Fall 2003

SCEC's 3rd Annual Summit; News: SCEC Tells Pediatric Dental Academy to "Say No to Coke"; SCEC Member News: TRUCE Toy Guide; Book Reviews: Psychology and Consumer Culture and Food Fight; Things We Wish We Didn’t Know; Editorial: Baby Einstein? Baby Exploitation; Join Us!

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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.  


  • SCEC's 3rd Annual Summit

  • News: SCEC Tells Pediatric Dental Academy to "Say No to Coke"

  • SCEC Member News: TRUCE Toy Guide

  • Book Reviews:  Psychology and Consumer Culture and Food Fight

  • Things We Wish We Didn’t Know

  • Editorial:  Baby Einstein? Baby Exploitation.

  • Join Us!

SCEC's 3rd Annual Summit - Consuming Kids:  Toying with Children’s Health

 When: February 14, 2004–an all day event.

 Where: The Roosevelt Hotel, 45 East 45th Street at Madison Avenue, New York City

As in years past, this SCEC summit combines activism with education. Even as marketing executives at the Roosevelt Hotel plan advertising strategies at a conference sponsored by Kidscreen Magazine, we will be on another floor of the same hotel telling the world about childhood obesity, violence, eating disorders and other harms associated with marketing to children.  Confirmed speakers include Alvin Poussaint, Juliet Schor, Diane Levin,  Joe Kelly, Susan Linn, Velma Lapoint, Jim Metrock and many more.

SCEC’s summits have raised public awareness of the advertising industry’s harmful manipulation of children through press coverage all over the world.  According to The Chicago Daily Herald, SCEC “deserves the thanks of parents everywhere for publicizing the advertising industry's failure to consider children's overall welfare.”  Last year SCEC’s summit prompted the editors of the prestigious British medical journal, Lancet, to call for a ban on marketing and advertising to children

Conference fee: $50. $25 for SCEC members. Limited scholarships are available. 

To register, email Barbara Sweeny  bsweeny@jbcc.harvard.edu or call (617) 232-8390 x 2329

NEWS: "Stop Selling Out to Coke" SCEC and Dentists Urge Pediatric Dental Academy

Why did the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) accept $1 million in “research” money from Coca-Cola at a time of growing concerns about the role of soft drinks in causing dental and other health problems for young people?  Because that question has no reasonable answer, SCEC and a prestigious group of dentists and dental school professors sent a public letter to AAPD asking them to return the money and refuse such entanglements in the future.

The letter asks AAPD to “[C]onsider carefully the message it provides the public, whether explicit or implicit, regarding the oral health of children.”  It concludes, “We find it hard to imagine a research funder less appropriate for the AAPD than Coca-Cola, the world’s most popular brand of soda.  The implicit message this AAPD-Coca-Cola partnership sends to the American public is troubling:  If the protectors of children’s dental health – pediatric dentists – are teaming up with Coca-Cola, surely soft drinks cannot be harmful.” 

As AAPD member and University of Alabama at Birmingham associate professor of pediatric dentistry John Ruby notes, “A partnership between the world’s largest producer of soft drinks and an organization founded to protect children’s oral health flies in the face of AAPD’s mission, not to mention common sense.”

The letter calls on AAPD to immediately:

  • Terminate their current relationship with Coca-Cola and return the research funds.
  • Commit to refusing funding from any company whose products are known to contribute, or are suspected of contributing, to children’s poor oral health or poor general health.
  • Issue a strong statement opposing soda “pouring contracts” in schools.

The letter has attracted significant media coverage, including stories from the Associated Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, and National Public Radio.  In addition, the Daily News ran a scathing column questioning both the AAPD and National PTA’s partnerships with Coke. 

SCEC’s letter and the Coke-AAPD partnership were hot topics at the recent American Dental Association convention, where, in stark contrast to the AAPD, the ADA voted to take a strong stance opposing pouring right contracts and the marketing of soft drinks to children.

To read the full text of our letter to the AAPD, go to http://www.commercialexploitation.com/saynotocoke/letter.htm

To send your own letter to the AAPD, please visit http://dads.e-actionmax.com/showalert.asp?aaid=432


"2003-2004 TRUCE Toy Action Guide" Available in Time For Holiday Season.

For the past 9 years, Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children's Entertainment has prepared a guide to help adults think about how to use this holiday gift giving season as an opportunity to promote positive and creative play for children and counteract the negative impact of commercial culture. The guide has lists of Recommended Toys and Toy Trends to Avoid and suggestions for how to promote healthy play and advocate for a less commercialized play environment for children. To download the guide for your family and friends and to distribute at schools and community events go to: www.truceteachers.org. You can also contact TRUCE at: truceteachers@aol.com.


Tim Kasser and Allen D. Kanner (eds.) Psychology and Consumer Culture: The struggle for a good life in a materialistic world.  

This important book assembles a distinguished group of psychologists and educators to provide a searing assault on what editors Tim Kasser and Allen Kanner–both psychologists and SCEC members–call “the culture of consumption.” Chapter authors address consumerism’s effect on everything from culture, ethnicity, and child development to consciousness, gender roles, identity, psychopathology, work stress, and family conflict. It should be required reading for parents, educators, health care professionals, students of all the social sciences, and for anyone looking to lead a meaningful life in a world besot with materialistic values.  Contributors include SCEC members , Priscilla Hambrick-Dixon, Jean Kilbourne, Velma Lapoint, Diane Levin, and Susan Linn.

Kelly Brownell and Katherine Battle Horgan, Food Fight:  The inside story of the food industry, America’s obesity crisis, and what we can do about it. 

Food Fight is a powerful look at how our “toxic environment” has given rise to an obesity epidemic and a dramatic increase in obesity-related health problems.  Of particular interest to SCEC members are chapters that detail how the food industry manipulates children through television advertising, toy tie-ins, and in-school promotions.  Brownell and Horgan call for a broad social movement to transform the current food environment and offer an important list of recommended actions and protect children.  While these recommendations do not include a call to end all marketing aimed at children, Food Fight provides a compelling argument why we should.


  • “Too busy to read your child a bedtime story,” writes the Washington Post,  “Not to worry. America Online Inc. wants to come to your rescue, with a new online service for kids to be launched at the end of the month that will, among other things, allow your little one to choose a wholesome bedtime story to be read aloud by the computer.”  Now if only AOL can figure out a way to feed those pesky kids . . . [1]  

  • From our friends at Commercial Alert:  The new Udvar-Hazy Center at the Smithsonian National Air and Space will feature a plane called the Laser 200, which is covered in advertising in Bud Light.  If you question whether a taxpayer funded tourist attraction popular with children and adolescents is an appropriate place to market beer, please visit http://www.commercialalert.org/index.php/category_id/3/subcategory_id/45/article_id/198  

  • Product placement may be the best way of reaching chidren ages 8-12, proclaims a new market research report.  Three-quarters of "tweens" say they notice what brands characters on TV and in movies use and 72 % say that seeing their favorite characters use a product makes them want to use it.  Skits on American Idol featuring contestants using sponsors’ products were particularly effective at blurring the lines between advertising, programming, and reality.  Kids were almost twice as likely to watch these skits than clearly delineated ads, and almost half thought the show's contestants really used the featured products.[2]

  • That we're in the middle of a worldwide obesity epidemic doesn’t appear to be slowing down junk food producers’ commercial assault on children.  Taco Bell recently spent about $7.1 million for television advertising aimed at teens for the fast food chain’s new “open late drive through” campaign.  Taco Bell ads appeared on teen favorites such as Fear Factor, Boston Public, and Survivor Amazon. [3]  Meanwhile, Kellogg’s—makers of American Idol Hot Fudge Sundae Pop-Tarts--spent almost $1 million just on targeting younger kids watching Yo-Gi-Go and Pokemon.[4]

  • CREEPY MARKETING PRACTICE OF THE MONTH:  A number of corporations are turning to “neural marketing”, hiring neuroscientists to conduct research on how the brain reacts to different products, brands, and advertisements.[5]

EDITORIAL: Baby Einstein? Baby Exploitation.

The news from the new Kaiser Family Foundation report, Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers, that 26% of children under two have a television in their bedroom is alarming on many levels, as is the fact that 68% of babies under two watch, on average, 2 hours of screen media per day.  Twenty seven percent of infants own a purportedly educational Baby Einstein video despite the fact that there is no evidence that watching TV or videos is beneficial in any way for infants.  And screen media do nothing to engage babies in the ways we know they learn best–through physical, multi-sensory interaction with their environment. 

What has been largely absent from news coverage of the Kaiser report is that the primary function of most screen media is marketing.  Children see about 40,000 thousand commercials on television alone.  Babies exposed to television–even those exposed to PBS–are being inundated with ads for junk food, toys and other products that aren’t good for them. 

Parents prop babies in front of screens for a variety of reasons–to give themselves a break, to watch TV themselves, and because they have been purposely misled about the educational value of screen time for infants and toddlers.  As advocates for children, we need to work harder on several levels.  We need to help parents understand the harms associated with marketing to children and themselves; many parents have bought the mistaken notion that they need technology to keep babies entertained and too often good parenting is thought to be synonymous with buying things for children. We need to help parents find providing environments for babies that are stimulating and free from commercial manipulation. We need to find ways of helping them manage the stress of raising young children.  We need to speak out in the media about the harms of exposing infants and toddlers to marketing messages.  We need to work together to end the corporate exploitation of young children and their families.  


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] David Vise, “ AOL's Appeal to Youth; Strategy to Hang On to Subscribers Targets Kids,” The Washington Post, September 10, 2003.

[2] Buzzback Market Research (2003, August).  Tweens exploratory.  New York.

[3] Teen targets. (2003, October 27). Adweek (Special Report Teen Marketing), p28.

[4] http://www.poptarts.com/promotions/pt_chillout/index.shtml

[5] Clive Thompson, “There's a Sucker Born in Every Medial Prefrontal Cortex.”  The New York Times Magazine, October 26, 2003.