October/November 2017

We did it! Mattel shelves plans for a digital nanny; Announcing the Children's Screen Time Action Network; New report raises concerns about kids' media use; Smartwatches to “protect” children may put them in danger; Get junk food commercials out of schools; Our student privacy toolkit is now available in Spanish; Coast-to-coast victories for kids; Recommended reading and listening; Thanks to you, we had an amazing year

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In this Issue:

  • We did it! Mattel shelves plans for a digital nanny
  • Announcing the Children's Screen Time Action Network
  • New report raises concerns about kids' media use
  • Smartwatches to “protect” children may put them in danger
  • Get junk food commercials out of schools
  • Our student privacy toolkit is now available in Spanish
  • Coast-to-coast victories for kids
  • Recommended reading and listening
  • Thanks to you, we had an amazing year

We did it! Mattel shelves plans for a digital nanny

As a result of a 6-month CCFC campaign, Mattel announced it will not release Aristotle, an always-on "smart home" device that would track children's eating, sleeping, and play habits from birth. Mattel hoped children would form close emotional ties to Aristotle, and even boasted that the device could soothe a crying baby. The data Aristotle collected would have been a boon to Mattel and its corporate and retail partners. 

But thanks to CCFC and our members and partners, that’s not going to happen. We first learned about Mattel’s plans in January, and swiftly took action:

  • With our friends at Story of Stuff, we launched a petition that garnered 20,000 signatures.
  • We enlisted leading experts in child development, like MIT’s Sherry Turkle, to explain the threats Aristotle posed to kids and families.
  • We shared our concerns with U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who wrote a letter to Mattel  asking important questions about the device.
  • We turned up the heat on Mattel by scoring critical media coverage in the Washington Post, Bloomberg, and dozens of other outlets.

Thanks so much to all who signed our petition and spread the word about this threat to children’s healthy development. As CCFC’s Josh Golin told the New York Times, “This is a huge victory for everyone who believes that corporate profits and experimentation should never come at the expense of children’s privacy and wellbeing. We commend Mattel for listening to the child development experts and thousands of parents who told them a child’s bedroom should be free of corporate surveillance, and that essential caregiving functions should never be outsourced to robots.” 

Announcing the Children's Screen Time Action Network

We know that too many kids are spending too much time with digital devices, and that excessive screen time undermines children’s wellbeing and exposes them to harmful marketing. And we’ve heard from countless teachers, pediatricians, psychologists, early childhood professionals, and other practitioners who are ready to move beyond diagnosing the problem and start working together to create solutions.

That's why we built the Children’s Screen Time Action Network. Guided by an Advisory Board of child development experts, Network members will share resources and best practices, engage in professional development, and strategize together on how to help families unplug. If you believe that reducing kids' screen time is both neccessary and possible, the Action Network is for you

Our online resource library is full of handouts and other tools. And on April 20 and 21, 2018, we’ll gather in Boston for the first-ever national conference dedicated to reducing the amount of time kids spend with screens. Membership is free and open now. Please join us today!

New report raises concerns about kids’ media use

Common Sense Media’s latest census on media use by children zero to eight highlights several concerning trends. Most notably, kids from low income households are spending nearly twice as much time in front of screens as their more affluent peers — an especially troubling finding when excessive screen time is linked to issues like depression, anxiety, poor sleep habits, and poor academic performance. In addition, mobile use by young children has tripled since 2013, with 42% of kids ages 0-8 owning their own tablet device. Of particular interest to CCFC members: 69% of parents list materialism and commercialism in children’s media as a major concern. To learn more, read the full report (registration required) or this recap from CNN that features insights from many experts, including Action Network Advisory Board member Dr. Doug Gentile. 

Smartwatches to “protect” children may put them in danger

CCFC is part of a major coordinated international action to protect children from smartwatches with serious security and privacy flaws. New research from the Norwegian Consumer Council reveals that a stranger can easily take control of some watches, eavesdrop on and communicate with children, and track a child’s location. CCFC and its US partners are asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate this threat to children’s welfare, and similar complaints have been filed in the EU. Read more from CBS News Moneywatch.

Get junk food commercials out of schools

A coalition of advocates led by CCFC is demanding that Channel One News, a commercial network shown in classrooms, stop advertising junk food. New USDA rules bar foods with high fat, sugar, and salt content from being sold or marketed in schools, but Channel One’s policies allow those banned foods to still be advertised. Our coalition, which includes the American Heart Association, the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), urged Channel One owner Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to change their policies and abide by federal rules.  

Our student privacy toolkit is now available in Spanish

Our widely-lauded Parent Toolkit for Student Privacy is now available en español! Called “THE student privacy toolkit” by attorney and privacy law expert Bradley Shear, this joint project of CCFC and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy explains what data schools collect about children, how they should protect it, and the rights of parents and students under federal law. The toolkit is FREE in both English and Spanish. Download it today

Coast-to-coast victories for kids

CCFC and our allies scored two more victories for kids this month. In California, we joined the American Heart Association and Corporate Accountability International to support legislation banning in-school junk food marketing – and it passed! And in New York City, the Metropolitan Transit Authority voted to ban alcohol ads, following a campaign spearheaded by Building Alcohol Ad-Free Transit and supported by CCFC and our partners at Commercial Alert and CSPI. The MTA’s decision means that 670,000 students will no longer be bombarded by alcohol ads on their way to and from school. 

Recommended reading and listening 

Thanks to you, we had an amazing year 

Our latest Annual Report is here! It highlights our most important work from the past year and features the voices of professionals, parents, and grandparents who know that childhood should be shaped by what’s best for children, not by corporate profits. 

If you like what you see, please consider a donation of any amount today! Our work is made possible by the dedication and support of our members – we can’t do this without you!