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CCFC News - May 2010

Stop the Marketing of PG-13 Movies to Young Children

In less than twenty-four hours, more than 1,200 CCFC members have demanded that  Nickelodeon, Disney, and the Cartoon Network 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."  Yet 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 Nickelodeon, Nick Toons, Disney XD, and 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 Cartoon Network all claim to be family-friendly, but they are aiding and abetting the film industry's efforts to seduce young children, and convince their parents that these violent, PG-13 movies are appropriate for kids as young as preschoolers."

If you haven't already, please tell children's networks to stop advertising PG-13 movies to young children by clicking here. And for more on why PG-13 movies shouldn't be marketed to young children, we recommend this 2008 Op-Ed by CCFC Steering Committee member Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige.  Nickelodeon Still Doesn't Get It

More than 6,500 of you have written to Nickelodeon demanding that they stop linking to their gaming site (winner of CCFC's 2010 TOADY Award) from their websites for children.  Nick's response so far?  Removing the Perry the Sneak series (where gamers take the role of a peeping Tom trying to catch revealing glimpses of naked women showering). But the site still includes games like:

  • Gangland: "Trial by Jury? Forget it, this is Gangland! Blast your way through masses of nasty dudes with nastier guns."
  • Torture Chamber III: "The object of Torture Chamber is to cause as much pain as possible to your victim before he dies.  Doing so awards pain points, and unlocks new forms of punishment."
  • Fuzzy McFluffenstein 2 - "The pet store couldn't get any more bloody. See how many cute furry things you can turn into messy, red pools."

Eliminating a couple of games after being caught red-handed (and after, in response to CCFC concerns, losing Kraft Lunchables as an advertiser) doesn't change the fact that is for adults, not kids. Which is why Nickelodeon should stop linking to from its websites for children.  Now. Click here to take action.  You can also read more about Addicting Games in the Miami Herald.

The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Takes a Strong Stand on Screen Time

Given CCFC's long time concerns about screen time in the lives of babies, it was gratifying to see that the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity supports the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations on screen time.  The Task Force specifically recommends that "early childhood settings should be encouraged to adopt standards consistent with AAP recommendations not to expose children two years of age and under to television, as well as to limit media exposure for older children by treating it as a special occasion activity, rather than a daily event."  This is the first time the government has supported efforts to keep babies and toddlers away from screens.  Previous administrations either ignored the issue, or celebrated companies like Baby Einstein for innovative entrepreneurship.  

Meanwhile, what does the Task Force recommend about marketing to children? It suggests more food industry self-regulation, with a hint of teeth.  We prefer the World Health Organization's approach.  WHO is calling on member states to restrict food advertising and marketing to children.

Upcoming Event:  Media Madness: The Impact of Sex, Violence and Commercial Culture on Adults, Children and Society - Wheelock College, Boston, July 6-9, 2010

Wheelock College is offering a very popular summer institute on the role that the media (television, magazines, advertising, pornography, video games and music videos) plays in shaping our gender identities, our intimate relationships, our children's lives, and ultimately our culture. The institute is taught by Wheelock Professors Gail Dines, author of Pornland: How Pornography Has Hijacked our Sexuality, and Diane Levin, co-author of So Sexy So Soon and a co-founder of CCFC, and is highly recommended for educators, students, human service professionals, activists, and parents.

Click here for more information, or contact Matt Pellish at Wheelock College (

Consuming Everything:  CCFC and the Oil Spill by Susan Linn, Ed.D

I know I'm not alone in my inability to stop thinking about that oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. Sometimes it's foremost in my thoughts, but often it's more in the background, like chronic anxiety, or some dull but persistent toothache. And, as we go about our daily work at CCFC, I'm thinking more than ever about sustainability and its links to our mission of reclaiming childhood from corporate marketers.  We can't achieve a sustainable society without curbing consumption.

Lifetime consumer habits begin in childhood. That's one big reason why children are targeted so intensely with marketing and why it needs to stop. As Josh Golin and I wrote in a piece for the Huffington Post on Earth Day last year, "Marketing doesn't just sell children individual products.  Its dominant message is that consumption is the path to happiness and self-fulfillment." Marketers sell consumption, not just as a lifestyle, but as the lifestyle. Limiting children's exposure to corporate marketing allows them the time and space to learn to take their pleasure in other people, nature, and their own creative play, rather than relying for satisfaction on the things that corporations sell. Children deserve a commercial-free childhood, and the earth deserves it as well.

So, while what may be the worst un-natural environmental disaster of all time unfolds, I am reminded that the commercialization of childhood affects so much more than families currently raising children.  The primacy of marketplace values-and instilling those values into the next generation-imperils everyone. It's true that children benefit immediately and directly when we limit their exposure to commercial marketing.  But the impact is so much broader. Allowing kids to grow up free from bombardment by marketing messages is our best chance to nurture adults who recognize the value of preserving, rather than exploiting, environmental riches-who define themselves more as stewards than consumers. By working for the rights of children to grow up-and the freedom for parents to raise them-without being undermined by commercialism, CCFC promotes a more sustainable world.

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