August 2014

The End of the Road for Your Baby Can Read!; This Clown Doesn't Belong in Schools; Featured Resource: Facing the Screen Dilemma; Barbie and The Girl Scouts: It Gets Worse; Tell LEGO: Don’t Let Shell Pollute Our Kids’ Minds; Recommended Reading

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The End of the Road for Your Baby Can Read!
In a major victory for families, the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement with Dr. Robert Titzer, creator of Your Baby Can Read. The settlement is the final chapter in CCFC's long effort to hold the makers of Your Baby Can Read!—a $200 video series that encouraged parents to put infants as young as three months in front of screens—accountable for its false and deceptive advertising.

In 2011, CCFC and its attorneys at Georgetown University’s Institute for Public Representation filed a FTC complaint documenting how the marketing of Your Baby Can Read! was rife with false and unsubstantiated claims about infant learning. The FTC filed false advertising charges against Your Baby Can LLC and Dr. Titzer the following year. Your Baby Can and former CEO Hugh Penton agreed to settle the FTC's charges, but Dr. Titzer formed a new company, The Infant Learning Company, and continued to claim Your Baby Can Read! could teach babies as young as nine months to read. As part of the new settlement, Dr. Titzer and The Infant Learning Company are now barred from using the insidious phrase “Your Baby Can Read.” Both defendants are also prohibited from making any unsubstantiated claims about the performance of any product that teaches reading and Dr. Titzer is barred from endorsing any product unless he has a reasonable basis for its marketing claims.

This Clown Doesn't Belong in Schools
CCFC is leading an international effort to put an end to Ronald McDonald’s in-school appearances. In May, CEO Don Thompson told McDonald’s shareholders, “We have been marketing responsibly.” He later added, “We don’t put Ronald out in schools.”

It’s great that Thompson acknowledged that “marketing responsibly” includes keeping Ronald McDonald out of schools. But his claim that McDonald’s doesn’t put Ronald into schools is simply not true. Regional McDonald’s websites actively promote Ronald McDonald’s availability for schools. Under the guise of promoting everything from reading to healthy lifestyles, Ronald regularly appears at preschools and elementary schools across the United States and around the world.

Earlier this summer, CCFC sent a letter—signed by a coalition of 48 advocacy organizations from around the world—urging Thompson to stand by his words to his shareholders. But he needs to hear from you, too. Click here to tell McDonald’s to stop putting Ronald in schools.

Featured Resource: Facing the Screen Dilemma
Research tells us that developing children thrive when they are talked to, read to, played with, and given time for creative play, physically active play, and interactions with other children and adults. And there’s no research showing the benefits of introducing children to new technologies in the first years of life. Yet educators face increasing pressure to use digital technologies with young children, taking valuable time and resources away from activities proven to benefit learning and development. That’s why CCFC and our friends at Alliance for Childhood and Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment (TRUCE) created Facing the Screen Dilemma: Young children, technology and early education. Packed with relevant research and practical tips, Facing the Screen Dilemma is the first guide designed to help early educators make informed decisions about whether, why, how, and when to use screen technologies with young children. To download your free copy, please visit http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/screendilemma.

Barbie and The Girl Scouts: It Gets Worse.
As if encouraging girls to wear a branded Barbie patch on their uniforms isn’t bad enough, Mattel and Girl Scouts USA have escalated their co-branding partnership by introducing a Barbie Girl Scout Doll—pink capris, high heeled hiking boots and all. The doll is the latest component of a $2 million, 3-year deal to promote Barbie to young scouts that includes the patch and an online Barbie game on GSUSA’s website.

Nearly 6,000 people have signed our petition urging GSUSA to end the partnership and our concerns have been featured in dozens of media outlets around the world. If you haven’t already, please join CCFC and Center for a New American Dream to urge the Girl Scouts to end this harmful partnership with Barbie. And if you have a personal relationship with the Girl Scouts (e.g. parent of a scout, troop leader, former scout) and would like to get more involved in this campaign, please let us know by replying to this email.

Tell LEGO: Don’t Let Shell Pollute Our Kids’ Minds
Over 850,000 people have joined the global campaign urging LEGO to “block Shell.” For the past two years, Shell and LEGO have partnered on an ad campaign that includes co-branded toys, billboards, celebrity endorsements, videos, and a full-size LEGO Formula One car. More than 16 million Shell-branded LEGO sets have been sold at gas stations in 26 countries, including Brazil, the Philippines, Pakistan, and Australia.

Using toys to advertise any kind of product to kids is wrong. But, as CCFC’s Susan Linn and Greenpeace’s Travis Nichols explain in the Huffington Post, it’s particularly harmful to sell children on a company whose environmental record and plans to drill in the Arctic are rightfully incurring an international barrage of criticism and challenges.

Recommended Reading

  • CCFC’s Josh Golin asks, Did the CEO of Big Mac Tell a Whopper to His Shareholders?
  • A new study finds that sixth-graders who spent five days at an outdoor camp, unplugged and media-free, were much better at “recognizing non-verbal emotional cues (facial expressions, body language, gestures)" than kids who stayed home and continued their regular media diet. Yet another reason to celebrate Screen-Free Week!
  • Teacher Tom looks back on his childhood and laments what happens when school becomes big business: “What too many children have today instead of play: nagging, drilling, and coaxing.”
  • Discussions about gendered marketing often focus on the harmful and limiting options presented to girls. But, as this powerful piece by Sarah Bernhardson reminds us, the absolute divide between the pink and blue aisles isn’t good for boys, either.
  • Tired of tripping over toys or just want to teach your kids that gifts don’t have to equal stuff? Here’s a great list of 18 non-toy gifts to give your children or suggest to family and friends as gift ideas.
  • Karen Dempsey reflects on witnessing the incredible joy her young daughter takes in discovering what adults might consider “mundane” things: leaves, rocks, recycled packing material.