July 2012

Victory! No More “Your Baby Can Read!”; New Summit Date: March 21-23, 2013; Tell the FTC: Stop Merck from Pushing Drugs on Kids; We Made Our Match!; Important New Research; Recommended Reading & Viewing; Support CCFC

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In this issue:

  • Victory! No More “Your Baby Can Read!”
  • New Summit Date: March 21-23, 2013
  • Tell the FTC: Stop Merck from Pushing Drugs on Kids
  • We Made Our Match!
  • Important New Research
  • Recommended Reading & Viewing
  • Support CCFC

Victory! No More “Your Baby Can Read!”

In an important victory for children and families, the company responsible for deceptively marketing the video series Your Baby Can Read! has ceased operating. Last year, CCFC petitioned the FTC to stop Your Baby Can Read!'s deceptive marketing, which claimed that a “short window of opportunity” for reading begins in infancy. There is no evidence that any such “window” exists, nor is there evidence to support any of the company’s pseudoscientific claims. Five months after CCFC’s request for a federal investigation, TV advertising for the $200 product, targeted mainly to parents from disadvantaged backgrounds, stopped completely. And now the company has shut its doors.

In addition to CCFC’s FTC petition, the company had been battling class action suits and was the subject of this incriminating Today Show piece. The program then ran this follow-up segment featuring CCFC’s FTC complaint, and ran another last week. You can also read about CCFC's hand in this latest victory over the "genius baby" industry in the Associated Press, the L.A. Times, and Jezebel.

New Summit Date: March 21-23, 2013

Mark your calendars! A new date has been set for the CCFC Summit, where teachers, parents, health professionals, and advocates from all over the country (and the world!) convene in Boston to tackle the commercialization of childhood. Save the date of March 21-23, 2013 so you don't miss this event. (Please note that this date replaces the original, set for September 2012.) For a taste of what CCFC summits are like, check out the recap of our last gathering.

Tell the FTC: Stop Merck from Pushing Drugs on Kids

Kids shouldn’t be targets for pharmaceutical sales pitches. That’s why we’re urging you to tell the FTC to investigate Merck's Madagascar 3-themed Children’s Claritin® allergy medication marketing. Packaging for Merck’s Grape-Flavored Chewable Children’s Claritin® features characters from Dreamworks' new Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted movie, and each box offers “5 free stickers” to purchasers. While Merck officials claim the promotions are aimed at adults, it’s clear the company is targeting children. And to make matters worse, the same characters being used to promote Claritin® are being used to market Airheads candy and General Mills (Betty Crocker label) Fruit Snacks, creating the risk that children will confuse the medication with candy. Our friends at the Public Health Advocacy Institute have asked the FTC to investigate Merck’s marketing, but the agency needs to hear from you, too. Please tell the FTC: Stop Merck from pushing Claritin® on children.

We Made Our Match!

Our June fundraising drive was a great success. Thanks to everyone who donated and especially to CCFC supporter Ranae DeSantis for matching all donations for a total of $30,000. For the corporations we challenge that may not seem like much, but it makes all the difference to us here at CCFC. (And if you didn’t have a chance to give before, you can always make a tax-deductible contribution at http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/donate.)

Important New Research

  • Researchers from Knox College find that girls as young as 6 want to be "sexy" and equate sexiness with popularity. But on the positive side, they find that mothers can have a strong effect on whether girls think of themselves in sexualized terms. (See also Melissa Wardy’s interesting critique of the study in the Pigtail Pals blog.)
  • A new study out of Montreal shows that the more time 2- to 4-year-olds spend watching TV, the greater their waist size and poorer their sporting ability as 4th graders.
  • And other research from Quebec finds the province’s 32-year ban on marketing to children is effective. The findings show that the ban has caused an $88 million per year reduction in spending on fast food and up to 18.4 billion fewer calories from fast food consumed each year.
  • Douglas Gentile at Iowa State University finds in his newly released study that exposure to media violence is a risk factor for predicting later aggressive or "bullying" behavior.

Recommended Reading & Viewing

Susan Linn explains why creative play, free from screen technology, is essential for children to thrive in the New York Times' Sunday Dialogue.

Annie Leonard, the recipient of CCFC’s 2010 Fred Rogers Integrity Award, releases a follow-up to her celebrated short film, Story of Stuff. It’s called Story of Change, and you can watch it here.

On the creepy side: Here’s an article about a marketing company that interviews a child each month and shares the information it gathers with other kiddie marketers. The program, called “Muse of the Month,” is designed to help marketers better understand children’s lives and development so they can target them more effectively. For example: "One of our Muses was a five-year-old boy who was a Star Wars fanatic. He was too young for the Star Wars movies but got interested in the brand through action figures that other kids brought to school. Then he began to ask for Star Wars Wii games and Lego sets. So it's not only media that can open doors for marketers.”

And these top toys lists might come in handy when deciding which toys not to buy this year.

Support CCFC


We rely on you because we will not compromise our commitment to children by accepting corporate fuding. To make your tax-deductible donation, please visit http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/donate.