like to thank Scholastic, you can do so by writing to:
Richard Robinson, CEO
Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway
New York, NY 10012
(212) 343-6100

National School Boards Association ED Responds to Schools Selling to Kids on Myspace

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood asks the National School Boards Association to Disavow Industry-Funded Report on Social Networking

Local educators need objective, honest information – not marketing hype – to guide their efforts toward helping students grapple with the current unprecedented convergence of sophisticated, ubiquitous media technology and unfettered commercialism. The escalating push to drive kids to commercial online social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, that are rife with embedded advertising, is getting a boost from an unexpected quarter — the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

One of the most recent calls for action by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has encouraged concerned parents to read a report published by the NSBA urging school boards to reconsider any rules against using commercial social networking sites in classrooms. While extolling the educational benefits of these sites in this report, it makes no mention of the fact that the primary purpose is to generate advertising revenue. This omission is not surprising seeing as the research, conducted by a public relations firm which is selling its data to corporations who wish to exploit it, was funded by Microsoft (which has a financial stake in Facebook), News Corporation (which owns MySpace) and Verizon, which advertises on both sites. (Click here to read the report)

Anne L. Bryant, Executive Director or the National School Boards Association, has sent a prompt response to one concerned parent’s letter:

Read the rest of this entry »

Why is the National School Boards Association Selling Kids on MySpace?

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood Asks National School Boards Association to Disavow Report on Social Networking

With marketers seeking twenty-four/seven access to children, it is more important than ever that advocates for children maintain their independence from the corporations that seek access to the lucrative kids market. That’s why it is so disappointing that the National School Boards Association partnered with News Corporation (owners of MySpace) and Microsoft (part owner of Facebook) to produce a report on the educational potential of social networking sites. Not surprisingly, the report reads more like industry PR than an objective look at the sites. The report makes no mention of the fact that the primary purpose of the leading social networking sites is to generate advertising revenue or that marketing for fast food, violent media, alcohol and tobacco is rampant on MySpace. It also urges local school boards to school boards to reconsider any rules against using commercial social networking sites in classrooms.

Marketing on MySpace includes ads promoting fast food giants McDonald’s, Burger King and Jack-in-the-Box; tobacco brands including Marlboro, Camel, and Skoal; and brands of alcohol including Skyy Vodka and Captain Morgan. The Captain Morgan MySpace page explicitly promotes binge drinking and alcohol-fueled sexual activity.

Both MySpace and Facebook also plan to mine users’ profiles for data that will allow marketers to send ads targeted specifically to their interests. Facebook is also encouraging young users to allow the company to send their friends unsolicited ads disguised as personal endorsements.

You can read more about CCFC’s concerns in their press release or this article in the LA Times. And if you haven’t yet done so, please take a moment to tell the NSBA to Stop Selling Kids on MySpace. Local educators need objective, honest information – not marketing hype – to guide their efforts toward helping students grapple with the current unprecedented convergence of sophisticated, ubiquitous media technology and unfettered commercialism.

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Scholastic VP responds to distribution of Bratz books in schools

Marketing the Sexualization of Young Girls


One of the most recent calls for action by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has encouraged concerned parents to tell Scholastic to stop distributing Bratz books in schools through their Book Clubs and School Book Fairs.

A recent report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls had drawn attention to the proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harming girls’ self-image and healthy development. This report explores the cognitive and emotional consequences, consequences for mental and physical health, and impact on development of a healthy sexual self-image. (Click here to read the report)

Books of The Bratz – a line of highly sexualized dolls for girls as young as four are – being marketed in schools by Scholastic, Inc. Scholastic promotes Bratz through its book fairs and book clubs, selling titles such as Lil’ Bratz Dancin Divas; Lil’ Bratz Catwalk Cuties; and Lil’ Bratz Beauty Sleepover Bash to a captive audience of young students.

Kyle Good, Vice President at Scholastic, has sent a prompt response to one concerned parent’s request to reconsider their distribution in schools:
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