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SCEC NEWS ~ Summer, 2004

SCEC 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

Senator Harkin Introduces Historic Legislation to Protect Children from Marketing

Recently, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced the HeLP (Healthy Lifestyles and Prevention) Act. This comprehensive healthcare bill includes several important provisions to protect children from exploitative marketing.

If passed, the bill will reinstate the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) rulemaking authority to issue restrictions on advertising to children. In 1980, corporate lobbyists persuaded Congress to rescind the FTC’s power to regulate marketing to children. Since then, child-directed marketing has escalated exponentially with virtually no government oversight.

The bill also gives the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to prohibit food marketing in schools that participate in the federal School Lunch or Breakfast programs. In recent years, there has been an explosion of in-school marketing, including corporate-sponsored newscasts and educational materials, advertisements in hallways, cafeterias, and gymnasiums, and exclusive pouring rights contracts with soda manufacturers.

In addition, the HeLP America Act will help protect children from tobacco companies by giving the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco ads and eliminating the tax deductibility of tobacco marketing.

SCEC has endorsed this historic legislation and, in conjunction with the media reform organization Free Press, has launched a campaign to build support for it. Please urge your Senators to take a stand for children and families by supporting the HeLP America Act. Go to www.freepress.net/action/kids.php
 

Urge your Representatives to attend SCEC’s next Congressional Briefing: Predatory Marketing: The Impact on Children’s Health
This Friday, July 16, the coalition to Stop Commercial Exploitation of Children, in conjunction with the Children’s Caucus, will host a Congressional breakfast briefing about what Time Magazine calls “the burgeoning and increasingly controversial business” of marketing directly to children. The briefing will be be hosted by Dr. Alvin Poussaint of Harvard Medical School and include panelists Enola Aird (the Motherhood Project), Michael Brody (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry), David Jernigan (Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth), Velma LaPoint (Howard University) and Susan Linn (Judge Baker’s Children’s Center).

Please call your Representative and urge them to attend this important briefing. (The phone number for the Congressional switchboard is 202-225-3121). And if you live in the DC area, why not attend? The briefing will be held in Room B354 of the Rayburn Office Building from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m.

Book Review: Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood by Susan Linn
This new book from SCEC’s co-founder Susan Linn is a comprehensive and unsparing look at the demographic advertisers call "the kid market." Drawing on the latest research and child development theory, Linn argues forcefully that many problems facing children and families – including childhood obesity, precocious sexuality, youth violence, and excessive materialism – all share an important contributing factor: the “marketing maelstrom” that targets children every waking moment. Some of the most damning evidence comes from the marketers themselves; when Linn goes undercover at a marketing conference, she hears plenty about market share and brand loyalty - but nothing about what’s good for children.

A must-read for parents, educators, policymakers, and anyone who cares about children, Consuming Kids is certain to inspire a new wave of activism among those who wish to reclaim childhood from commercial interests.

Daniel Hade and Karen Lewis Join the SCEC Steering Committee
SCEC is pleased to announce that two new members have joined the coalition’s already star-studded Steering Committee:

Karen Lewis is the Program Director for TV-Turnoff Network, a non-profit organization that encourages children and adults to watch much less TV in order to promote healthier lives and communities. Ms. Lewis also spent years as an activist in the tobacco wars, working to protect children from cigarette marketing.

Daniel Hade is an associate professor of Language and Literacy Education at the Pennsylvania State University. His specialty is children's literature.

Public Believes Youth Marketing Harms Children:
Results from a New Online Survey

According to recent online survey, Americans are extremely concerned about the practices of the youth marketing industry. The survey of 978 adults, conducted by psychologists Tim Kasser of Knox College and Susan Linn of the Media Center of Judge Baker Children’s Center, with Dads and Daughters, found that:

Most respondents (78%) believe that youth marketing harms children.
· 89 % believe marketing contributes to youth eating unhealthy foods that cause obesity.
· 91 % believe that marketing contributes to children nagging parents for things they want to buy.
· 90% believe that marketing contributes to youth being overly sexual.
· 93% believe the marketing industry contributes to children being too materialistic.

An overwhelming majority (84%) think that the industry is not doing a good job of keeping itself in check; in addition, 74% think that the industry should be subject to more government oversight.

"The people who responded to the survey don't hold a very high opinion of companies that market to children," said Dr. Kasser, noting that only 4% agree with the statement “the current practices of the youth marketing industry are ethical,” while almost 85% disagree.

In addition, most respondents favor restrictions on marketing to children.
· 81% believe that schools should be commercial free zones.
· 80% believe that marketing to children eight and under should be prohibited.
· 61% believe that marketing to children twelve and under should be banned.
 

To view the complete report of the Knox College/Judge Baker Children’s Center Survey, please click here.

Report from the Mother’s Council: Self-Regulation Isn’t Working
In related news, a recent report by SCEC coalition member the Mothers' Council found “a glaring gap between what the advertising industry says about self-regulation - and what it actually does.” Of particular concern: The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) – the cornerstone of the industry’s self-regulation efforts – has only seven full-time employees to monitor a $15 billion-a-year industry; CARU’s principles are “routinely ignored by many in the industry”; and CARU does not regulate many of the techniques such as advergaming and in-school marketing that are routinely used to target children.

“This report confirms what public opinion is telling us,” said noted psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint, “When it comes to marketing to children, self-regulation is not working. We need to find a better way to protect our children.”

To read the complete report, please visit: http://www.watchoutforchildren.org/html/word_from_sponsors.html


Name Your Coalition
We know. When we tell people about Stop Commercial Exploitation of Children, they inevitably say, “It sounds like you’re doing great work. But that name . . ..”
So the coalition to Stop Commercial Exploitation of Children will soon become the coalition formerly known as Stop Commercial Exploitation of Children. And the new name? That’s where you come in. Please send us your suggestions to scec@jbcc.harvard.edu by July 31. And if the Steering Committee selects your suggestion, you’ll get a signed copy of Susan Linn’s Consuming Kids.

SCEC Quad Cities
A group of concerned citizens and parents in the Quad Cities has formed an organization to address counter the commercial exploitation of children on a local level. With already nearly 40 members, SCEC-QC will work to raise public awareness about the harms associated with marketing to children and implement actions in the Iowa/Illinois area. If live the Quad Cities and are interested in joining SCEC-QC, please contact Kathy Bowman (563-359-6106;kbowman18@aol.com) or Joyce Wiley (309-797-5669; joycewiley@mchsi.com). And if you live anywhere and are interested in meeting with other SCEC members in your area, please let us know (scec@jbcc.harvard.edu)

Members Speak: The Joy of Doing Something
By Becca Arnold, Citizens for Responsible Media (www.medialegislation.org)

As I sat listening to the California Assembly Committee on Entertainment and Tourism discuss State Parks, I shifted restlessly in my chair, knowing that the issue that had brought me to Sacramento was next on the agenda. I had been asked just that morning to testify. I had never even attended a hearing – much less spoken at one! But the legislation was desperately needed -- a proposal to require parental permission for children to purchase violent video games. A closet activist, I had spent most of the last four years tracking violent media legislation around the United States and posting it to my website; while only timidly and occasionally publicizing my views aloud.

When this bill was introduced, I knew it had little chance of passing. But I also knew that, pass or fail, the more publicity around the bill, the more parents and elected officials would be hearing that protecting our children from emotional media abuse is government business. These seeds of awareness would likely take years to flower, but they would never flower at all unless someone started planting. So with that conviction I opened my closet door and stepped out, closed it firmly behind me, and very quickly learned how to lobby.

I write this article in the hopes of inspiring other closet activists. I write to inspire you by letting you know that my first lobby effort was invigorating, joyful, and – most importantly – easy. Getting the bill passed was not easy – in fact, it did not pass. But being a freshman lobbiest was easy – and the minutes and hours I spent at it were unarguably some of the most meaningful in my life. I’m hooked.

So here is what I did, for use as a primer by others:

1. I called the office of the legislator who introduced the bill, and told the legislative aide that I was ready, willing, and able to help in any way they could use me.
2. The aide gave me a list of supporters, and I telephoned or emailed all of them asking them to publicize this bill to their organizations, friends, and family. I wrote the email “blurb” for them to make it as easy as possible, and sent a link to my webpage where I put extra information about the bill.
3. I kept contact with the aide, so that each time the bill progressed (or regressed) I could decide which supporters to re-contact with new email messages.
4. I heard of a preschool convention in my town, and set up a table with information.
5. I chose to go to Sacramento to show support as the bill was heard in Committee. I also chose to speak, but most of the supporters did not..

And that’s it! Any small or large parcel of what I did is what any concerned citizen could do! It was easy because the gratitude of others accepted and encouraged even the smallest and clumsiest effort a beginning lobbiest like myself put forth. And next time I’ll know more and do more!

Back to the Committee meeting. On that April morning, minutes after agreeing to speak, I sat looking at the group of people a few rows up, hired by the entertainment industry. I knew they had a presentation that was polished to a fine sheen by dozens of other testimonies – testimonies at states and cities whose noble attempts at protecting their own children had dotted my webpage for the past four years.

Had I ever even been in a Committee hearing? Once, while on a field trip in grade school? Maybe? I was a little nervous – but why wasn’t I terrified? I didn’t even have anything prepared! Asking those questions of myself I realized with deep conviction that I had more right to be speaking than anyone else in that room. I was speaking for children, so what could there be to fear? I looked again at the hired industry testifiers and wondered if they were nervous. I wondered how they would sleep that night – especially those with children of their own. I could only guess about them, but I knew that I would sleep very, very soundly. And I did.


Things We Wish We Didn’t Know

About 140 Mastercard employees have “volunteered” to teach lessons in personal finance to high school students in the St. Louis area . . . 1

To make eating more fun, Pringles potato chips will have trivia questions printed on them using ink made of food coloring. Even more frightening: A Pringle’s spokesperson says the chips may have ads printed on them in the future. . . 2

McDonald’s is hoping to make their “I’m lovin’ it” theme into an audio logo. For instance, the theme will be played regularly at NBA basketball games next year. “Imagine hearing those five notes filling a basketball stadium every time a three-point shot is made," gushed Larry Light, executive vice president and global chief marketing officer at McDonald's. . . 3
 

 

JOIN SCEC

FOR INDIVIDUALS: With a minimum $25 tax deductible membership you receive:

  • A one year SCEC membership

  • SCEC e-newsletter

  • Notification of events in your area

FOR ORGANIZATIONS: With a minimum $100 membership you receive:

  • All individual benefits

  • Organizational link from the SCEC web page

  • Publicity for your events and activities

  • Opportunities to collaborate

SCEC Membership Fees:

$10            Student
$25            Individual
$50            Supporter
$100          Organization
$250          Advocate
$500          Activist
$1000        Stakeholder

Checks should be made out to:

SCEC/Judge Baker Children's Center

and sent to:

Barbara B. Sweeny / SCEC
Judge Baker Children's Center
3 Blackfan Circle, Boston, MA 02115

To make a credit card contribution, please contact Abigail Thomas at athomas@jbcc.harvard.edu


1 Credit card employees help at school, but raise questions. Associated Press. (May 23, 2004). Retrieved May 24, 2004 from http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/local/8740196.htm?1c

2 Nolan, J. (2004, May 22). Eating your words. Associated Press. Retrieved May 24, 2004 from http://washingtontimes.com/business/20040521-101101-9319r.htm.

3 Ives, N. (2004, May 24). For McDonald's, the 'I'm lovin' it' phrase. The New York Times, C1

 

 

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