Parents to Nickelodeon, Disney, and Cartoon Network: Pull the Plug on PG-13 Ads

Date of Release: 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

May 26, 2010
Contact:  Josh Golin (617-896-9369; josh<at>commercialfreechildhood.org)
For Immediate Release

Parents to Nickelodeon, Disney, and Cartoon Network:  Pull the Plug on PG-13 Ads

BOSTON -- May 26 -- As the film industry ramps up its annual summer advertising assault promoting violent blockbusters to young children, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has launched a letter-writing campaign urging major children's television networks to stop airing advertisements for PG-13 movies and their related merchandise before 8:00 PM. The PG-13 rating states that parents should be "strongly cautioned" that "material may be inappropriate for children under thirteen."  This spring, CCFC found more than 2,000 commercials promoting Iron Man 2 - rated PG-13 "for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence" - before 8:00 PM on the Nickelodeon, Nick Toons, Disney XD, and the Cartoon Network.

"It's wrong for children's television networks to profit by advertising violent media to young children," said CCFC's Director Dr. Susan Linn.  "Nickelodeon, Disney, and the Cartoon Network all claim to be family-friendly, but they are aiding and abetting the film industry its efforts to seduce young children, and convince their parents that these violent, PG-13 movies are appropriate for kids as young as preschoolers."

CCFC's research conclusively demonstrates violent PG-13 films are extensively marketed to young children through ads on children's networks when a disproportionate number of their youngest viewers are watching.  CCFC monitored programming where children under twelve-including large numbers of children under six- typically make up more than 50% of the audience for the programming.   The more than 2,000 advertisements promoting Iron Man 2 included commercials for the film itself, as well as ads for Iron Man 2 toys and Burger King Iron Man Kids Meals that promote the film and foster the false impression that it's appropriate for young children.  Last summer, during the same programming, CCFC found more than 5,000 commercials promoting Star Trek, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

Commercials promoting Iron Man 2 ran on popular children's shows ranging from Jimmy Neutron to Pokémon to Garfield.  In a report to Congress in December, the Federal Trade Commission documented the widespread marketing of PG-13 movies to children under thirteen.  The FTC also found that studios conducted market research for PG-13 movies on children as young as seven.
 
"Marketing violent PG-13 movies on children's television programming is harmful to children." said Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige, author of Taking Back Childhood and a CCFC Steering Committee member. "Research shows that children are more affected by the violent acts they see on the screen than adults and that they are less able to understand them in the context of character, motive, and plot.  Because of this, children are especially vulnerable to the desensitizing effects of violence in entertainment."

Since 2007, CCFC has called for restrictions on the marketing of PG-13 movies to young children.  Marketing movies directly to young children that the film industry itself has declared may be inappropriate for children under thirteen sends a confusing message to parents by undermining the integrity and effectiveness of the rating system.  As a result of CCFC's efforts, the Federal Trade Commission is urging the Motion Picture Association of America to develop an explicit policy ensuring that PG-13 movies are marketed in a manner consistent with their rating.  So far, the MPAA has refused.  

"The children's networks are as culpable as the film industry," added Dr. Linn.  "They are the conduit through which violence-packed blockbusters become must-see events for elementary and preschool children.  The networks court parents' trust, but there is nothing family-friendly about selling young children on media violence."   

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