News is a regular service for members and friends of the Stop
Commercial Exploitation of Children coalition.
SCEC's mission is to stop commercial exploitation of children
through action, advocacy, research, and collaboration among
organizations and individuals who care about children
IN THIS ISSUE
ACTION: Demand a Congressional Investigation of Marketing and
Advertising to Children
coalition to Stop Commercial Exploitation of Children (SCEC) is
calling on Congress investigate to marketing and advertising aimed
at children. Children
are bombarded with advertising almost every waking moment. They see
40,000 ads on television alone – and this figure does not include
the numerous commercial messages they encounter through product
placement and tie-ins with toys, food and accessories. Nor does it
include advertising through other media such as the Internet or
growing body of evidence that marketing aimed at children is linked
to a rise in obesity rates, eating disorders, precocious sexuality,
and violence among children. Marketing also promotes materialistic
values in children – and in the process undermines family values
and parental authority. The American
Psychological Association has just called for restrictions on
all television advertising aimed at children under the age of eight.
Congress has been holding important hearings on the Super Bowl
halftime show. But no investigation into the media can be complete
without a similar investigation into the advertising and marketing
practices aimed at children. After all, it was the “anything
goes” mentality among marketers that helped create the media
climate that led to the Super Bowl debacle.
Please join SCEC in demanding immediate congressional hearings and a
comprehensive investigation by the Federal Trade Commission or the
General Accounting Office into advertising and marketing practices
aimed at children. SCEC coalition member Dads and Daughters
has generously agreed to host this important campaign on their
website. Please go to http://dads.e-actionmax.com/showalert.asp?aaid=522
to send a letter to your representatives, as well as Senator John
McCain and Representative Fred Upton who led the recent hearings on
the Super Bowl.
Your Opinion About Marketing To Children
at Knox College, the Judge Baker Media Center, and Dads and
Daughters are conducting a survey of public opinion about the ethics
of marketing to children.
Advertising and marketing is a big part of most children's lives.
However, we know very little about how parents, caretakers,
teachers, and other adults feel about marketing and advertising
directed at youth. It is important for the general public to
express their opinions about this issue. SCEC strongly supports this
effort and urges you to go to the web site, complete the survey, and
pass it along to family, friends and colleagues as soon as possible.
All of the data must be collected by April 15.
fill out the survey please visit www.dadsanddaughters.org
and follow the link in the middle of the page that says “Marketing
to Youth.” The survey
takes about 5 -10 minutes to complete. The results of the
survey will be made public in May.
February 14, about 100 activists, scholars, concerned parents and
citizens demonstrated their commitment to children by spending their
Valentine’s Day at SCEC’s third annual summit, “Consuming
Kids: Toying with Children’s Health.”
While down the hall at the Roosevelt Hotel marketers gathered
at a conference sponsored by the marketing rag Kidscreen to
plan new advertising strategies for targeting youth, attendees at
the SCEC summit heard from leading scholars, authors, and activists
about the harms associated with marketing to children.
Presenters detailed the new and insidious techniques used by
marketers; the sexualized, violent, and unhealthy products marketed
to children; and how such marketing has a negative impact on every
aspect of children’s lives, including their physical and oral
health, their body image, their creativity, and their family’s
day was not, however, all doom and gloom as presenters described
important strategies for resisting the commercial onslaught directed
at children--including calls to legislators, letter-writing
campaigns to corporate executives, coalition building, and the
threat of litigation. Enola
Aird concluded the summit with a rousing “Call
to Action” in which she detailed the “window of
opportunity” presented by the attention to the Super Bowl fiasco
and urged gathered crowd to “set our country on a new path toward
a healthy culture of childhood.”
of many of the presentations are available at: http://www.commercialexploitation.com/events/speakers.htm
following day, participants gathered at the International Toy Fair
- “The Business of Play” –
to demand that toy manufactures:
Stop marketing toys that promote junk food.
Stop marketing toys that promote precocious sexuality.
Stop marketing toys that promote violence.
Stop marketing adult media through children's toys.
Stop marketing toys directly to children eight and under.
the conclusion of the protest, Diane Levin, Susan Linn, and Nancy
Carlsson-Paige (accompanied by a documentary film crew) returned
four toys – a Lil Bratz fashion doll, Yasmin; a Play-Doh
McDonald’s Restaurant; a Strech N’ Roar Hulk; and a Terminator 3
Rise of the Machines Figure: Arnold and delivered a
letter to Toy Industry Association Tom Conley.
protest captured the interest of many passing pedestrians – whose
reaction was overwhelmingly positive – and apparently raised the
ire of at least one toy manufacturer. The next day, Dr. Levin, attending the Toy Fair to assist
Boston Globe parenting columnist Barbara Meltz, who was writing a
story about toys that are good for children, was told
by Hasbro (the manufacturer of the Play Doh McDonald’s) that she
would not be allowed to visit their exhibit.
just in from the FTC: “The
Federal Trade Commission has expanded its consumer complaint
handling system to categorize and track complaints about media
violence, including complaints about the advertising, marketing, and
sale of violent movies, electronic games (including video games),
and music.” SCEC
encourages its member to use this new system to voice their
concerns. To file a
complaint, use the Commission’s online complaint form, available
at http://www.ftc.gov, or call
toll-free at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).”
another reason to protect children from marketing.
In a comprehensive review of the research on media use and
childhood obesity, the prestigious Kaiser Family Foundation has
concluded, "(I)t appears likely that the main mechanism by
which media use contributes to childhood obesity may well be through
children's exposure to billions of dollars worth of food advertising
and cross-promotional marketing year after year, starting at the
very youngest ages, with children's favorite media characters often
enlisted in the sales pitch."
To read more about the report, please visit: http://www.kff.org/entmedia/entmedia022404pkg.cfm
SCEC lauds American Psychological Association’s (APA) recent
call for federal restrictions on advertising aimed at children under
eight years old. With
this announcement, APA becomes the nation’s first professional
organization in more than twenty years to recommended restrictions
on all television advertising to young children.
SCEC Steering Committee Members Susan Linn, was on the task
force that crafted the new APA position.
Allen Kanner, Velma LaPoint, and Priscilla Hambrick-Dixon
were advisors. To read
more, please visit: http://www.commercialexploitation.com/Pressreleases/apa.htm
are a number of important legislative developments in the ongoing
struggle to protect children from exploitative marketing practices.
SCEC urges its members to contact their representatives about
the following legislation:
Children’s Listbroker Privacy Act (S. 2160)
legislation, introduced by Senators Ron Wyden and Ted Stevens, would
limit the sale of children’s personal information by marketers.
bill notes “commercial listbrokers routinely advertise and sell
detailed information on children, including names, addresses, ages,
and other data, for use in marketing.
This data is commonly available on children as young as two
years old, enabling marketers to target specific demographics such
as junior high school, elementary school, or even preschool.”[i]
S. 2160 would
help parents protect their children from such exploitative practices
by prohibiting corporations from selling the personal information of
children below 16 for commercial marketing purposes, without
call both your U.S. Senators today. Ask them to co-sponsor the
Children's Listbroker Privacy Act (S. 2160).
The congressional switchboard phone is 202-225-3121.
Citizens for Responsible Media
has just been introduced in the California House to prohibit
retailers from renting or selling violent video games to minors.
It is important that all those in California who support this
measure contact their representatives, and spread the word about the
bill as widely as possible. Similar laws in other states and
jurisdictions have been difficult to pass, and when passed have not
fared well in the courts. Within a few years, the Supreme Court
is likely to be asked to decide on one of these laws.
go to www.medialegislation.org
for information about the bills. From the home page you can link to
detailed information about the California legislation and a sample
letter to your representative.
The webpage also contains information about legislation in
ALL states, and the US Legislature. Please take a look for
your home state.
Kids Can Make a Difference
month’s SCEC featured organizations is Kids Can Make a Difference. To read more about the exciting work that KIDS does and why
they are a member of the coalition to Stop Commercial Exploitation
of Children, please visit http://www.commercialexploitation.com/featuredorg/kids.htm.
A coalition is only as strong as its members.
Declarations of Media Independence Summit – July 1-4, 2004
The Action Coalition for Media Education
(ACME), the University of San Francisco and Media Alliance, announce
the "Declarations of Media Independence!" Summit, to be
held at the University of San Francisco from July 1-4, 2004. The
Summit promises to be a unique gathering of teachers, students,
parents, researchers, public health advocates, media justice
activists, reformers, and independent media makers committed to
working for a more just, sustainable and democratic media culture
for this next century.
current corporate media system leaves children extremely vulnerable
to predatory marketers. Now
more than ever, our world needs a coalition championing independent
media literacy education, production, media justice, and media
reform efforts. Join the "Declarations of Media
Independence" Summit, and let your voice be heard!
more information, including a call for proposals for workshops and
teach-ins, please visit www.acmecoalition.org.
Annual TV-Turnoff Week: April
Week 2004, the only national celebration of the low-TV lifestyle,
will take place on April 19-25. On average, American schoolchildren spend more time each year
(over 1,000 hours) in front of the television set than in the
classroom. The average
American will watch over nine
years of television in his or her lifetime.
Commercial Exploitation of Children supports TV-Turnoff Week because
even in today’s changing media landscape, television remains the
primary way in which marketers target children.
American children will see, on average, 40,000 television
commercials this year (a figure that doesn’t even include product
placement and licensing).
off television gives us a chance to move, think, read, create, and
do. To take a step back from consumer culture. To connect with our
families and engage in our communities. And that’s why so many people get on board; TV-Turnoff Week is
spearheaded by the more than 17,000 local organizers who make the
event a celebration of life in their schools, communities, religious
bodies, and more.
learn more, including how to organize a TV-Turnoff week in your
school, organization or community, please visit TV-Turnoff Network
on the web at www.tvturnoff.org or call them at 202.333.9220.
SCEC member Benjamin Eliasoph:
“As a supporter of SCEC, I wanted to share an effective
action we have undertaken as a family. Together, we picked one day per week where no one in our
family will watch TV. And
we (3 kids and my wife and I) all signed a simple contract promising
to comply. Every family
can make their own “contract”.
Ours said ‘no TV, videos, DVD’s etc’, also ‘if
something really important to you is on, you can record it, but not
watch it that day’. Initially, the kids griped about it, but
surprisingly, when the first day/evening came around, they played
together, then we all played a board game, and we had time for
reading together too. It
was so calm -- like we had recaptured some timeless sense of just
“being.” And this from a family that does not watch a lot of TV,
although the kids can go for it in stages.”
has been generous enough to share his
family’s no TV contract with SCEC in the hopes that other
families will download it, make it their own, and implement it
together. He notes,
“I feel any success we'll have out of this is due to our modest
goal-one day a week only. Hopefully, this will show our kids, and others who sign on,
that ANY day can be TV free, not only one day a week.”
March 22-24, retailers will gather in Las Vegas for the
GlobalShop conference to learn the latest about in-store
they will attend seminars such as “It’s a Teen, Teen
World” and “Young Children as Consumers”.
The description of the latter notes, “children under
the age of 12 hold powerful sway over their parents' purchase
. . (This) dynamic
has yet to be fully leveraged in the retail environment and has
implications for product placement (think beyond the checkout
aisle!), displays, store design, cross-promotions, and product
It also, we might add, has implications for parents who
hope that a trip to the store will be a nag and conflict free
House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to pass HR 339,
“The Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act” to
protect the food industry from obesity related lawsuits.
Litigation, of course, played a major role in changing
the tobacco industry’s marketing practices, and thus if this
bill becomes law, it would deprive advocates of an important
weapon in the fight against childhood obesity. The House's
action was denounced by Michael Jacobsen of the Center for
Science in the Public Interest who noted, “It is pathetic to see a Congress that has done virtually
nothing to stem the tide of the obesity epidemic leap so
enthusiastically to the defense of the food industry. Congress
should be debating meaningful policies to help Americans eat
well and maintain healthy weights.”
Polices, we would add, that should include protecting
children from marketing.
does the following quote appear?
and more marketing to children is a losing proposition.
At some point, society will say enough is enough and the
current permissive environment will shift in the opposite
In “Consuming Kids: The
Hostile Takeover of Childhood,” the forthcoming book by SCEC
co-founder Susan Linn
On Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign website
On the Kidpower Xchange website (Kidpower Xchange is
an industry source for youth marketing information.
They host several conferences a year to help marketers target
you picked C (and you didn’t, did you?), you’re right.
Kidpower Xchange recently surveyed youth marketers and the
preliminary results are telling. Respondents felt children under the age of nine were unable
to view advertising critically or separate fantasy from reality in
media, and the average response to the question, “At what age do
you feel most young people can make intelligent choices as
consumers” was 11.7 years old.[iii]
In another poll sponsored by AdAge.com, the 77 % of nearly
1,000 industry respondents felt there is “a direct link between TV
ads and childhood obesity.”[iv]
other words, even people in the advertising industry are starting
to have concerns about the impact marketing has on children.
AdAge quoted one respondent as saying,
“Of course there is a direct correlation (between
advertising and childhood obesity).
Before children can even read they know what they want simply
based on package recognition. How
many adult cereals do you see with bright colors and animated
characters on the package? None.”
public awareness of how advertising harms kids is the first step
towards changing “the current permissive environment” that
allows marketers unfettered access to children.
coming months and years, SCEC looks forward to working together on
the next steps-- targeting
the most egregious corporate offenders with actions, working to make
our schools and communities commercial-free zones, and passing
legislation to end marketers’ access to our children.
INDIVIDUALS: With a minimum $25 tax deductible membership
ORGANIZATIONS: With a minimum $100 membership you receive:
link from the SCEC web page
for your events and activities
should be made out to:
Baker Children's Center
B. Sweeny / SCEC
Judge Baker Children's Center
3 Blackfan Circle, Boston, MA 02115
make a credit card contribution, please contact Abigail
Thomas at email@example.com.
To read the full text of the bill, please visit http://wyden.senate.gov/leg_issues/legislation/s2160_kidlist.html
[iv] Advertising Age,
March 8, 2004, p. 18.