March 11, 2009
Contact: For CCFC: Josh Golin (617-896-9369; josh<at>commercialfreechildhood.org)
For CSTA: Robert Kesten (202.641.6310; email@example.com)
For Immediate Release
Advocates ask PBS Sprout to Put The Good Night Show to Bed;
Television is Not a Sleep Aid
Citing evidence that television viewing before bed undermines healthy sleep habits, advocates for children are urging PBS KIDS Sprout to stop packaging its evening programming as The Good Night Show. In a letter to Sprout President Sandy Wax, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) and Center for SCREEN-TIME Awareness wrote, “there is no justification for luring preschoolers to the Good Night Show by implying to their parents that the show will help children get ready for bed.”
The Good Night Show, which airs every evening from six to nine on Sprout, consists of popular cartoons like Thomas the Tank Engine and The Berenstain Bears, interspersed with original sleep-themed content. The original segments feature Nina, the host, and a puppet named Star, who take on the role of parent and child respectively. Sprout claims The Good Night Show “helps preschoolers wind down after a busy day.”
“Parents trust that programming on PBS and its affiliated networks will be beneficial to children,” said CCFC’s Director Dr. Susan Linn. “Sprout is exploiting that trust by implying that its programming will ease children into sleep when research suggests that screen time before bed undermines healthy sleep habits.”
For children three years and younger, television viewing is associated with irregular sleep patterns. Studies have also found that older children who watched TV at bedtime were more likely to have difficulty sleeping. The Good Night Show may also have the unfortunate consequence of encouraging parents to put televisions in children’s bedrooms, a practice which has been linked childhood obesity and poor academic performance. The National Sleep Foundation calls television a “sleep stealer” and urges parents to avoid making television a part of their bedtime routine.
“Putting a baby or young child to sleep is a time when bonding takes place and we should not be lulled into believing that television or computers make that process better,” said Robert Kesten, Executive Director for the Center for SCREEN-TIME Awareness. “Screens cannot and should not replace time that a parent or loved one spends with a child. When television programmers and marketers assume that they know more than doctors and educators about what is best for our nation's children, we all lose.”
Instead of helping with the transition to bedtime, The Good Night Show seems intent on keeping children glued to Sprout. During the February 23rd show, for instance, thirty-five ads for Sprout programming and its website, www.Sproutonline.com ran during The Good Night Show. Twice during that show, Star successfully lobbied Nina to stay up longer. After Star finally went to sleep at 8:40, Nina introduced the next cartoon by telling viewers, “If it’s not your bedtime yet, let’s see who’s here to play with us.” At the show’s conclusion, an ad exhorted children to “Get on your way. Get your dad. Get your mom. Go to Sproutonline.com. For the perfect way to wind down your day, join Nina and Star from The Good Night Show.”
“It is disturbing that that even as late as 9:00 p.m. – after three hours of television viewing – Sprout would encourage its preschool audience to ask parents for even more screen time.” said Dr. Linn. “At a time when everyone from public health advocates to President Obama is encouraging parents to turn off screens, a network that benefits from public financing shouldn’t be promoting its brand at the expense of children’s sleep.”
Added Kesten, “It is disappointing when well respected brands do not provide the information parents and caregivers need to make educated decisions about using that product or watching that program. This is the case with Sprout TV and The Good Night Show.”
The complete text of the letter can be found at http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/pdf/lettertosprout.pdf.
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is a national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups and concerned parents who counter the harmful effects of marketing to children through action, advocacy, education, research, and collaboration. CCFC is headquartered at the Judge Baker Children's Center in Boston. www.commercialfreechildhood.org/.
The Center for SCREEN-TIME Awareness is the leading nonprofit organization focused exclusively on the impact of electronic media on health, education, families and the workplace. The organization encourages children and adults to control the use of electronic tools to promote healthier lives and communities – reclaiming time for families, friends and ourselves. Since 1995, more than 50 million people have participated in Turnoff Week. (April and September 20-26, 2009) www.screentime.org.