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August 15, 2005

Contact: Dr. Susan Linn (617) 278-4282 susan<at>
              Dr. Diane Levin (617) 879-2176

              Dr. Allen Kanner (510) 558-7210     

For Immediate Release

Cartoon Network’s “Tickle U” Is No Laughing Matter

CCFC Urges Families to Stay Away From New Preschool Programming

Calling it a cynical ploy to get young children to watch more television, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is urging parents to keep children away from Tickle U, the Cartoon Network’s new block of preschool programming.  The Cartoon Network claims the programming, which will premiere on August 22, will help develop a child’s sense of humor.  Despite a lack of scientific evidence to support that claim, the educational benefits of Tickle U are being touted through new and unprecedented marketing techniques including partnerships with hospitals and mom-based viral marketing.

“Children don’t need TV to develop a sense of humor.  It comes from play and their natural interactions with the world around them,” said Wheelock College Professor, Dr. Diane Levin, author of Remote Control Childhood.  “This is a classic case of marketers trying to create a need where none exists and to dupe parents into thinking that watching more TV is good for their children.”

There is no evidence that television aids in humor development – and plenty of evidence that television can be harmful to young children.  Television viewing is a factor in childhood obesity.  Research also suggests that preschoolers who are heavy television viewers score lower on academic and intelligence tests later in life and are more likely to become bullies.  

“There is growing concern about how much time children spend watching TV.  We should not be fooled by network executives’ claims about the benefits of this commercial venture,” said CCFC’s co-founder, Dr. Susan Linn, author of Consuming Kids.  “Tickle U is just the latest attempt to get young children in front of screens  - which is exactly where marketers want them.” 

Several of the Tickle U programs plan to license their characters to toys, games, apparel, and food products.  This marketing, of course, is in addition to the on-air commercials that will run throughout Tickle U.

That hospitals around the country are partnering with Tickle U to hold humor workshops to introduce parents and young children to the show’s characters is particularly troubling.  Psychologist Allen Kanner, co-editor of Psychology and Consumer Culture, commented, “Given the negative impact of advertising and media on children, health professionals should be working with parents to limit the amount of television kids watch.  Hospitals should be promoting public health, not the Cartoon Network’s fall lineup.”

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is a national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups and concerned parents who counter the harmful effects of marketing to children through action, advocacy, education, research, and collaboration among organizations and individuals who care about children. CCFC supports the rights of children to grow up – and the rights of parents to raise them – without being undermined by rampant consumerism. For more information, please visit:

More on Tickle U

Action Alert: Tell Scholastic to Stop Marketing TV to Preschoolers!

CCFC's Susan Linn Discusses Tickle U on NPR's Marketplace (8/23/05)








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