Parents, Advocates Demand Film Industry Stop Marketing Media Violence to Preschoolers; Urge MPAA Chairman Dodd to Respond to Newtown with More Than Words

Date of Release: 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Contact: Josh Golin (617-896-9369; josh@commercialfreechildhood.org)

For Immediate Release

Parents, Advocates Demand Film Industry Stop Marketing Media Violence to Preschoolers;
Urge MPAA Chairman Dodd to Respond to Newtown with More Than Words

BOSTON -- January 23 -- In the wake of the tragic Newtown shootings, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is renewing its call for the Motion Picture Association of America to prohibit the marketing of violent PG-13 movies to young children. Since 2008, CCFC has documented that PG-13 movies are extensively advertised to young children on popular kids’ networks like Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Disney XD. In December, MPAA chairman Chris Dodd said that the film industry “stands ready to be part of the national conversation” about violence. Today, CCFC launched a letter-writing campaign to the former Connecticut senator urging the MPAA to address the epidemic of media violence with more than rhetoric.

“If the MPAA is serious about addressing media violence, it should stop film companies from relentlessly marketing PG-13 movies to preschoolers,” said CCFC’s director Dr. Susan Linn. “The PG-13 rating states that parents should be ‘strongly cautioned’ that ‘material may be inappropriate for children under thirteen,’ but the film industry is doing everything and anything it can to undermine parents and ensure that violence-packed movies are the talk of elementary and preschool playgrounds.”

Research repeatedly demonstrates that, for children, exposure to violent media is a risk factor for becoming desensitized to violence, lack of sympathy for victims, and aggressive behavior including bullying. Young children exposed to violent media have a higher tendency for violent and aggressive behavior later in life.

In 2008, after CCFC documented how extensively PG-13 movies were marketed to young children, the staff of the Federal Trade Commission urged the MPAA to devise a marketing plan for PG-13 films that is “consistent with the rating.” In 2010, the MPAA and the Children’s Advertising Review Unit announced an agreement where CARU refers advertisers that intentionally place PG-13 ads during kids’ shows to the MPAA to determine whether they have violated movie-industry guidelines. But this arrangement appears to have no teeth. To date, no film companies have been publicly sanctioned by the MPAA, despite the fact that violent PG-13 movies are regularly and extensively advertised to young children. In 2012, CCFC found 650 ads promoting Avengers (rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence) on Nickelodeon, NickToons, Cartoon Network, and Disney XD.

“Addressing our culture of violence requires complex and multifaceted solutions, but there are simple and meaningful steps that we could take right away,” said Dr. Linn. “By creating a policy that PG-13 movies can only be marketed to older children and adults, the MPAA could do a lot to ensure that young children aren’t exposed to harmful media violence.”

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