CCFC Blog

Dear Mark, You seem like a nice enough guy. I mean, if you lived in our cul-de-sac and if the wind had blown our garbage can lid off (as it does during high wind season here in the Pacific Northwest) and you heard it clattering around, I think you would go out and chase it down and put it back on securely. Or if you were too busy to do that, you might text me about it. If I didn’t respond in a few minutes, you would understand, shaking your head knowingly, yet kindly, and understanding that since I am of an older generation than you and I don’t roam around with my cell phone as a bodily extension, texting may not be the best way to communicate with me. Shrugging it off, I bet you would go outside even in the high winds and cold rain, to...
Adding to a growing chorus demanding that tech companies act more responsibly, a coalition of more than 100 public health advocates today called on Facebook to pull the plug on Messenger Kids, the first major social platform designed specifically for young children. In a letter written and organized by the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), the coalition detailed the ways the new app will undermine children’s healthy development. CCFC also launched a petition calling on Facebook to scrap the app. The action comes on the heels of demands from investors that Apple take steps to address the harms smartphone use has on children and adolescents.  Click here to read the full press release. 
I’ve spent the last thirty years studying and writing about the relationship between people and technology. And I’m worried, particularly about kids. When technology plays an outsized role in children’s lives, they’re deprived of the crucial experiences necessary for healthy development and relationships. As I wrote in my book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age: When children grow up with time alone with their thoughts, they feel a certain ground under their feet. Their imaginations bring them comfort. If children always have something outside of themselves to respond to, they don't build up this resource. So it is not surprising that today young people become anxious if they are alone without a device. They are...
Imagine a baby waking at night and being soothed not by a loving adult, but by a device equipped with a camera, microphone, and speaker. As the baby grows, she begins to form an attachment to her “digital nanny.” For years, she plays with, talks to, and confides in it – all under the watchful eyes of the manufacturer and its retail partners.  This isn’t dystopian fiction. It’s Mattel’s vision of Aristotle, an always-on, artificially intelligent device for kids that the company planned to release in 2018.  But before that could happen, CCFC took action. We organized privacy and child development experts to explain how Aristotle threatened children’s wellbeing. We helped legislators ask Mattel pointed questions about how it would use kids’...
You did it! On October 4, Mattel announced it will not release Aristotle, an AI device for babies and children. Mattel’s announcement came just two days after CCFC and The Story of Stuff Project sent the company more than 20,000 petition signatures urging them to shelve the device. Aristotle was an always-on "smart home" device like Amazon Echo, designed specifically for kids: starting from birth, it would track children's eating, sleeping, and play. It would have given Mattel and its corporate partners around-the-clock access to kids' most private moments. Mattel boasted that Aristotle could soothe a crying baby, and they hoped children would form close emotional ties with the data-gathering robot. We...
We are thrilled to announce the launch of our newest initiative: The Children’s Screen Time Action Network! We know that far too many kids are spending far too much time with digital devices, and that excessive screen time undermines children’s wellbeing and exposes them to harmful marketing. We’ve heard from countless teachers, pediatricians, librarians, psychologists, early childhood professionals, and other practitioners who see every day how screens are interfering with kids’ healthy development. They’re ready to move beyond diagnosing the problem and start working together to create solutions. We built the Children’s Screen Time Action Network with and for these professionals. Guided by an Advisory Board of child...
On October 19, 25 experts and public health organizations called on the producers of Channel One News, a commercial network shown in school classrooms, to update their advertising policies to stop advertising unhealthy food and beverages to children. Channel One’s 10-minute broadcasts include two minutes of ads and are viewed daily by millions of middle and high school students. Signatories to the letter to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which owns Channel One, include the American Heart Association, the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), among others. The advocates say Channel One’s “Advertising Policies and Guidelines...
A number of brands of “smartwatches” intended to help parents monitor and protect young children have major security and privacy flaws which could endanger the children wearing them. A coalition of leading U.S. child advocacy, consumer, and privacy groups sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today, asking the agency to investigate the threat these watches pose to children.  Smartwatches for children essentially work as a wearable smartphone. Parents can communicate with their child through the mobile phone function and track the child’s location via an app. Some product listings recommend them for children as young as three years old.  Groups sending the letter to the FTC are the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC...
We’re parents, and proud ones. Our kids, now ages 20 and 23, have each already enjoyed healthy, respectful relationships, which we regard as a far better marker of functional personhood than grades or money. Still, we’re glad they can support themselves now. Our only regret is having let them spend so much time with screens when they were kids, and then buying them laptops and smartphones which encouraged the practice. If we knew then what we know now, we would have deliberately carved out more time for family conversations and activities in real life. When the kids were small, screens didn’t seem like a big deal. “We trust their native instincts with food, and with rest,” we thought, “so why not trust their instincts on play?” Our parents...
Did you know that the average age children get their first smartphone is now ten? That’s incredibly young to be constantly connected to the internet; to worry about documenting every moment to share with friends and followers; to have unlimited access to games designed to be addictive; and to be accessible 24/7 to data miners and marketers who don’t have your best interests at heart. And of course, if ten is the average, that means many six, seven, and eight-year-olds now have their own phones as well. As young children see their friends getting phones, they naturally want one too. And parents, sometimes against our better judgement, often give in because we don’t want our children to be socially isolated...

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