January 2017

Put Screen-Free Week on your spring calendar; CCFC members help put the kibosh on Michigan school billboards; Despite public opposition, National Park Service approves commercialism in parks; Three big retailers have pulled spying doll from shelves; Thank you to our donors!; Film review: The Beginning of Life; Increased gun violence in PG-13 films linked to superheroes

Newsletter HTML: 

*Action alert: we need RI, CT, and NH members to help protect kids from in-school food marketing!*

In this issue: 

  • Put Screen-Free Week on your spring calendar 
  • CCFC members help put the kibosh on Michigan school billboards
  • Despite public opposition, National Park Service approves commercialism in parks
  • Three big retailers have pulled spying doll from shelves
  • Thank you to our donors! 
  • Film review: The Beginning of Life 
  • Increased gun violence in PG-13 films linked to superheroes
  • Recommended reading

Put Screen-Free Week on your spring calendar

From May 1 - 7, 2017, children and their families will take a break from screen entertainment to reconnect with each other and life! Whether you’re a school, a faith community, or a family, you know how quickly the calendar fills up — and celebrating Screen-Free Week is something you won’t want to miss. We make it easy by providing handouts, pledge cards, and other resources that are easy and fun to use. And this year, we’re partnering with Children’s Book Week, encouraging children and families to read books together – classic favorites or new titles – while they take a break from screen entertainment. 

Last year, Washington elementary school student Landon shared that he "loved Screen-Free Week because there was no TV and I got to play with my brother, Noland. We played outside a lot."

There are so many great ways to go screen-free, and so many ideas being shared about it online! Click here to find out more about organizing both events this spring.

CCFC members help put the kibosh on Michigan school billboards

In a big victory for children in Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder has vetoed a bill which would have allowed digital billboards to be erected on public school property. CCFC partnered with Scenic Michigan on a petition drive to oppose the measure, and when the state legislature passed the bill, we sent Governor Snyder the petition with signatures from 115 Michigan residents and a letter urging him to veto. As we told the Governor, marketing does not belong on school grounds, where vulnerable kids can’t turn it off and where products and services advertised appear to have the endorsement of the school or faculty. These bright billboards would have also posed a danger to children by distracting passing drivers. Thanks to the CCFC members who helped send a message to the Governor, which we hope will resonate in other states: billboards don’t belong near schools! 

Despite public opposition, National Park Service approves commercialism in parks

In December, leadership at the National Park Service (NPS) finalized Director’s Order 21, which permits greater corporate presence and influence in our national parks. The decision came despite public opposition: over 215,000 people signed a petition hosted by CCFC and our partners asking the NPS to abandon plans to permit corporate sponsorships, naming rights, and branding in parks; 78% of 345 public comments filed with the agency opposed the policy; and 66 health groups asked the NPS to forgo plans to permit partnerships with alcohol sellers and recognition of their products in parks. The NPS did respond to our opposition by removing a provision that would have allowed corporate logos to be displayed on park “exhibits and waysides.” But the order permits naming rights to rooms and galleries within park facilities, as well as corporate branding on park benches, bricks, furnishings, and park service vehicles. It also lifts the ban on partnerships with alcohol sellers. Though not the result we hoped for, we appreciate all who took action to fight for this cause, and we will continue to urge the stewards of our parks to protect their special nature and preserve them as a refuge from the marketing noise we face everywhere else. 

Three big retailers have pulled spying doll from shelves

Last month, CCFC was part of a coordinated global action to stop Internet-connected toys from spying on children. We joined the Center for Digital Democracy, the Consumers Union, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center in filing a Federal Trade Commission complaint against the makers of My Friend Cayla and I-Que, two toys with serious privacy and security violations. We also asked major retailers to stop selling the dolls. We reported last month that Toys”R”Us had pulled the dolls from stores, and now Target and Walmart have followed suit. Amazon is the only large retailer that has yet to respond to our plea to protect children from these snooping dolls.

Thank you to our donors!

CCFC extends a huge thank you to the many friends who donated to our year-end campaign. Your generosity allows us to keep working on behalf of children everywhere. 

As one donor put it, “We are concerned that it will become even easier for commercial interests to take priority over the public good. And we feel a duty to help fund organizations like CCFC that are dedicated to the both the public good as well as helping to set appropriate boundaries on commercial interests.

Now more than ever, we need to help families reclaim childhood from corporate interests. With such uplifting words, we’re heading into 2017 inspired by the enthusiasm our supporters have for our work. Thank you!

Film review: The Beginning of Life

Our friends at the Alana Institute in Brazil invited us to a recent Boston screening and discussion of the movie The Beginning of Life. Director Estela Renner and crew traveled to nine countries around the world to explore the intricate relationship of genetics, parent-child connection, and the home environment one baby at a time. This beautifully executed film, at times laugh-out-loud funny and at times heartbreaking, is available on Netflix and for free on Alana’s VideoCamp. What we love about the film is that it follows families without naming the country where they live, highlighting all the things babies, toddlers, and caregivers share regardless of race, geography, or economic status. The film, which includes interviews with early childhood researchers, challenges viewers to reflect on what separates us and what is universal, and, ultimately, how we can use the beginning of life to create a stronger future for all.

Increased gun violence in PG-13 films linked to superheroes 

A new study in Pediatrics shows that for six of the past 10 years, PG-13 films have contained more gun violence than R-rated films. The study’s authors point to the popularity of superhero franchises like The Avengers, which typically contain high levels of gun violence but sneak through with PG-13 ratings because the violence is “fantastical.” They point out, though, that there’s actually not any evidence that “fantastical” violence is less harmful to kids—but there’s plenty of research showing a link between aggression and exposure to media violence. This is especially troubling because these violent superhero films are marketed to children as young as three through toys, clothes, cereals, and other licensed products. 

Recommended Reading