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In this issue:
PBS and Chick-fil-A: Let’s Keep the Pressure On
In just over a week, more than 7,000 people have signed petitions hosted by CCFC and Public Citizen demanding that PBS end the partnership between the popular children’s show Martha Speaks and Chick-fil-A. PBS promotes Chick-fil-A through “sponsorship announcements” before and after Martha Speaks, on the acclaimed children’s website PBSKids.org, and through in-restaurant promotions. “I am a member contributor to PBS on a regular basis,” wrote Jacquolyn Duerr of Sacramento on CCFC’s petition. “This is appalling! I don't want my donations to go towards promoting childhood obesity and marketing to children.” Added Kathleen Clarke-Pearson of Chapel Hill, “As a pediatrician and a strong promoter of PBS children's educational programs, I am appalled at PBS affiliating with Chick-fil-A and promoting their fast food agenda/branding."
In response, PBS has defended the Chick-fil-A sponsorship by claiming it is aimed at parents, not children. But PBS’s own marketing materials describe the goals of the promotional campaign as to “reach children” and “drive restaurant brand preference and restaurant traffic.” Those same materials tout that 56 million Chick-fil-A Kid’s Meals were distributed in Martha Speaks co-branded bags in 2011. And if the marketing is for parents, why has PBS member station WGBH nominated the Chick-fil-A/Martha Speaks promotions for a kids marketing award in the category of “Best Promotional Campaign”?
Selling kids on fast food is nothing to celebrate. So let’s keep the pressure on PBS. If you haven’t already, please tell PBS to pull out the Cynopsis Awards—and end its partnership with Chick-fil-A.
CCFC to Mike Lupica: No Sneaky Ads in Children’s Books
Until recently, children’s books by respected authors have been free of the insidious advertising that permeates other children’s media. That changed when Philomel Books published The Underdogs by noted sportswriter and children’s author Mike Lupica. The young-adult novel features the shoe company New Balance, the company’s president, and the New Balance 897 cleat in its story line. The hardcover book was distributed in bookstores with a promotional book mark describing the 897 cleat “as worn by Will Tyler in Mike Lupica’s The Underdogs.” Children were directed to find the shoe at shopnewbalance.com or to visit their local New Balance Store.
Given the prominence of Lupica and Philomel in the world of children’s publishing, it is likely that others will follow suit. That’s why CCFC is demanding that Lupica and Philomel pledge not to include advertising in future books. You can read our letter to Lupica and Philomel President Michael Green here.
Screen-Free Week: Wasn’t It Great?
We’re still sorting through the slew of wonderful emails and posts about Screen-Free Week, but it’s safe to say that it was rousing success. We’re amazed at the creative celebrations concocted by families, schools, libraries, and entire communities. We’re happy, of course, that so many participants had a great time and are already planning for next year and beyond. But most of all, we’re thrilled that so many have vowed to make lifestyle changes all year round. That’s really what Screen-Free Week is all about. Here are just a few of the many comments we received from people talking about how those seven days changed their relationships—to screens and to those who matter the most to them:
- "I won’t say that we’ll never turn the television on again. We will. But just a week without screen time has helped me understand how reflexively I acquiesce to my daughter’s requests for a quick Caillou fix. I feel better prepared now to guide her in a more creative direction, thanks in no small part to the resources offered on CCFC’s site, including this downloadable list of things to do instead of turning on the TV, from another blog. You can even print it and post it on the fridge!”—Michael O'Heaney at The Story of Stuff.
- "So, this was a good week . . . it was cleansing and eye-opening for me. I am glad we took part and the kids and I have already discussed making one day ‘Screen-Free’ every week. We are thinking Wednesdays. . . . Life is too short and too precious to spend it in front of a screen! :-)”—Becky Boop
- “We have had a fabulous time. This wasn't our first screen-free week, but I was so impressed with the results that I talked with my husband about canceling cable. He agreed, and we no longer have it. My nine-year-old twin girls cried when they found out, but we immediately went to the library and they have been fine ever since.”—JN, Utah, in an email to CCFC.
A New Low for the Lowest of the Low
It's bad enough that Channel One News shows 2 minutes of commercials every day to a captive audience of nearly six million schoolchildren. But on May 23, the entire episode was a program-length commercial for the ABC Family network. That episode featured teams of students competing in a news quiz. Each team was named after an ABC Family show, paired with a star from that show, and positioned in front of a backdrop—and behind a podium—advertising that show. Channel One clearly violated its contract with schools by exceeding its agreed-upon commercial time limits. Next week, we’ll be asking for your help in making sure that educators understand that Channel One is not news; it is, first and foremost, a youth marketing company that should have no place in our schools.
Used iPads Wanted
Do you have a gently used iPad that you no longer have any use for? Then please consider donating it to CCFC to help us investigate the educational claims made by marketers of baby and toddler apps. Remember, all donations to CCFC are tax-deductible! If you have one you’re willing to part with, please let us know at email@example.com.
Commercialized Wound Care for the Very Young—and Creepy Marketer Quote of the Month
Speaking of apps . . . Next time your little one gets a cut or scrape, how about some branded screen time as TLC? With a new app from Johnson and Johnson, kids point an iPhone or iPad at their Muppet Band Aid and a virtual Muppet emerges on-screen to offer comfort.
“When you have your first wound-care occasions—both as a child and as an adult with children—it’s emotional,” said Hugh Dineen, a vice president of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products Company. “We like to think about Band-Aid as the magic healing brand. Mom puts the Band-Aid on and seals it with a kiss.”
If the augmented reality app is incorporated into that apply-and-kiss ritual, then “the entire experience is branded, and there isn’t another bandage brand or store brand that could bring that experience,” Mr. Dineen said.
Book Review: Playborhood: Turn Your Neighborhood into a Place for Play
We all know how important it is for children to play outdoors. And we also know that huge numbers of children are deprived of that experience. That’s why Mike Lanza’s new book Playborhood: Turn Your Neighborhood into a Place for Play is so important. It provides blueprints for neighborhoods working together to encourage children’s outdoor play and to create safe spaces to enable it. In addition to step-by-step solutions for families and communities, Lanza highlights inspirational stories from communities in the United States and Canada that have transformed themselves into neighborhoods that encourage the kind of independent outdoor play that many of us remember from our childhoods.
Lanza explores new trends in urban and suburban design—walkable communities, common space, co-housing, and back yard “playscapes.” He describes neighborhoods where the ingenuity and commitment of a few individuals have transformed blocks into thriving communities that support children’s outdoor play—and he provides step-by-step instructions to help others make similar transformations. He gives hints for prospective homebuyers in how to identify a neighborhood that supports or can support children’s play. And he gives suggestions for creating “kid hangouts” in existing neighborhoods.
Playborhood is a wonderfully practical and inspiring guide to transforming neighborhoods into play spaces. One caveat: It’s troubling to us that Lanza urges parents to buy cell phones for kids as young as nine in order to make parents feel more comfortable about their being outside unsupervised. That’s the same argument marketers were making years ago as they began pushing cell phones on ever-younger children—feeding into parents’ fears to sell them on phones for children. And given all his other great suggestions and the huge amount of time children spend with screen technologies, advocating for cell phones for young kids seems, at best, superfluous. The media and marketing industries are already doing a phenomenal job of convincing parents their young kids need phones—they don’t need help from someone whose primary commitment is to outdoor play.
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