Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Mind/Body Problem: Why we should all be advocating for limits on children’s screen time

I’m troubled by an apparent split over children’s screen time between the guardians of children’s health and the guardians of their education. The public health community, from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, is intensifying efforts to set limits on the amount of time young children spend with screen technology—one to two hours per day for older children and no screen time for babies and toddlers.

Meanwhile, the National Association for the Education of Young Children—the nation’s premier professional organization for early childhood educators—recently released a draft of its statement on children and technology which advocates incorporating screens into all early childhood programs and pointedly does not advocate for limits on screen time. As it stands, NAEYC’s position on children and technology actually undermines the growing public health movement to reduce children’s screen time.

What’s sad for me is that I associate NAEYC with the important mid-twentieth century movement toward whole child development—which highlighted the importance of recognizing children not just as minds or bodies, but as complex beings with intertwining physical, emotional, social, psychological, and spiritual needs. There’s a dearth of credible evidence that introducing babies, toddlers, or even preschoolers to computers, phone apps, and video games is beneficial to their long-term learning and academic success. And the convergence of ubiquitous, miniaturized screen technology and unregulated commercialism is wreaking havoc with children’s hands on creative play—which we know is essential to healthy brain development. But even if screens were proven to be excellent learning tools for young children (and I repeat, they’re not), given the links between screen time and childhood obesity, it would still be important for educators to take a stand with the American Academy of Pediatrics, The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity and others to urge early childhood professionals to limit screens in their classrooms and work with parents to limit screens at home.

To read NAEYC’s draft statement on children and technology please click here.
To read the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood’s response to the statement on children and technology, please click here.
To send a message to NAEYC sharing your concerns about children and technology, please click here.
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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Scholastic Severs Ties With the Coal Industry

May 14, 2011

Josh Golin, (617-896-9369; josh@commercialfreechildhood.org)
Bill Bigelow, (503-282-6848; bill@rethinkingschools.org)
Nick Berning,  (703.587.4454; nberning@foe.org)

For Immediate Release

Scholastic Severs Ties With the Coal Industry
Controversial Elementary School Materials Withdrawn After Protests

BOSTON -- May 14 -- Yesterday afternoon, Scholastic announced that it would stop distributing “The United States of Energy,” a controversial fourth grade curriculum paid for by the American Coal Foundation.  The materials were also removed from Scholastic’s website.  Scholastic’s decision came after a two-day campaign led by the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), Rethinking Schools, Friends of the Earth (FoE), Greenpeace USA, and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD).

Statement of CCFC, Rethinking Schoools, FoE, & CBD

"Scholastic’s decision to stop distributing coal industry-funded teaching materials in elementary classrooms is a significant victory for anyone who believes that schools should be free of industry PR and teach fully and honestly about coal and other forms of energy.  It is also a testament to the activism of thousands of advocates for children, education, and the environment who are determined not to let the coal industry buy its way into schools.

We are pleased that Scholastic is no longer working with the coal industry and has committed to thoroughly reviewing its policy and editorial procedures on sponsored classroom materials. In addition to the American Coal Foundation, Scholastic’s InSchool Marketing clients have included the Cartoon Network, Claritin, SunnyD, Disney, and McDonald’s. Scholastic also worked with The Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, which is completely funded by corporate interests. It is our hope that Scholastic will choose to stop distributing all corporate and industry sponsored classroom materials. Children everywhere deserve a commercial-free education."

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (www.commercialfreechildhood.org) 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 is a project of Third Sector New England (www.tsne.org).

Rethinking Schools (www.rethinkingschools.org) is a nonprofit organization that publishes a quarterly magazine and other educational materials.  Rethinking Schools seeks to provide practical guidance and supportive networking for educators who want to offer academically challenging curricula for all students and to engage students in learning contexts that emphasize equality, anti-racism, and social justice.

Friends of the Earth (http://foe.org/) is fighting to defend the environment and create a more healthy and just world. Our current campaigns focus on promoting clean energy and solutions to climate change, keeping toxic and risky technologies out of the food we eat and products we use, and protecting marine ecosystems and the people who live and work near them.

The Center for Biological Diversity (www.biologicaldiversity.org) is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 320,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. 
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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Commercialism Corner

Commercialism Corner: Your one-stop shop for quick summaries and links to all the latest news about the commercialization of childhood.

Life Notes: Too Much, Too Soon for Kids – Susan Linn and Diane Levin discuss commercialism, sexualization and bullying--and why it's important to fight for change--in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. http://www2.timesdispatch.com/lifestyles/2011/may/01/tdflair04-how-parents-can-combat-the-effects-of-me-ar-1000642/

Obama Ducks Food Fight Over Children’s Ads – CCFC's Josh Golin tells SmartMoney that we need a way to enforce the new FTC food marketing standards if we hope for success. http://blogs.smartmoney.com/paydirt/2011/05/02/obama-ducks-food-fight-over-children%E2%80%99s-ads/?mod=SMBlog

Marketing Food to Children – In this letter to the editor in response to the New York Times article on food marketing to kids, Corporate Accountability International’s director says Susan Linn has it right, and it’s time we demand the end of fast food marketing to kids. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/02/opinion/lweb02food.html

The Sad State of American Kids' Food Environments – This Time post describes the “toxic food environment” in which kids grow up. The author presents some ways to begin addressing the problem, including removing TVs from kids’ bedrooms to limit junk food ad exposure. http://healthland.time.com/2011/04/28/the-sad-state-of-american-kids-food-environments/

Kids Have Easy Access to Explicit Music But Have a Harder Time Getting Violent Video Games
– An FTC sting finds that while 13% of kids can buy an M-rated video game, 64% can buy music with a parental advisory. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/entertainmentnewsbuzz/2011/04/ftc-2011-sting-operation-music-retailers-is-worst-offender-but-games-were-most-compliant.html

Kids' 'Screen Time' Linked to Early Markers for Cardiovascular Disease – Here is a summary of the new study: “Six-year-olds who spent the most time watching television, using a computer or playing video games had narrower arteries in the back of their eyes — a marker of future cardiovascular risk, in a first-of-its-kind study reported in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology: Journal of the American Heart Association.” http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-04-kids-screen-linked-early-markers.html

Media Multitasking? It’s More Like Multi-Distracting – Study finds multi-screen users are driven to distraction…and they have no idea. http://www.bc.edu/publications/chronicle/FeaturesNewsTopstories/2011/news/multitasking042811.html
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