October 2013

Shutdown HappyMeal.com; New report shows exciting and concerning screen time trends; Expanding our efforts to reduce children’s screen time; CCFC at NAEYC; Federal Employees: Consider a Donation to CCFC Through the Combined Federal Campaign; Recommended Reading, Listening, and Viewing; Happy Halloween!

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Shutdown HappyMeal.com

At a time when parents and advocates for children are urging junk food marketers to stop targeting children, McDonald’s advertising assault on kids is escalating. Its website, HappyMeal.com, is a leading online destination for kids, featuring ads for the latest Happy Meal toys, photo opportunities with Ronald McDonald, and games - all designed to make children into devoted and lifelong McDonald’s customers. All marketing to young children is deceptive, but it’s even more exploitative when advertisements masquerade as fun and games. That’s why CCFC is joining with Corporate Accountability International and noted food activist Anna Lappe to demand that McDonald’s shut down HappyMeal.com. More than 10,000 parents have already signed petitions demanding the fast food giant end its online exploitation of children. Please visit http://org.salsalabs.com/o/621/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=14334 to keep the pressure on!

New report shows exciting and concerning screen time trends

Earlier this week, Common Sense Media released a new report “Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America 2013” with some encouraging news. On average, young children are spending less time with screen media than they were two years ago. It’s the first evidence that the coordinated and persistent efforts of parents and public health advocates to reduce children’s screen time are having an impact.

At the same, there is reason for concern. Most troubling, the total amount of time that babies spend with all forms of screen media has not decreased – despite recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics to discourage screen time in the first years of life. And many more babies and toddlers are using mobile devices. Given the negative association between excessive screen time and school achievement it is also worrisome that children from lower income families continue to spend more time watching television than their wealthier peers.

Expanding our efforts to reduce children’s screen time

The Common Sense Media report highlights the need to prioritize reducing children’s screen time. That’s why we’re excited to welcome Sara Adelmann to CCFC as our new Screen Time Project Manager. Sara will head up our efforts to help parents find fun and creative alternatives to screens and work with early childhood educators who are Facing the Screen Dilemma. In the CCFC blog, Sara reflects on her first month at CCFC and looks forward to the challenges ahead.


We’re excited to have a big presence at the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s annual conference in Washington DC on November 20-23. If you’re attending, don’t miss presentations by CCFC’s Susan Linn and Sara Adelmann, Steering Committee member Diane Levin, and the Alliance for Childhood’s Joan Almon. And be sure to visit us at booth 2530 in the exhibit hall where we’ll be giving away great new resources for working with families and welcoming votes for this year’s TOADY Award for Worst Toy of the Year!

Federal Employees: Consider a Donation to CCFC Through the Combined Federal Campaign

Attention federal employees: CCFC is part of the Combined Federal Campaign, the world's largest annual workplace charity campaign. We’ve also been awarded the Independent Charities of America Seal of Excellence, which is given only to organizations that have, upon rigorous independent review, been able to certify, document, and demonstrate that they meet the highest standard of public accountability, program effectiveness, and cost effectiveness. Please consider a workplace gift to CCFC. You can find us in the CFC giving brochure as “Children’s Protection from Exploitation; STOP Harmful Advertising,” #83229.

Recommended Reading, Listening, and Viewing

  • Clowning Around with Charity: How McDonald's Exploits Philanthropy and Targets Children. This groundbreaking report by CCFC Steering Committee member Michele Simon exposes how McDonald’s uses the Ronald McDonald House Charities to market its junk food to children and adults and shield itself against widespread criticism of its practices. You can learn more in this blog post by Michele and in this article from USA Today.
  • How Video Games Are Getting Inside Your Head – and Wallet. A must-listen for parents – NPR explores the disturbing intersection of surveillance and marketing in video games connected to the Internet. Game companies study and monitor players’ behavior in order to manipulate game environments to get kids to play even longer. They also try to frustrate players so they'll make in-game purchases in order to progress.
  • The Myth of Choice: How Junk Food Marketers Target Our Kids. The latest installment in Anna Lappe’s Food Mythbusters is an eye-opening look at how food marketers manipulate children.

Happy Halloween!

This fall, we’ve watched in horror as the commercialized assault on Halloween has escalated. Marketers push the worst gendered stereotypes and even sexualized costumes on young children.

The good news is that many parents are pushing back on these commercial excesses and returning Halloween to its rightful place as one of the most fun and imaginative days of the year. We’d love to hear about your Halloween. If you’re on Facebook, let us know what your community has planned, what the children in your life are dressing up as, and please post pics if you want to share. You can also email us at ccfc(at)commercialfreechildhood.org. Happy Halloween!