GET INVOLVED     |     ISSUES     |     NEWSROOM     |     RESOURCES     |     ABOUT US     |     CONTRIBUTE     |     SEARCH  








Workshop A (Friday, 10:45-12:00)


1.       The Case for Make-Believe:  Saving Play in a Commercialized World

Susan Linn, CCFC &  Joan Almon, Alliance for Childhood


Creative play is not only the foundation of learning, problem solving and critical thinking--it is essential for self-reflection, the human drive to make life meaningful.  Yet in a commercialized world, nurturing children's creative play is actually counter-cultural. Hands on play is no longer children's default leisure activity. More than ever--as marketing drives even very young children to a life of screens, and the best selling toys are electronic or media-linked and come with their own story lines--it is essential that we all work to provide children with the time, space, and tools that foster imaginative play.  This workshop explores how we meet the 21scentury challenges of insuring children's right to make believe play.


2.       Media Literacy for the New World Order and Adolescent girls learn about the importance of being "hot"

        Susan Owusu, Boston YWCA and Jessica Greenstone, Tufts University


This two-part workshop will explore new research that illustrates how media messages are undermining adolescent girls healthy development and how media literacy can be used to encourage youth to be critical consumers of media.


First, Jessica Greenstone reports on her discussions with ninth and tenth grade girls.   Participants reported the belief that the primary way available for achieving attention from others and self-worth is by emphasizing their physical identities, expressed as “hotness” (which refers to idealized physical attributes and dress). They also reported that efforts to achieve “hotness” are in tension with a focus on smartness, and that they felt rewarded socially for emphasizing their physical identities. The girls in this study reported that popular media was the primary source for their peers’ and their own ideas about what clothing styles were fashionable, as well as the source of what was considered “hot.”


Then Susan Owusu will lead a workshop on empowering youth through media literacy.  Media consumption is not a passive process, but a dynamic experience where youth develop identity and values to last a lifetime.  With the average teen spending more than 12 hours a day consuming media it is critical that they have the tools to better analyze the media messages that surround them.  Youth need the skills to think critically so they can understand the media they see, and the communities they are a part of.  Enter Media Minds—media literacy curriculum and activities designed especially for urban teens delivered by competent staff experienced in working directly with Boston Public School students.  Learn how to encourage youth to be critical consumers of media, thinking about what they see and hear, and how it shapes what they think.


3.       Private Enterprise in Public Schools: Communicating School Commercialization

Gary Brunk, Kansas Action & Lynn Davey, FrameWorks Institute


This workshop will present findings from the FrameWorks Institute’s research on how Kansans think about issues related to commercial activity in public schools, and what can be done to advance public thinking to align with expert perspectives on healthy contexts for children’s development. FrameWorks Institute’s research in Kansas suggests a number of communications strategies that can encourage critical thinking about the impact of commercial activity in schools, and improve support for advancing public policies necessary to improve children’s health and well-being.


4.       The Well-Being of Children Deserves the Best Science Available

Brandy King, Center on Media and Child Health


"Children who watch television with sexual content become sexually active 2 years earlier than children who do not." The Center on Media and Child Health (CMCH), an interdisciplinary center of excellence at Children's Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health, is an important resource for anyone who raises, cares for, or works with children growing up in the Media Age. Parents, teachers, psychologists, pediatricians, media producers and now - your own organization - can leverage what research can teach us to improve the well-being of children.  Brandy King will introduce CMCH origins, mission, and focus on the positive and negative influences of media on the physical, mental, and social health of children. Brandy King will demonstrate how the CMCH website, blog, and newsletters can offer free information and strategies to address the sexualization of children and work toward safe and healthy media use for children everywhere.


5.       Using the Power of the Media for Positive Change

Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth


Find out how to leverage the same media and marketing tactics used by those within advertising and the entertainment industry to flip harmful messages into productive pursuits and use media as a positive distribution channel for social change. Shaping Youth will share how we use persuasion and motivation to shift the energy in a healthier direction, inspiring actions for sustainable change using our counter-marketing tactics from industry insiders.


We’re embedding positive cues into digital media and virtual worlds, using peer to peer viral tactics to enlighten/inform, mobilizing via social media hubs like Facebook/Twitter, and empowering actions to ‘take hold’ of the manipulation machine that’s defining kids before they can even define themselves.


Subject Areas Covered/Global Impact:


•Fast food usurping indigenous/fresh foods in emerging nations (obesity/agriculture/jobs)

•Appearance ideals/objectification (anxiety/depression/disordered eating/substance abuse)

•Consumption/products/packaging (environment/sustainability issues)

•Behavioral cues (early sexualization/aggression/habit-setting/relationship distortions)




Workshop B (Friday, 2:45-4:00)


1.       Towards Greater Health, Wealth and Wisdom: How to Have Fun, Kick (Corporate) Butts and Take Names with 21st Century ACME-Style Media Education

Rob Williams, Action Coalition for Media Education


Interested in learning the basics of a dynamic, fun and engaging approach to media education? Tired of nasty multinational corporations pushing their crap down your kids' throats and into their growing brains? Wanna do something about it? And have fun, too? Then come participate in our fun and interactive workshop with ACME co-founder and co-president Dr. Rob Williams. Handouts and plenty of free multimedia goodies will be provided. Fun for the whole family!


2.       Who Stole the Sexual Revolution: Kids, Marketing and the Politics of Sex

Carl Bybee and Debra Merskin, University of Oregon


This presentation looks at the sexualization of children through the context of the progressive effort to bring questions of sex, sexuality, gender and politics into the public eye.  The presentation questions what transformed the sexual revolution into a sexy look and sexual activity marketed to youth as rebellion without politics.  The sexualization of childhood as an obstacle (for children, parents and marketers) to engaged citizenship will be addressed, as well as Thomas Frank’s idea of liberation marketing, Benjamin Barber’s thinking on the links between consumerism and democracy and some older ideas on this phenomena, perhaps originating with Herbert Marcuse, all in an accessible, jargon-free language.


3.       How to Teach Youth about their Consumer Culture

Tim Kasser, Knox College,  Velma LaPoint, Howard University, Garland Waller, Boston University Tim Kasser, Tim Rairdon


In this workshop, three college professors (and one college student) will discuss strategies for teaching young people about consumer culture.  Ideas for syllabi and assignments will be shared, and workshop participants will have the opportunity to discuss the joys and challenges of helping youth understand the dynamics and resist the influences of consumer culture.


4.       The Wondershop: Nurturing Creative Thinkers in a Commercial World

Ginger Carlsson, author, Child of Wonder


Come learn how commercialization impacts creativity and thinking skills. Together, we will explore a variety of positive ways to encourage creative thinking and how children can develop a strong sense of self, confidence in personal thinking, and in the world around them.  In this workshop, participants will: Consider the effect of popular culture and media representations on personal expression and critical thinking. Rethink environmental and gender expectations. Discover practical ways to nurture natural instincts and lead  children in unique personal expression.


5.        “Come In and Play!”: How Social Networks Exploit Young Children

Richard Freed, psychologist, private practice


The latest social networks entice young children to play online where they become prey for marketers.  While MySpace has cornered the market on older youth, new social networks such as Webkinz, Club Penguin, and Neopets target kids as young as five years of age. Surprisingly, there is a push to get these social networks into children’s schools. In this interactive session, participants will learn about and discuss the consequences of moving children’s play from the real world into virtual branded environments. Strategies for combating this trend will be explored.


6.       Airwaves and Activism

Lynn Ziegler, author, Spongeheadz: U & Media


Airwaves and Activism is a "re-framing" of TV viewing, structured on the remote control.  In this workshop, participants will be encouraged to explore linking TV viewing choices with real-time social issues.  A look at the COLOR button will explore the importance of diversity; the BALANCE button will look at gender and race bias in news; and the SELECT button addresses consumer choices, particularly about food--and even politics. The PAGE button celebrates reading.  And so on.  There are easy, inexpensive (cheap!) and quick activities, suitable for use in class or at home, for every button we examine.  




Workshop C (Saturday, 11:20-12:35)


1.       Media Violence as a Form of Child Abuse: How Schools Can Protect Children Against it With Success

Jacques Brodeur, EDUPAX


Surveys have shown that millions of parents are aware of the (increasing) negative influence of television and videogames on their child. The media has become so powerful that it takes parents tremendous effort, patience and knowledge to protect their children from five types of collateral damage: manipulation, addiction, imitation, desensitization and obesity. The power of the media has also been used to convince some citizens that media violence is a controversial issue. While legislation has proven to be the only way to civilize the industry, joint mobilization by families and schools have succeeded in raising children's and teen's critical viewing skills. How did it work ? What results have been reached ?      


2.       The Impact of Sexualization on Classroom Culture, Teaching and Learning...and What to Do about It Diane Levin, coauthor, So Sexy So Soon


Designed as a follow-up to Diane and Jean Kilbourne’s plenary session on So Sexy So Soon, this workshop will provide an opportunity for attendees to explore how the information covered in the plenary relates to children in educational settings and to consider possible strategies for what we can do to counteract the harm being caused.


3.       Children, Digital Environments, and the Law: Moving Forward to Protect Public Health

Jason Smith and Robert J. L. Moore, Public Health Advocacy Institute


The content of commercial messages directed at children is no longer the appropriate focus for activists. Interventions that seek to curb advertising's excesses must target how content is generated and disseminated. Essentially, we are the content: our behavior online and offline leaves a trail of data that can be interpreted to glean very personal information about our daily lives. We construct the web pages and Facebook sites that drive Internet traffic; we purchase goods with credit cards and thereby reveal our location and spending habits; we carry around GPS-enabled cell phones; etc. Our children do the same. 


Soon, marketers will have enough data to tailor advertising for us as individuals. Interventions that worked on previous incarnations of advertising - efforts addressed to particular content - will become obsolete, as there will be an infinite variety of content. At the same time, the efficacy of, and the magnitude of the threat posed by, advertising increase substantially. Those concerned about the content to which our children are exposed must consider how to instill some measure of control over the use of personal data by marketers, a sector that has not been subject to much government oversight. This presentation will explain the ramifications of developments in technology and the current law for the digital sphere, then make recommendations for a framework for taking action.


4.     Capitalism on the Couch: A Psychological Analysis of Economic Systems and Their Impact on Children

Allen Kanner co-editor, Psychology and Consumer Culture and Tim Kasser author, the High Price of Materialism


Psychology rarely examines the effects of economic systems on people’s lives. Nor does it address the assumptions about individual motivation and behavior that lie at the heart of such systems. For example, the commercialization of childhood is a natural and logical extension of American Corporate Capitalism (ACC), a system that assumes people are self-interested, competitive, and materialistic and are happiest when their values and goals are consistent with these proclivities. Yet research findings and clinical insights strongly dispute these claims. Join us for a discussion about how a psychological analysis of any economic system provides important information about its likely impact on its participants, including children. Such an analysis is of great value in considering alternatives to ACC, which is spreading across the globe and harming children everywhere.


5.       The Importance of Educating Parents on Kids’ 24/7 Media Lives

Laura Martinez, Common Sense Media


Students live in a 24/7 media world that is evolving at a dizzying pace. Young people's media experiences, especially their participation on social networking sites ranging from Club Penguin to MySpace, have a profound impact on the way the way they make decisions, learn, and socialize.  This presentation will include an overview of what kids are doing online, the impact this has on their development, and the challenges and opportunities the new media world poses for schools and parents. Practical ideas will also be offered on how to enter into a strong home-school media education partnership, with the goal of raising a generation of kids that are safe, smart and ethical media consumers and creators.




Copyright 2004 Commercial Free Childhood. All rights reserved