CCFC Blog

A recent article in the New York Times about how high school kids are spending their summers reminded me once again that the commercialization of childhood extends way beyond Happy Meals and sexualized clothing to compromise every stage of children’s development. A commercially saturated culture has a profoundly negative influence on children’s basic assumptions, values, life choices, and experience of living.  The Times profiled companies like Everything Summer that craft summer experiences for teenagers designed to translate into stand-out personal essays for college admissions. There’s so much wrong with this that it’s hard to know where to begin. Never mind that it’s yet another example of how unequal opportunity is in this country....
My contemporaries and I should be called Generation Deregulation. Born in the early 1980's, we were the first to grow up immersed in TV programs designed to sell us stuff. G.I. Joe, My Little Pony,Strawberry Shortcake, Ninja Turtles—these were the shows that dominated our after school time and playground play. Cartoon-linked products (lunch boxes, toys, clothing, you name it) were staples. Ours was a media- and merchandise-saturated environment from the get-go. We didn’t know any other world.  It’s no accident that these same shows are being introduced today to a new generation of children and reintroduced to their nostalgic parents, including the film version of the 1980s cartoon The Smurfs that debuted last week. Most of my generation...
The controversy brewing over a new breastfeeding doll soon to be sold in the United States reminds me of the bru-ha-ha about Teletubbies when Jerry Falwell accused Tinky Winky of being gay. People rightfully upset about homophobia came to the support of the show, misguidedly defending the goodness ofTeletubbies—which was being marketed, falsely, as educational for babies. Public discourse about Breast Milk Baby is following the same lines. Arguments over the doll are centered on culture wars—whether it is appropriate for young children to witness breastfeeding, imitate it, or even know what it is. Fox News Pundit Bill O’Reilly worries that it will make kids grow up to soon. The American rep for Berjuan Toys, the Spanish Company making the...
Thanks to you, schools will be less inundated with commercialism this fall.  In response to CCFC’s three-month campaign, Scholastic has agreed to cut way back its production and distribution of corporate-sponsored teaching materials.  Late last week, Scholastic contacted us to let us know that it was reducing its InSchool Marketing division—which  produces teaching materials sponsored by corporations, nonprofits, and government agencies—by approximately 40%.  And the overwhelming majority of cuts are coming from its corporate-sponsored materials.  You can read more about it in today’s New York Times. For years, Scholastic has produced teaching materials for corporate clients like Shell, Disney, and Nestle.  In May, after a...
As the economic pressures on school districts intensify, more and more are considering turning to school bus advertising as a way of ameliorating their budget woes. The impulse is understandable, but it would be great if more school boards did their homework before deciding to make compulsory exposure to school bus ads a part of children’s school day. In addition to being ethically unsound, school bus ads just don’t pay. Consider the case of Sumner County, Tennessee: the Board of Education has just filed a lawsuit against 1st Class Marketing for failing to properly pay the school district for ads sold on the district’s buses. The board’s contract with the marketing firm called for 60% of ad sales to go to the district. But to date, they’ve...
When McDonald’s sneezes, the media jumps. Such was the case yesterday when the fast food giantannounced it was giving the Happy Meal a makeover. Well not really, but that’s how it got reported, because the media loves simple stories. But when it comes to marketing and PR by multinational corporations, nothing is ever that simple. While my colleagues have done a great job of explaining why nutritionally, this move is little more than PR (see Marion Nestle and Andy Bellatti), missing from the analysis so far is this: what McDonald’s really wants is to remain in charge. The fast food giant’s motivation beyond the obvious positive PR spin is to stave off more laws like the one passed in San Francisco to set nutrition standards for Happy Meals...
Critics: FCC Not Policing Kids TV – Along with parent and child advocacy groups (including CCFC), lawmaker Rep. Ed Markey is pointing out that the FCC’s enforcement of laws regarding children’s programming and commercials is “weak.”http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0711/59487.html#ixzz1SjjUxHX8  Junk Food Industry Determined to Target Kids – CCFC Steering Committee member Michele Simon on the IWG’s proposed food marketing principles and extreme push back they’re meeting from the industry in Food Safety News.http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/07/junk-food-industry-determined-to-target-kids/ Toy Movies in 2011 - Has Hollywood Gone Too Far? The toy industry is concerned that movies based...
Summer TV's Top Target: Boys – Children’s TV programmers and marketers team up to aggressively push video games, toys, Nesquik, Kraft Mac & Cheese, Kellogg's Fruit Snacks and much more to boys this summer.http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303812104576441790597642646.html?mod=WSJ_hps_sections_lifestyle Industries Lobby Against Voluntary Nutrition Guidelines for Food Marketed to Kids –The media industry and food marketers align to lobby against the Interagency Working Group's new voluntary food marketing principles for ads aimed at kids.http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/industries-lobby-against-voluntary-nutrition-guidelines-for-food-marketed-to-kids/2011/07/08/gIQAZSZu5H_story.html...
As advocates for deep change know, big success is often preceded by small incremental changes that may go unnoticed by the general public. It seems the effort to stop fast food companies from hawking toys to kids is gaining ground. Last week I was watching Friday Night Lights (a great show if I don’t fret about the product placement) and blithely forwarding through the commercials when an ad for McDonald’s Happy Meals stopped me cold. There were no toys. Intrigued, I rewound and watched in real time: We see a multi-racial bunch of totally cute kids with Happy Meal boxes—but they’re empty. A child’s voice chirps, “There’s something inside a McDonald’s Happy Meal. It’s called hope…” The kids keep looking for hope in the boxes, but—it’s...
I’m troubled by an apparent split over children’s screen time between the guardians of children’s health and the guardians of their education. The public health community, from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, is intensifying efforts to set limits on the amount of time young children spend with screen technology—one to two hours per day for older children and no screen time for babies and toddlers. Meanwhile, the National Association for the Education of Young Children—the nation’s premier professional organization for early childhood educators—recently released a draft of its statement on children and technology which advocates incorporating screens into all early childhood programs...

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