Rebecca Wolf

This blog is a chronicle of my daughters' growth - born July 2003 and May 2007. Be sure to check out the Thriving Babies homepage, for videos and instructions on how to use every type of baby carrier. For literacy and homeschooling tips, visit my Rochester-based Learning Center blog at

Friday, September 02, 2005

"Tickle U" is no laughing matter

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

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 premiered 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.”

What you can do:

“Viral market” the truth about young children and television. One of
the ways Cartoon Network is marketing Tickle U is by asking moms – in
exchange for a Kenneth Cole bag filled with gifts – to promote the show
on parent blogs and online discussion sites. So why not fight fire with
fire? If you have concerns about Tickle U, post them to relevant blogs
and websites. Feel free to copy and paste from the above press release.

Ask hospitals not to promote commercial television programs to
preschoolers. The schedule for the next three Tickle U hospital
programs, along with contact info is below:

August 23, Phoenix Children’s Hospital: Contact: Jane Walton

August 25, Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, Minneapolis
Campus. Contact: James Lockwood 612.813.6613

August 30, Holy Cross Hospital, Ft. Lauderdale. Contact: Public
Relations 954.776.3080

What did I tell ya? Marketing to preschoolers via TV is BIG business --
but you can decide how much your child will be affected by it or not.

Knowledge is Power.



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