CCFC Urges PBS Sprout to Put The Good Night Show to Bed; FCC to Conduct BusRadio Study Requested by CCFC; Teachers Tell Scholastic to Shape Up!; Hardy Girls, Healthy Woman Says No Makeover for Dora; Celebrate Turnoff Week: April 20-26; Editorial: Dora the Ex-Explorer by Susan Linn
CCFC Urges PBS Sprout to Put The Good Night Show to Bed
Citing evidence that television viewing before bed undermines healthy sleep habits, CCFC and the Center for SCREEN-TIME Awareness are urging PBS KIDS Sprout to stop packaging its evening preschool programming as The Good Night Show.Sprout claims The Good Night Show “helps preschoolers wind down after a busy day.” But research links screen time before bed to sleep difficulties. Furthermore, The Good Night Show seems more concerned with keeping children glued to Sprout then helping with the transition to bed. During the February 23rd show, for instance, thirty-five ads for Sprout programming and the Sprout website ran during The Good Night Show. During that same show, one of the show’s characters twice lobbies his parent figure on the show to stay up later. And at the show’s conclusion, Sprout ran an ad encouraging children to join the show’s stars online.
“It is disturbing that that even as late as 9:00 p.m. – after three hours of television viewing – Sprout would encourage its preschool audience to ask parents for even more screen time.” said CCFC’s director Susan Linn. “At a time when everyone from public health advocates to President Obama is encouraging parents to turn off screens, a network that benefits from public financing shouldn’t be promoting its brand at the expense of children’s sleep.”
FCC to Conduct BusRadio Study Requested by CCFC
The Omnibus Appropriations bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last week contains an important provision for advocates for commercial-free education. The provision, championed by Senator Dorgan of North Dakota, directs the Federal Communications Commission to study whether specially designed commercial radio broadcasts for school buses are in the public interest. CCFC requested the study because of our concerns about BusRadio, the controversial company that hopes to make listening to its commercialized radio broadcasts a compulsory part of the school day for children who ride the bus.
The FCC report will shine an important spotlight on BusRadio’s practices and the content of its broadcasts. The company operates under a veil of secrecy despite the fact that it conducts business on publicly funded school buses. We thank Senator Dorgan, who once called BusRadio “a low-grade form of child abuse,” for his efforts in securing this important study. The provision can be found here http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/pdf/omnibus.pdf.
Teachers Tell Scholastic to Shape Up!
“Our school is taking a stand against mass marketing to children. Scholastic is a Book Club and should not be an advertising base for products marketed to children. We see this as exploitation! Our teachers will not beused as salesmen.”~ Jeanne Voltz-Loomis, Pre-K Teacher, Myrtle Beach, SC.
When nearly 5,000 CCFC members told Scholastic to “Put the book back in book club,” a Scholastic executive told the New York Times, “We work with teachers to make sure that items are O.K. to put out in their classrooms.” But teachers all over the country are telling a different story. More than 800 people have already signed CCFC’s teacher petition to Scholastic and many have included personal, eloquent expressions of discomfort about promoting toys and plastic trinkets to their students. Some have stopped distributing the flyers altogether.
If you’re a teacher and you have not yet signed the petition, please take a moment to do so by visiting http://www.comercialfreechildhood.org/scholastic. If you’re not a teacher, please share our petition with the teachers you know by visiting http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/621/tellafriend.jsp?tell_a_friend_KEY=4134. And be sure to visit our Shape Up, Scholastic headquarters at http://commercialfreechildhood.org/actions/scholastic.html for information and resources for countering Scholastic’s in-school commercialism.
Hardy Girls, Healthy Woman Says No Makeover for Dora
The announcement that Mattel and Nickelodeon are teaming up to create a tween Dora the Explorer line, featuring fashion dolls, accessories, and a link to new online Dora world, has generated a lot of commentary (e.g., the editorial by CCFC’s Susan Linn below), outrage, and activism. CCFC member organization Hardy Girls, Healthy Woman and Packaging Girlhood.com have launched a petition demanding no makeover for Dora. More than 8,000 people have already signed the petition which reads, in part, “If the Dora we knew grew up, she wouldn't be a fashion icon or a shopaholic.” You can sign it too at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Dora_Makeover/. And be sure to check out http://packaginggirlhood.typepad.com/ for more about the campaign.
Celebrate Turnoff Week: April 20-26
CCFC is proud supporter of international Turnoff Week, a time for families to turn off screens, get active and involve themselves in their communities. Over 20 million people will participate and, with events being planned in every state, there is no excuse to find yourself alone and attached to the TV or computer. In December, the National Institutes of Health released a review of 30 years of studies on screen-times impact. The study reveals alarming health concerns, ones that lead to a breakdown of family and society. Turnoff Week is the first step in reversing this trend and a door to a new way of life. To find out more about how your family or your school can participate, please visit the Center for SCREEN-TIME Awareness at www.screentime.org.
Editorial: Dora the Ex-Explorer by Susan Linn
When Nickelodeon launched its hit animated series, Dora the Explorer, ten years ago, women all over the country cheered. Dora was a great model for little girls. She was feisty, smart, devoted to math and science—and a bilingual child of color to boot. Never mind that her image was used to push everything from burgers to backpacks. That she is a strong, positive role model is often cited as proof that, despite its commercialism, Nick is a force for good in modern childhood.
The limits of relying on market forces to produce positive models for little girls were made painfully obvious recently when Nickelodeon and Mattel announced the launch of a new Dora doll and virtual world. The little science loving spitfire will be growing up a bit. She’s forsaking science for shopping. She’s moving to the big city, acquiring loads of new clothes and accessories, and—from the looks of it—an incipient case of anorexia.
The original PR scheme for the new doll went badly awry. Dora’s new silhouette, but not her actual image, was released, unleashing a storm of protest. It bore a striking resemblance to another newly acquired Mattel property—the highly sexualized Bratz. The furor was so intense that a new press released was issued, complete with a clearer image, in order to reassure a frenzied public.
The new Dora may not look exactly like the Bratz dolls, but she sure looks like a sexualized ten-year-old, makeup and all. In any case, the problems with her impending transformation extend beyond physical appearance. Although she may not look exactly like the Bratz, she’s following them into the fashion biz. And, thanks to the wonders of technology, she’s morphed into a tool to lure girls online. The new doll is aimed at 5- to 10-year olds, but once this new, happening, fashion-plate Dora is launched, the word at preschool juice tables around the country will be that the old Dora—the inquisitive Dora, the Dora who explored,—is “babyish.” Hordes of ever-younger girls in the throes of renouncing babyhood, will yearn to spend hours immersed in a Dora branded virtual world playing Dora games, obsessing about Dora’s appearance, cyber shopping and, presumably, doing some real shopping as well.
Mattel may need a new fashion brand to boost sagging profits, and Nick may need more ammunition in its battle with Disney for the lucrative 6 - to 11-year-old market, but the last thing little girls need is a Dora the Explorer turned clothes horse. They don’t need to aspire to yet another impossible body type. They don’t need to be preoccupied with appearance. And they don’t need the message that smart little girls relinquish science for shopping the moment they hit kindergarten.
What they do need is a new role model.
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