CCFC Blog

Imagine a baby waking at night and being soothed not by a loving adult, but by a device equipped with a camera, microphone, and speaker. As the baby grows, she begins to form an attachment to her “digital nanny.” For years, she plays with, talks to, and confides in it – all under the watchful eyes of the manufacturer and its retail partners.  This isn’t dystopian fiction. It’s Mattel’s vision of Aristotle, an always-on, artificially intelligent device for kids that the company planned to release in 2018.  But before that could happen, CCFC took action. We organized privacy and child development experts to explain how Aristotle threatened children’s wellbeing. We helped legislators ask Mattel pointed questions about how it would use kids’...
You did it! On October 4, Mattel announced it will not release Aristotle, an AI device for babies and children. Mattel’s announcement came just two days after CCFC and The Story of Stuff Project sent the company more than 20,000 petition signatures urging them to shelve the device. Aristotle was an always-on "smart home" device like Amazon Echo, designed specifically for kids: starting from birth, it would track children's eating, sleeping, and play. It would have given Mattel and its corporate partners around-the-clock access to kids' most private moments. Mattel boasted that Aristotle could soothe a crying baby, and they hoped children would form close emotional ties with the data-gathering robot. We...
We are thrilled to announce the launch of our newest initiative: The Children’s Screen Time Action Network! We know that far too many kids are spending far too much time with digital devices, and that excessive screen time undermines children’s wellbeing and exposes them to harmful marketing. We’ve heard from countless teachers, pediatricians, librarians, psychologists, early childhood professionals, and other practitioners who see every day how screens are interfering with kids’ healthy development. They’re ready to move beyond diagnosing the problem and start working together to create solutions. We built the Children’s Screen Time Action Network with and for these professionals. Guided by an Advisory Board of child...
On October 19, 25 experts and public health organizations called on the producers of Channel One News, a commercial network shown in school classrooms, to update their advertising policies to stop advertising unhealthy food and beverages to children. Channel One’s 10-minute broadcasts include two minutes of ads and are viewed daily by millions of middle and high school students. Signatories to the letter to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which owns Channel One, include the American Heart Association, the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), among others. The advocates say Channel One’s “Advertising Policies and Guidelines...
A number of brands of “smartwatches” intended to help parents monitor and protect young children have major security and privacy flaws which could endanger the children wearing them. A coalition of leading U.S. child advocacy, consumer, and privacy groups sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today, asking the agency to investigate the threat these watches pose to children.  Smartwatches for children essentially work as a wearable smartphone. Parents can communicate with their child through the mobile phone function and track the child’s location via an app. Some product listings recommend them for children as young as three years old.  Groups sending the letter to the FTC are the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC...
We’re parents, and proud ones. Our kids, now ages 20 and 23, have each already enjoyed healthy, respectful relationships, which we regard as a far better marker of functional personhood than grades or money. Still, we’re glad they can support themselves now. Our only regret is having let them spend so much time with screens when they were kids, and then buying them laptops and smartphones which encouraged the practice. If we knew then what we know now, we would have deliberately carved out more time for family conversations and activities in real life. When the kids were small, screens didn’t seem like a big deal. “We trust their native instincts with food, and with rest,” we thought, “so why not trust their instincts on play?” Our parents...
Did you know that the average age children get their first smartphone is now ten? That’s incredibly young to be constantly connected to the internet; to worry about documenting every moment to share with friends and followers; to have unlimited access to games designed to be addictive; and to be accessible 24/7 to data miners and marketers who don’t have your best interests at heart. And of course, if ten is the average, that means many six, seven, and eight-year-olds now have their own phones as well. As young children see their friends getting phones, they naturally want one too. And parents, sometimes against our better judgement, often give in because we don’t want our children to be socially isolated...
Recently a group of parents and I started to discuss the mounting pressure to give our children their own smartphones at an early age.  We questioned why so many young children at school, sports, and parties are glued constantly to their smartphones. We wondered why on earth a first grader needed the latest iPhone 7. We agreed that the average age a child receives a smartphone—10 years old—is too young considering all the risks the device poses. Smartphones are extremely distractive and addictive. The unrestricted access to the internet exposes them to sexting, cyber-bullying, and sexual predators. Plus, children are not emotionally equipped to navigate tricky social media waters. Viewing someone else’s highlight reel on social media often...
Canada’s Parliament is considering a law that would ban junk food marketing to children under age 17. Food and nutrition researcher Monique Potvin Kent has conducted studies which point to an urgent need for these protections. Her concerns addressed to Canadian parents will resonate with parents everywhere. Dear Parents, I’m writing you because you may be in the dark about the amount of unhealthy food and beverage marketing your children and teens are viewing. This is not your fault. It’s our current reality. We’ve let food and beverage companies have a huge influence on our children. Twenty-five years ago, a parent might be expected to see and control most if not all advertising their child was exposed to on network TV and at the...
What if: Instead of taking, posting, and tagging pictures, we simply observe and be? Instead of broadcasting the eclipse for virtual audiences, we decide sharing with those we’ve chosen to watch with is enough? Instead of centering ourselves in the middle of the eclipse, we choose to experience our own cosmic insignificance in the face of one of the universe’s most spectacular events? Instead of modeling distraction for our kids, we let them model awe and wonder for us? Too often in our social media/smart phone era, we trade presence for documentation. If a once-in-a-lifetime event isn’t enough to make us appreciate the now, what is? 

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