CCFC Blog

 A new study from researchers at the University of Virginia finds that watching SpongeBob SquarePants has a negative influence on preschoolers' executive functioning. Children who watched 9 minutes of the show scored significantly worse on assessments designed to measure memory and problem solving skills than children who watched a slower-paced cartoon or kids who spent 9 minutes drawing. The findings are important, but perhaps not as important as Nickelodeon’s startling announcement when asked about the study. The children’s network told CNN that SpongeBob is intended for 6-11-year-olds, not preschoolers, which is a bit surprising considering thatSpongeBob is consistently among the highest rated shows for young...
The following post was written by guest bloggerBrandy King. After spending the last eight years working with research on children and media, Brandy now faces the challenge of raising two young boys in a media-saturated and commercialized world. This is the first in a series of posts about attempting to maintain a commercial-free childhood for her sons. If you've faced similar challenges, we invite you to comment below about your struggles and successes.  "Cameron, look! This is the backpack you're going to take to preschool!" I said with genuine excitement as I pointed to the catalog picture. The primary-colored backpack with the embroidered dumptruck was just perfect for my little guy. "No!" he yelled in that charming way two-year-olds...
My initial thoughts about the Canadian couple refusing to make public the sex of their baby were not kind. It seemed like just another media circus fomented by parents exploiting their children for celebrity—like Jon and Kate, or the balloon boy. But two things made me change my mind. I listened to an actual interview with the couple on the CBC. And someone sent me pictures of a new French lingerie line for four year olds.  Despite important gains made by the LBGT community, 2011 is a lousy time to be trying to raise children of any gender with a healthy, nuanced sense of what it means to be male or female. The unprecedented convergence of unfettered commercialism and ubiquitous screen media means that we are inundated with what the...
The food industry is throwing a zillion-dollar tantrum to quash proposed national nutritional guidelines for food advertised to kids. Meanwhile, yet another research study came out demonstrating the harm done by advertising directly to children.  As concern about childhood obesity escalates, the barrage of kid-targeted marketing for unhealthy food is increasingly identified as a factor—not the sole cause, but an important part of the problem—which could easily be remedied. The evidence keeps building for the need to stop inundating kids with food marketing. Remember the study from Stanford showing that branding even trumps our senses, at least for preschoolers. Kids were given food wrapped in McDonald’s wrappers and the same food wrapped...
A recent article in the New York Times about how high school kids are spending their summers reminded me once again that the commercialization of childhood extends way beyond Happy Meals and sexualized clothing to compromise every stage of children’s development. A commercially saturated culture has a profoundly negative influence on children’s basic assumptions, values, life choices, and experience of living.  The Times profiled companies like Everything Summer that craft summer experiences for teenagers designed to translate into stand-out personal essays for college admissions. There’s so much wrong with this that it’s hard to know where to begin. Never mind that it’s yet another example of how unequal opportunity is in this country....
My contemporaries and I should be called Generation Deregulation. Born in the early 1980's, we were the first to grow up immersed in TV programs designed to sell us stuff. G.I. Joe, My Little Pony,Strawberry Shortcake, Ninja Turtles—these were the shows that dominated our after school time and playground play. Cartoon-linked products (lunch boxes, toys, clothing, you name it) were staples. Ours was a media- and merchandise-saturated environment from the get-go. We didn’t know any other world.  It’s no accident that these same shows are being introduced today to a new generation of children and reintroduced to their nostalgic parents, including the film version of the 1980s cartoon The Smurfs that debuted last week. Most of my generation...
The controversy brewing over a new breastfeeding doll soon to be sold in the United States reminds me of the bru-ha-ha about Teletubbies when Jerry Falwell accused Tinky Winky of being gay. People rightfully upset about homophobia came to the support of the show, misguidedly defending the goodness ofTeletubbies—which was being marketed, falsely, as educational for babies. Public discourse about Breast Milk Baby is following the same lines. Arguments over the doll are centered on culture wars—whether it is appropriate for young children to witness breastfeeding, imitate it, or even know what it is. Fox News Pundit Bill O’Reilly worries that it will make kids grow up to soon. The American rep for Berjuan Toys, the Spanish Company making the...
Thanks to you, schools will be less inundated with commercialism this fall.  In response to CCFC’s three-month campaign, Scholastic has agreed to cut way back its production and distribution of corporate-sponsored teaching materials.  Late last week, Scholastic contacted us to let us know that it was reducing its InSchool Marketing division—which  produces teaching materials sponsored by corporations, nonprofits, and government agencies—by approximately 40%.  And the overwhelming majority of cuts are coming from its corporate-sponsored materials.  You can read more about it in today’s New York Times. For years, Scholastic has produced teaching materials for corporate clients like Shell, Disney, and Nestle.  In May, after a...
As the economic pressures on school districts intensify, more and more are considering turning to school bus advertising as a way of ameliorating their budget woes. The impulse is understandable, but it would be great if more school boards did their homework before deciding to make compulsory exposure to school bus ads a part of children’s school day. In addition to being ethically unsound, school bus ads just don’t pay. Consider the case of Sumner County, Tennessee: the Board of Education has just filed a lawsuit against 1st Class Marketing for failing to properly pay the school district for ads sold on the district’s buses. The board’s contract with the marketing firm called for 60% of ad sales to go to the district. But to date, they’ve...
When McDonald’s sneezes, the media jumps. Such was the case yesterday when the fast food giantannounced it was giving the Happy Meal a makeover. Well not really, but that’s how it got reported, because the media loves simple stories. But when it comes to marketing and PR by multinational corporations, nothing is ever that simple. While my colleagues have done a great job of explaining why nutritionally, this move is little more than PR (see Marion Nestle and Andy Bellatti), missing from the analysis so far is this: what McDonald’s really wants is to remain in charge. The fast food giant’s motivation beyond the obvious positive PR spin is to stave off more laws like the one passed in San Francisco to set nutrition standards for Happy Meals...

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