Parents to FTC: Don’t Surrender Our Children to G.I. Joe; Thousands sign CCFC petition to stop the marketing of violent PG-13 movies to young children

Date of Release: 

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

August 5, 2009
Contact:  Evan Silverstein (617.278.4174;
For Immediate Release

Parents to FTC: Don’t Surrender Our Children to G.I. Joe
Thousands sign CCFC petition to stop the marketing of violent PG-13 movies to young children

This week’s premiere of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, rated PG-13 for “strong sequences of action violence and mayhem throughout,” marks the culmination of a summer-long barrage of marketing for violent blockbusters targeting children as young as preschoolers.  Today, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) sent a petition to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) signed by thousands of parentsurging the FTC to stop the film industry from targeting young children with their advertising for PG-13 films.  Since March, nearly 5,000 advertisements for five violent PG-13 films and their related merchandise have aired on children’s television stations, such as Nickelodeon and Disney XD.  

Sixteen months ago, in response to CCFC’s complaint, FTC staff urged the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to devise a marketing plan consistent with the PG-13 rating, which comes with the warning, “Parents Strongly Cautioned:  Some Material May be Inappropriate for Children Under 13.” To date, the MPAA has not complied. 
“As evidenced by this summer’s advertising assault, the MPAA is continuing its policy of indifference to children’s wellbeing,” said Susan Linn, CCFC’s Director and a psychologist at Judge Baker Children’s Center. “Since the violent movies targeting young children today would have received the more restrictive R rating a decade ago, it’s more urgent than ever that we stop this onslaught.”

The petition, signed by over 3,000 parents, states, “Marketing PG-13 films to young children sends a confusing message to parents and increases the likelihood that kids will be exposed to media content that even the film industry believes may be inappropriate for them.” 

Ads for the five violent films,  X-Men Origins: Wolverine; Star Trek; Terminator Salvation; Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen; and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, were shown on children’s channels between 6:00AM and 8:00PM, when young children were likely to be watching. Three of the films, Star Trek, Transformers, and this week’s G.I. Joe, were also cross-promoted through movie-themed Burger King Kid’s Meals designed for children well under thirteen years old. All of the films were heavily promoted through ads for licensed toys, some of which are for children as young as two.

“Families are undermined when violent films are advertised during children’s television programs—especially through toy promotions,” said CCFC’s Diane Levin, a professor at Wheelock College. “It makes it harder for parents to deny requests to see the film when children are subjected to a steady stream of ads telling them that that products linked to the film are especially for them.”

That PG-13 films are marketed with toys for young children was also of special concern to CCFC members Mark and Amanda Lindberg, who said “It is not that romanticizing war is new, our literature and movies have done that for years. The difference now is that we market movies with an intense level of violence to young children with toys that allow young children to recreate violent scenes of which they should never have been aware. In essence, we have taken the movies from ‘war is hell’ to ‘war is play.’”

Mark is a Sergeant in the US Army who served in Iraq.

Added Dr. Linn, “When it comes to the film industry and marketing violent PG-13 movies to young children, it’s clear that self-regulation has failed.”

To read CCFC’s petition, please visit

To see where and when this summer’s PG-13 movies are being advertised on children’s television, please visit

To read CCFC’s 2009 letter to the FTC, please click here.