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:

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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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