Spring 2004

Demand a Congressional Investigation of Marketing and Advertising to Children; Express Your Opinion About Marketing to Children; Report from the 3rd Annual Summit and Toy Fair Protest; Federal Trade Commission to Accept Complaints on Media Violence; Kaiser Family Foundation Report Links Marketing to Childhood Obesity; APA Calls for Restrictions on Television Advertising to Children; Legislative Corner: The Children's Listbroker Privacy Act & Citizen's for Responsible Media; Upcoming Events: ACME's Declaration of Media Independence Summit and TV-Turnoff Week; Turning Off TV One Day at a Time; Things We Wish We Didn't Know; Pop Quiz; 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 .  


  • Demand a Congressional Investigation of Marketing and Advertising to Children

  • Express Your Opinion About Marketing to Children

  • Report from the 3rd Annual Summit and Toy Fair Protest

  • Federal Trade Commission to Accept Complaints on Media Violence

  • Kaiser Family Foundation Report Links Marketing to Childhood Obesity

  • APA Calls for Restrictions on Television Advertising to Children

  • Legislative Corner:  The Children's Listbroker Privacy Act & Citizen's for Responsible Media

  • Upcoming Events:  ACME's Declaration of Media Independence Summit and TV-Turnoff Week

  • Turning Off TV One Day at a Time

  • Things We Wish We Didn't Know

  • Pop Quiz

  • Join Us!



SCEC ACTION: Demand a Congressional Investigation of Marketing and Advertising to Children

The coalition to Stop Commercial Exploitation of Children (SCEC) is calling on Congress investigate to marketing and advertising aimed at children.  Children are bombarded with advertising almost every waking moment. They see 40,000 ads on television alone – and this figure does not include the numerous commercial messages they encounter through product placement and tie-ins with toys, food and accessories. Nor does it include advertising through other media such as the Internet or movies. 

A growing body of evidence that marketing aimed at children is linked to a rise in obesity rates, eating disorders, precocious sexuality, and violence among children. Marketing also promotes materialistic values in children – and in the process undermines family values and parental authority. The American Psychological Association has just called for restrictions on all television advertising aimed at children under the age of eight.

Congress has been holding important hearings on the Super Bowl halftime show. But no investigation into the media can be complete without a similar investigation into the advertising and marketing practices aimed at children. After all, it was the “anything goes” mentality among marketers that helped create the media climate that led to the Super Bowl debacle.

Please join SCEC in demanding immediate congressional hearings and a comprehensive investigation by the Federal Trade Commission or the General Accounting Office into advertising and marketing practices aimed at children.  SCEC coalition member Dads and Daughters has generously agreed to host this important campaign on their website.  Please go to http://dads.e-actionmax.com/showalert.asp?aaid=522 to send a letter to your representatives, as well as Senator John McCain and Representative Fred Upton who led the recent hearings on the Super Bowl.


Express Your Opinion About Marketing To Children

Researchers at Knox College, the Judge Baker Media Center, and Dads and Daughters are conducting a survey of public opinion about the ethics of marketing to children.  

Advertising and marketing is a big part of most children's lives.  However, we know very little about how parents, caretakers, teachers, and other adults feel about marketing and advertising directed at youth.  It is important for the general public to express their opinions about this issue. SCEC strongly supports this effort and urges you to go to the web site, complete the survey, and pass it along to family, friends and colleagues as soon as possible. All of the data must be collected by April 15. 


To fill out the survey please visit www.dadsanddaughters.org and follow the link in the middle of the page that says “Marketing to Youth.”  The survey takes about 5 -10 minutes to complete.  The results of the survey will be made public in May.


SCEC Takes Manhattan:  Report from the 3rd Annual Summit and Toy Fair Protest

On February 14, about 100 activists, scholars, concerned parents and citizens demonstrated their commitment to children by spending their Valentine’s Day at SCEC’s third annual summit, “Consuming Kids: Toying with Children’s Health.”  While down the hall at the Roosevelt Hotel marketers gathered at a conference sponsored by the marketing rag Kidscreen to plan new advertising strategies for targeting youth, attendees at the SCEC summit heard from leading scholars, authors, and activists about the harms associated with marketing to children.  Presenters detailed the new and insidious techniques used by marketers; the sexualized, violent, and unhealthy products marketed to children; and how such marketing has a negative impact on every aspect of children’s lives, including their physical and oral health, their body image, their creativity, and their family’s well-being. 


The day was not, however, all doom and gloom as presenters described important strategies for resisting the commercial onslaught directed at children--including calls to legislators, letter-writing campaigns to corporate executives, coalition building, and the threat of litigation.  Enola Aird concluded the summit with a rousing “Call to Action” in which she detailed the “window of opportunity” presented by the attention to the Super Bowl fiasco and urged gathered crowd to “set our country on a new path toward a healthy culture of childhood.”


Summaries of many of the presentations are available at: http://www.commercialexploitation.com/events/speakers.htm


The following day, participants gathered at the International Toy Fair  - “The Business of Play” –  to demand that toy manufactures:

·        Stop marketing toys that promote junk food.

·        Stop marketing toys that promote precocious sexuality.

·        Stop marketing toys that promote violence.

·        Stop marketing adult media through children's toys.

·        Stop marketing toys directly to children eight and under.

At the conclusion of the protest, Diane Levin, Susan Linn, and Nancy Carlsson-Paige (accompanied by a documentary film crew) returned four toys – a Lil Bratz fashion doll, Yasmin; a Play-Doh McDonald’s Restaurant; a Strech N’ Roar Hulk; and a Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines Figure: Arnold and delivered a letter to Toy Industry Association Tom Conley.


The protest captured the interest of many passing pedestrians – whose reaction was overwhelmingly positive – and apparently raised the ire of at least one toy manufacturer.  The next day, Dr. Levin, attending the Toy Fair to assist Boston Globe parenting columnist Barbara Meltz, who was writing a story about toys that are good for children, was told by Hasbro (the manufacturer of the Play Doh McDonald’s) that she would not be allowed to visit their exhibit.


Federal Trade Commission to Accept Complaints on Media Violence

This just in from the FTC:  “The Federal Trade Commission has expanded its consumer complaint handling system to categorize and track complaints about media violence, including complaints about the advertising, marketing, and sale of violent movies, electronic games (including video games), and music.”  SCEC encourages its member to use this new system to voice their concerns.  To file a complaint, use the Commission’s online complaint form, available at http://www.ftc.gov, or call toll-free at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).” 


Kaiser Family Foundation Report Links Marketing to Childhood Obesity

Yet another reason to protect children from marketing.  In a comprehensive review of the research on media use and childhood obesity, the prestigious Kaiser Family Foundation has concluded, "(I)t appears likely that the main mechanism by which media use contributes to childhood obesity may well be through children's exposure to billions of dollars worth of food advertising and cross-promotional marketing year after year, starting at the very youngest ages, with children's favorite media characters often enlisted in the sales pitch."  To read more about the report, please visit: http://www.kff.org/entmedia/entmedia022404pkg.cfm


APA Calls for Restrictions on Television Advertising to Children

SCEC  lauds American Psychological Association’s (APA) recent call for federal restrictions on advertising aimed at children under eight years old.  With this announcement, APA becomes the nation’s first professional organization in more than twenty years to recommended restrictions on all television advertising to young children.  SCEC Steering Committee Members Susan Linn, was on the task force that crafted the new APA position.  Allen Kanner, Velma LaPoint, and Priscilla Hambrick-Dixon were advisors.  To read more, please visit: http://www.commercialexploitation.com/Pressreleases/apa.htm


Legislative Corner

There are a number of important legislative developments in the ongoing struggle to protect children from exploitative marketing practices.  SCEC urges its members to contact their representatives about the following legislation:



The Children’s Listbroker Privacy Act (S. 2160)

This legislation, introduced by Senators Ron Wyden and Ted Stevens, would limit the sale of children’s personal information by marketers.

The bill notes “commercial listbrokers routinely advertise and sell detailed information on children, including names, addresses, ages, and other data, for use in marketing.  This data is commonly available on children as young as two years old, enabling marketers to target specific demographics such as junior high school, elementary school, or even preschool.”[i]   S. 2160 would help parents protect their children from such exploitative practices by prohibiting corporations from selling the personal information of children below 16 for commercial marketing purposes, without parental consent.

Please call both your U.S. Senators today.  Ask them to co-sponsor the Children's Listbroker Privacy Act (S. 2160).  The congressional switchboard phone is 202-225-3121. 


From Citizens for Responsible Media

Legislation has just been introduced in the California House to prohibit retailers from renting or selling violent video games to minors.  It is important that all those in California who support this measure contact their representatives, and spread the word about the bill as widely as possible. Similar laws in other states and jurisdictions have been difficult to pass, and when passed have not fared well in the courts. Within a few years, the Supreme Court is likely to be asked to decide on one of these laws.


Please go to www.medialegislation.org for information about the bills. From the home page you can link to detailed information about the California legislation and a sample letter to your representative.  The webpage also contains information about legislation in ALL states, and the US Legislature.  Please take a look for your home state.


Featured Organization:  Kids Can Make a Difference

This month’s SCEC featured organizations is Kids Can Make a Difference.  To read more about the exciting work that KIDS does and why they are a member of the coalition to Stop Commercial Exploitation of Children, please visit http://www.commercialexploitation.com/featuredorg/kids.htm.  A coalition is only as strong as its members.


The Declarations of Media Independence Summit – July 1-4, 2004

The Action Coalition for Media Education (ACME), the University of San Francisco and Media Alliance, announce the "Declarations of Media Independence!" Summit, to be held at the University of San Francisco from July 1-4, 2004. The Summit promises to be a unique gathering of teachers, students, parents, researchers, public health advocates, media justice activists, reformers, and independent media makers committed to working for a more just, sustainable and democratic media culture for this next century.


Our current corporate media system leaves children extremely vulnerable to predatory marketers.  Now more than ever, our world needs a coalition championing independent media literacy education, production, media justice, and media reform efforts. Join the "Declarations of Media Independence" Summit, and let your voice be heard!


For more information, including a call for proposals for workshops and teach-ins, please visit www.acmecoalition.org.



10th Annual TV-Turnoff Week: April 19-25

TV-Turnoff Week 2004, the only national celebration of the low-TV lifestyle, will take place on April 19-25.  On average, American schoolchildren spend more time each year (over 1,000 hours) in front of the television set than in the classroom.  The average American will watch over nine years of television in his or her lifetime.


Stop Commercial Exploitation of Children supports TV-Turnoff Week because even in today’s changing media landscape, television remains the primary way in which marketers target children.  American children will see, on average, 40,000 television commercials this year (a figure that doesn’t even include product placement and licensing).


Turning off television gives us a chance to move, think, read, create, and do. To take a step back from consumer culture. To connect with our families and engage in our communities. And that’s why so many people get on board; TV-Turnoff Week is spearheaded by the more than 17,000 local organizers who make the event a celebration of life in their schools, communities, religious bodies, and more.


To learn more, including how to organize a TV-Turnoff week in your school, organization or community, please visit TV-Turnoff Network on the web at www.tvturnoff.org or call them at 202.333.9220.            


Turning off the TV One Day at a Time

From SCEC member Benjamin Eliasoph:  “As a supporter of SCEC, I wanted to share an effective action we have undertaken as a family.  Together, we picked one day per week where no one in our family will watch TV.  And we (3 kids and my wife and I) all signed a simple contract promising to comply.  Every family can make their own “contract”.  Ours said ‘no TV, videos, DVD’s etc’, also ‘if something really important to you is on, you can record it, but not watch it that day’. Initially, the kids griped about it, but surprisingly, when the first day/evening came around, they played together, then we all played a board game, and we had time for reading together too.  It was so calm -- like we had recaptured some timeless sense of just “being.” And this from a family that does not watch a lot of TV, although the kids can go for it in stages.”


Benjamin has been generous enough to share his family’s no TV contract with SCEC in the hopes that other families will download it, make it their own, and implement it together.  He notes, “I feel any success we'll have out of this is due to our modest goal-one day a week only.  Hopefully, this will show our kids, and others who sign on, that ANY day can be TV free, not only one day a week.” 


Things We Wish We Didn’t Know

  • On March 22-24, retailers will gather in Las Vegas for the GlobalShop conference to learn the latest about in-store marketing.  There they will attend seminars such as “It’s a Teen, Teen World” and “Young Children as Consumers”.  The description of the latter notes, “children under the age of 12 hold powerful sway over their parents' purchase  decisions.  . . .  (This) dynamic has yet to be fully leveraged in the retail environment and has implications for product placement (think beyond the checkout aisle!), displays, store design, cross-promotions, and product ‘sampling’.”[ii]   It also, we might add, has implications for parents who hope that a trip to the store will be a nag and conflict free experience. 

  • The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to pass HR 339, “The Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act” to protect the food industry from obesity related lawsuits.  Litigation, of course, played a major role in changing the tobacco industry’s marketing practices, and thus if this bill becomes law, it would deprive advocates of an important weapon in the fight against childhood obesity.  The House's action was denounced by Michael Jacobsen of the Center for Science in the Public Interest who noted, It is pathetic to see a Congress that has done virtually nothing to stem the tide of the obesity epidemic leap so enthusiastically to the defense of the food industry. Congress should be debating meaningful policies to help Americans eat well and maintain healthy weights.”  Polices, we would add, that should include protecting children from marketing.

Pop Quiz

Where does the following quote appear?


“More and more marketing to children is a losing proposition.  At some point, society will say enough is enough and the current permissive environment will shift in the opposite direction.”


A) In “Consuming Kids:  The Hostile Takeover of Childhood,” the forthcoming book by SCEC co-founder Susan Linn

B) On Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign website

C) On the Kidpower Xchange website (Kidpower Xchange is an industry source for youth marketing information.  They host several conferences a year to help marketers target children). 


If you picked C (and you didn’t, did you?), you’re right.  Kidpower Xchange recently surveyed youth marketers and the preliminary results are telling.  Respondents felt children under the age of nine were unable to view advertising critically or separate fantasy from reality in media, and the average response to the question, “At what age do you feel most young people can make intelligent choices as consumers” was 11.7 years old.[iii]  In another poll sponsored by AdAge.com, the 77 % of nearly 1,000 industry respondents felt there is “a direct link between TV ads and childhood obesity.”[iv]


In other words, even people in the advertising industry are starting to have concerns about the impact marketing has on children.   AdAge quoted one respondent as saying,  “Of course there is a direct correlation (between advertising and childhood obesity).  Before children can even read they know what they want simply based on package recognition.  How many adult cereals do you see with bright colors and animated characters on the package?  None.”


Raising public awareness of how advertising harms kids is the first step towards changing “the current permissive environment” that allows marketers unfettered access to children. 

In coming months and years, SCEC looks forward to working together on the next steps--  targeting the most egregious corporate offenders with actions, working to make our schools and communities commercial-free zones, and passing legislation to end marketers’ access to our children.


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