Cartoon Network recently announced a new 2 hour block of programming targeted at 2 to 5 year olds. In response, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CFCC) publicly lambasted the channel for being,
“The latest attempt to get young children in front of screens — which is exactly where marketers want them.”
This raises several important questions on both ethical and parental sides of the issue. Is this another ploy to plop children in front of a tv and endear them to colorful characters and their merchandise? Can television programming actually be beneficial to a child’s development, or more importantly – is it even needed for wholesome development? Read on for the major arguments from both sides, and contribute your own answers to these vital questions.
The Corporate Take
Cartoon Network defends its programming, stating its fun characters “will inspire kids to sing along, play and, most importantly, laugh”. The network also claims to understand the how malleable a child’s mind is at these young ages and keeps this interest in the forefront,
“We know this is a special vulnerable audience, so not only is programming designed with children’s developmental needs in time but there are clear distinctions between programmatic material and commercial material,”
This distinction between commercial material, and content will come in the form of a self-imposed product placement ban imposing the blatant pushing of merchandise. Does this mean the 2 hour block will be free of advertising? Thats highly unlikely.
The Special Interest Group Take
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), through its public comments on the new programming, is attempting to shed some light on the ever increasing problem of children being exposed to more and more tv and at earlier ages. They claim this new programming is simply another way for corporations to expand their demographics and push products onto children. Besides this commercial aspect, there are serious concerns regarding the validity and necessity of this type of influence on young children. Quoting Wheelock College professor Diane Levin,
“Children don’t need TV to develop a sense of humor. It comes from play and their natural interactions with the world around them,” Ms. Levin writes. “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.”
Conclusion and your thoughts
What follows breaks from stating the facts to opinion and personal conjecture. I see two clear sides to this topic:
- The corporate spin, claiming good intentions and positive attributes to their programming in order to protect their financial investment.
- The vocal minority creating hype and controversy where there is none, in order to garner attention to their cause.
It is up to us to cut through the spin, hype and controversy surrounding this particular conflict between corporation and interest group and cut right to the underlying issues that are important to child rearing. Issues like leaving your child in front of the tv, pc or video game for hours at a time in lieu of proper supervision and quality interaction. Issues like teaching your child that they don’t need every chunk of colorful plastic they show you on commercials. Issues like the quality of programming you do allow your children to watch.
What side are you on? What are you doing to protect your children from blatant marketing? We would like to hear from you.