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CQCM Newsletter Winter 1998
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KIDS FIRST!® Directory
While everyone else is busily trying to figure out how to
identify quality children's programming ... we've done it!
CQCM's most recent edition of its
KIDS FIRST!®Directory is now available!
The new 68 page, four-color directory
describes over 700 KIDS FIRST!®endorsed videos and CD-ROMs,
includingJuror comments and expert guidelines from child
development specialists, educators, parents and kids.
Order your copy for $5 (includes shipping and handling).
1-505-989-8076 or order
Request for a New MPAA Rating for
Due to the increasing violence and mature content
in G-rated movies, Mothers Offended by the Media (MOM), is requesting
that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) add a new
rating indicating appropriateness for children 6 years of age and
older that would be designated as G-6. Jacqueline M. Sears, Founder
of MOM, has collected 6,000 signatures from all over the United
States for the new rating. The signatures were sent to Jack Valenti,
President and Chief Executive Officer, Motion Picture Association of
America. MPAA has not modified the current rating system. If you
support this initiative, MOM encourages you to write a letter to Mr.
Valenti supporting the proposed G-6 movie rating.
For more information please contact
Jacqueline M. Sears, PO Box 382, South Hampton, MA 01073.
Send your letters to:
Mr. Jack Valenti
President and Chief Executive Officer
Motion Picture Association of America
1600 Eye St., NW
Washington, DC 20006
Cc your letters to:
Jacqueline M. Sears
PO Box 382
South Hampton, MA 01073
SUGGESTIONS FOR PARENTS
"These stories are as real (to preschoolers) as the
life they are living."
Mr. Jack Valenti
President and Chief Executive Officer
Motion Picture Association of America
1600 Eye St. NW
Washington, DC 20006
Dear Mr. Valenti,
My name is ______. I am a
mother/father/educator/other of ______ young children, and I
am concerned about the violence, scary situations and ______
in G-rated movies directed towards young children.
I support the proposed new G-6 rating for
preschool children. The new G-6 rating be given to movies
that are suitable for children 6 years of age and under.
These movies should be void of any violence or scary
situations. Children's' movies should not leave our
preschoolers trembling in the middle of the night.
To my dismay, children are witnessing
violent scenes in G-rated movies. For example,
(put your story in here, i.e.:
One G-rated movie, "Beauty and
the Beast," from the Walt Disney Corporation gave my child
had nightmares for months. She was terrified of the wolves
that chased the heroine, "Belle," through a dark and scary
forest. She covered her eyes as the wolves attacked Belle
with their massive fangs. In the final scene of the movie
she was horrified once again as the villain Guston beat and
stabbed the beast to death.) Since the early 1990's, most of
the Walt Disney movies have included scenes of fighting. All
have at least one killing. In the G-rated movie called
"Muppet Treasure Island," there are sword fights, guns and
excessive fighting. There are countless other movies that
are also much too complicated and difficult for children
under 6 years of age to comprehend.
The purpose of the rating system is to
offer parents advance information about the content of a
movie, so a parent can decide whether or not they want their
children to see it. The effectiveness of the entire rating
program rests on parental involvement. As a parent who cares
deeply for my children, I feel very strongly that the
G-rating does not give me a clear warning of the violence
and scary adult situations found in many of the movies thus
rated. A G-6 rating would be of tremendous help to parents
who look for movies that appropriately support and enrich
their childrens' developing minds and don't give them
nightmares. Please, consider the public good you will
perform by instituting a G-6 rating for children 6 years of
age and under. And, consider the goodwill you will garner
from the public from doing so!
Other countries have taken this leap in
their ratings' systems and I believe that the USA needs to
do so as well. It is time for us to become as exemplary in
our attention to media ratings as we are in media
production. For a country that produces such a high
percentage of the films that are seen by children worldwide,
not to do so is like dumping our banned pesticides into
third world countries. Let's be more conscientious than
that. Please, demonstrate for parents nationally as well as
worldwide how Hollywood has become supportive of initiatives
toward better parenting!
-Joanne Cantor, Professor of Communications and Researcher on
- Toddlers and preschoolers need an
adult with them to watch any film/video for the first
time. Turn it off at signs of discomfort, including
restlessness or inability to focus.
- Talk about the video even to a young
child: "What did you like? What didn't you like? Were
there scary/fun parts? Were there scary parts that
weren't fun, just scary?"
- The live action version of "101
Dalmatians" is scarier than on video.
- Even if a grotesque character has
good qualities, a young child can't see them.
Developmentally, he/she is stuck on appearance.
- Movies in the theater are scarier
than on video. They're BIGGER!
- A child's fear is real, even though
it may be irrational.
- Children categorize things as real
and pretend before they understand that what's pretend
can't get them in the night.
- For more information about Mothers
Offended by the Media (MOM), write PO Box 382, South
Hampton, MA 01073.
Hospitals Benefit from Media Donation:
VIDEOTAPES AND CD-ROMS HELP DISTRACT HOSPITALIZED
Hospitalized children got a boost recently
from the Coalition for Quality Children's Media Meg's Gifts Program.
More than 3,000 videotapes and CD-ROMs, endorsed by CQCM's KIDS
FIRST! program were donated by industry suppliers to 100 hospitals
and community health clinics nationwide.
Hospitalized children are unable to
participate in many activities. Watching videos or playing with
CD-ROMs is a great distraction. "Often times, children in our care
have times that they are here without a family member or they feel
too poorly to engage in other activities," says Cindy Williams,
Director, Clinical Operations, Riley Children's Cancer Center. "The
staff has found that videotapes provide a good distraction for the
child." To be included in Meg's Gifts, a program needs to deliver a
positive, uplifting message that helps relieve the child's boredom,
fear, anger, and sadness.
Gifts was established in 1996 on behalf of a young woman, Meg
Clemens, who died of leukemia and whose family initiated this
"Speaking for our family and many others like us
everywhere, we thank you for joining a project that celebrates life,
love, courage, compassion and healing. You have become part of an
incredible cast of heroes - unsung & invisible in most
incidences, valiant in all. We are grateful to you and we commend
your awareness of the intrinsic value of contributing your resources
to our youngsters who need contact with the 'outside' world. You have
entered their dark world, filled with danger, fear and suffering
bringing them messages of truth and beauty and light. For that you
We thank you,
Meg's Gifts is supported by donations from
the media industry and the Mattel Foundation. Volunteers from Fort
Wayne, Indiana sorted, packed and shipped the tapes and CD's.
The Coalition for Quality Children's Media
(CQCM) is a national, not-for-profit organization whose mission is to
enhance children's viewing experiences by making quality children's
media more visible and more readily available. Integral to CQCM's
mission is developing programs that reach underserved audiences. For
more information, please call 505-989-8076 or visit the CQCM web site
Industry suppliers whose generous donation
made this possible include:
See Meg's Gifts Report
for the list of beneficiary hospitals.
Barry Simon Productions
Celebrity Home Entertainment
Dreams Come True Productions
Food Play Productions
Fred Levine Productions
Grey Dawn Productions
Hallmark Home Video
Little Mammoth Media
MGM Home Video
Milestone Media, Inc.
Monterey Home Video
Polygram Home Video
Shadowplay Records and Video
Sign Enhancers, Inc.
Small Fry Productions
Tow Truck Productions
20th Century FOX Home Video
Dr. Irving Lazar, CQCM Board
Review of Microsoft Actimates Early Learning
System (Barney Doll)
The BARNEY electronic doll is a CD-ROM, a
Video, and a TV interactive device. It is also a stand-alone
toy. I played with it myself and with five children, and
will be showing it to more children. Because it requires
being wired up to both a PC and a VHS video player, it's not
something I can just lend to someone, so I accompany it to
others' homes. The children would hardly let go of it and
were reluctant to let me take it away.
This is a unique toy. It is as close to
being interactive as anything that I've seen. The Barney
doll stands about 15 inches tall. When you shake its feet it
sings a song and chats; shake a hand and it plays a game;
cover the eyes and it plays peek-a-boo. With a transmitter
hooked up to a VCR, it accompanies the singing on a Barney
video tape and makes comments. Several Barney segments are
included, so it can be used in self-contained segments.
Hooked up to a PC, with the accompanying CD-ROM, the child
is given simple learning tasks on the PC and the doll
comments on how the child is doing and gives hints and
verbal rewards. When the doll "talks," it waves its arms and
legs. It has Barney's distinctive enthusiastic voice. As of
December, it will interact with the TV video broadcast of
Barney. It's selling in my local Toys R Us for $100 for the
doll alone, and $60 for the transmitter.
I think its potential as a teaching tool
is fantastic! It deserves an "All-Star" KIDS FIRST!®status.
According to the supplier it has a 14,000 word vocabulary.
With this large vocabulary that responds to whatever signal
is sent by the external media, it has endless possibilities.
As with other Barney products, it is respectful of children
and diversity, is paced well and has the same kind of gentle
and non-threatening appeal as Mr. Rogers. It opens a whole
new world of entertainment and instruction for children. One
of many nice touches - it has no "off" switch. When it is
not receiving any stimuli for a few minutes, the doll
announces that it's tired and about to go to sleep. It then
turns itself off.
The next improvement in it could be games
in which the child can skip about the material and the doll
could have alternate responses depending on the
sophistication of the child's responses. New tapes can allow
its contents to adapt to older age children or increased
difficulty levels. The CD-ROMs have the potential to address
all kinds of topics. And, of course, the Barney TV program
can be supplemented by additional TV programs to which this
same doll could respond. The same technology could easily be
used for other products for adults.
I would guess that the present set of
CD-ROM and VIDEO activities is of longer interest to
children ages three to seven. It's fun for parents to watch
- at least initially. Older children and adults find it
boring after the initial novelty wears off. More
sophisticated external media could involve older children
George Cowan, CQCM Board
Elected to American Academy of Arts and
George Cowan, past president of the Santa Fe Institute and a
Science Board member, was elected a fellow member of the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1997.
The American Academy is an honorary learned society whose members
are elected for distinction and achievement in the entire range of
intellectual disciplines and professions. Each year, the fellows of
the academy nominate and elect individuals who have made significant
contributions to knowledge and culture.
The academy membership consists of approximately 3,300 fellows,
arranged in four classes according to their areas of expertise. Each
class is further subdivided in sections. Cowan became a member of the
Physics Section of the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Class.
Childrens TV Survey:
TO THE NEW FCC MANDATES
The Coalition for Quality Children's Media
gathered feedback from selected experts in children's media on their
reactions to the new FCC mandates. Our consumer members continually
inquire about this subject and, in particular, their role. Here is a
summary from these leaders:
1. Is the revised
TV ratings' system adequate for the purpose it is
2. What are its
biggest assets and/or drawbacks? What's missing from these
3. Do you feel the
public has benefited from these ratings and if so, in what
4. Do you feel any
of the new programs launched this season meet the intent of the
'3-hour' rule? Which ones?
all the children's programs currently on the air, what is your
personal favorite and why?
is the single most important thing that consumers can do to make
these new rulings effective?
1. Is the
revised TV ratings' system adequate for the purpose it is intended?
It is an improvement, but it's hardly
adequate. In my opinion, such ratings are a Band-Aid solution. While
the new ratings' system does try to take content into account, it
serves best in identifying nudity and foul language. Sexually
suggestive material or violence is not as readily identified. The
V-Chip will eventually make that data more measurable and the impact
of ratings will become more relevant. I do not believe that with the
existing ratings viewers can accurately prejudge a show's
Perhaps the most important impact the
ratings' system has made is escalating the discussion among parents
about specific areas of program content. This debate has alerted
parents to the idea that all television content is not for all
children. It has begun the discussion, but it has not solved the
problem that is being addressed: inappropriate programming is
available for all kids.
It remains to be seen how accurately and
responsibly producers rate their own programs. In my view, it'll
never work right. Self-rating by the media industry, using a system
with criteria that is not clearly defined and whose evaluators have
vested interests will never be good.
I am anxious to see surveys or ratings'
information to determine what effect, if any, the ratings have on
audience demographics and size.
I predict that many more people will
invoke an automatic blocking system in lieu of investing the time
necessary to monitor each and every program.
What is really needed is change in the
overall approach to program content.
2. What are its
biggest assets and/or drawbacks? What's missing from these mandates?
Assets: It does help quantify content
issues for parents by identifying the type of content responsible for
a show's rating. It alerts families to the idea that someone has
determined this show to be appropriate for a specific age
Drawbacks: Programmers are allowed too
much latitude in determining the ratings of their own programs. This
creates a schizophrenic system with variable standards from one
program to another, making parental prescreening a necessity.
By retaining the age-based system and
adding content, the system becomes unduly complicated. The age-based
system may attract children to programs parents are actually trying
to restrict. Research shows that content information is not nearly as
enticing as age-based ratings. Also, the ratings involve euphemisms
like D for sexual dialog and FV for fantasy violence in children's
programs (the violence may be realistic, but it is still labeled FV
if it is in a children's program). Additionally, the icons appear in
the upper left-hand corner of the screen for a short time. They are
easy to miss or ignore.
There is no rationale given for the areas
of concern: sex, language and violence. It would help to inform
parents about the issues addressed: they may create unnecessary and
undesirable anxiety in the child, bring on nightmares, aggressive
behavior, or behavior that they don't necessarily want their kids to
participate in. Kids imitate. They think that what they see on TV is
okay unless someone tells them otherwise. Parents would benefit from
more education about this.
I prefer the system that cable uses
featuring descriptions at the top of the screen. With the new
broadcast system I need a guide/sheet listing description of each
What is "educational" is not well defined,
and three hours a week is not going to change much.
3. Do you feel
the public has benefited from these ratings and if so, in what
If anything, the whole ratings' issue has
raised the consciousness of parents to the potentially harmful
programming content that exists on TV. The ratings are only a
beginning to educate parents. Parents don't set out to offer their
kids junk or harmful programming. They just don't stop and consider
the effects a show will have on their kids. When you give them the
information they need to make good programming decisions, generally
they understand and proceed with greater care.
It's too soon to see a benefit yet. I
believe the public will benefit, either by seeing in advance what's
in a program or by providing better accountability. Now, if a
producer says there's no violence in his program and we see a
throat-slitting, we can call him to task. Under the old system, we
could debate forever whether a particular program should have been
TV-PG or TV-14.
No concrete benefits are evident to me.
They are mainly an intrusion on programming and accomplish nothing in
terms of content. The only benefit I see so far is the publicity the
ratings have received that sends a message to the public that much
television content is problematic for children.
4. Do you feel any of the new programs that have
been launched this season meet the intent of the '3-hour' rule? Which
The New Captain Kangaroo Show!
I am unaware of any network programs which
are significantly different from the usual fare. This set of rulings
is deja vu for me--the networks always find away around the rulings
regarding kids, and with a little imagination, anything can be called
I've noted that scheduling of programming
is only on weekends in the mornings and generally ignores youngest
5. Of all the children's programs currently on the
air, what is your personal favorite and why?
They are all non-network: Sesame Street,
the Sunday morning kids' block on Discovery, Animal Planet.
I like Kratt's Creatures and Magic
Schoolbus. They use the medium in the best way to entertain and to
provide important and worthwhile information to children. Kratt's
Creatures is lively and informative and calls upon many resources to
give kids facts about animals. It's well produced and fun to
My personal favorite is "Doug." It is
entertaining and yet explores social and moral dilemmas in a
thoughtful, non-preachy way. I also like "Get Real" because it
provides excellent role models.
The New Captain Kangaroo Show. It promotes
old-fashioned values, but in a contemporary context.
Arthur on PBS. Very realistic about kids'
worlds. Solutions teach kids without being preachy.
Science Court and some of the TV Magazines
like Popular Mechanics and Sports Illustrated. There are not enough
terrific ones but there are some good ones and some in production,
such as a new "how to" show I've read about that Home Depot is
sponsoring - without a product connection, they say.
6. What is the single most important thing that
consumers can do to make these new rulings effective?
Choose a program you feel may be OK for
your children. Watch a few episodes carefully to discern the
standards of that particular programmer. Then you can make an
informed decision about which series your children may or may not
watch. Parents still must provide their own content filtration
When parents are unhappy with children's
fare, let your voice be heard by sponsors. Make it clear that you
will not park your child in front of low quality shows with
inappropriate messages and that you won't buy the products connected
with such shows.
Write to the television critics of local
newspapers. These critics will reprint viewers' comments which may
make other consumers pay attention to what's going on. Newspaper
critics are solicited for their opinions and they can also comment on
what their viewers are saying. Complain to the FCC and your
congressional representatives. Programming decisions are increasingly
made at the national or international level, in the case of FOX.
Challenging the license renewal of your local station only makes an
already punishing situation worse for them.
Be vocal: call and write your station,
your newspaper, your representatives in congress, the FCC. Make sure
everyone knows how you feel.
While it is admirable that the industry is
admitting that there is a problem with much of our television fare,
there is much more that can be done in the public interest in terms
of program quality in commercial television. Also, if public
television is going to carry the weight of providing quality,
age-appropriate programming without commercials, there ought to be
more financial support from the government to do that.
And, Peggy Charren, renown for her 25+
year pursuit of quality children's television sums it up thus: "All
you need is a 'zap' chip that makes it possible to program a time and
channel in and zip it. Most parents know which programs they
absolutely don't want their kids to watch: 'Power Rangers' for
preschoolers and for older kids, 'Melrose Place' and other programs
filled with sexually explicit behavior. With a 'zap' chip the PTA can
have its 'zap' chart, the moral majority can have its, so can the
local newspaper. That way, you get away from a rating system where
you don't know what the criteria are or who the Jurors are and you
know who the critics are. I suggest that parents spend more time
finding out what's good and bad and use groups find out what's
terrific and what's terrible. Get involved! Discuss it with your
kids. Have arguments about what they should and shouldn't watch. When
it becomes too easy - we lose the impact of this personal
communication between parent and child."
These comments summarize those from
leading experts in children's media. Thanks to all those who
participated including Amy Aidman, Communications Researcher and
Lecturer; Andrea Blain, Communications Specialist; Peggy Charren,
founder, Action for Children's Television; Martha Dewing, Publisher,
Children's Video Report; Joanne Cantor, Professor, University of
Wisconsin; Dick Rolfe, Child Advocate, the Dove Foundation, and
several other who chose to remain anonymous.
The Washington Post published an article about the
public's response to the new ratings on Friday, January 8, 1998. To
read "Flunking the Ratings Test: CBS Dumps 'Educational' Children's
Shows" by Paul Farhi go to http://search.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/1998-01/09/163l-010998-idx.html
Director Position Available at Children's Fund of
Miller Isaacson has been retained to
assist the Children's Fund of Connecticut in their search
for the first Executive Director of two new and exciting
initiatives: The Child Development Institute of Connecticut,
Inc., and its first project, The Early Childhood Training
and Resource Academy.
The mission of the Institute is quite
bold. It will explore all aspects of care provided to young
children throughout the state, and where appropriate,
identify opportunities for improving the services provided
to them. The Institute will examine what happens to infants,
toddlers, preschoolers and parents in a range of different
environments, examining outcomes and seeking to determine
what can be done to improve outcomes. Its recommendations
will be solidly grounded in research and practical
experience and will be developed in close collaboration with
health care, education, social services, and family care
providers in the state, around the nation, and
The Institute will employ sophisticated
outreach and public education efforts in order to
effectively impact public policy discussions. As a resource
and an advocate for change, the Institute's authority and
efficacy will emanate from the strength of its ideas and
proposals and from its inclusive and collaborative operating
The first project of the Institute is the
establishment of an Early Childhood Training and Resource
Academy. The Academy serves as a back-up to organizations in
the state that train the broad array of providers of
services to children. It seeks to improve the quality of
training and expand the number of training opportunities
available. It will also seek to accelerate the dissemination
of new knowledge resulting from the new and dramatic
scientific discoveries regarding the very early development
of the brain and the overwhelming importance of the first
three years of life. The Academy will also identify and make
available materials and descriptions of best practices from
organizations and individuals in this country and around the
We rely heavily on the networks and
judgments of informed sources to help us create a national
pool of strong candidates in our search process. We are
grateful for any suggestions you may have of candidates or
other sources of potential candidates, or any assistance you
can give us in circulating this announcement among your
Thank you in advance for your help in these very
important searches. Please feel free to contact me if you would like
further information about either or both of these exciting new
Laura Gassner, Associate
334 Boylston St., Suite 500
Boston, MA 02116-3805
Tel: 617-262-6500 Fax: 617-262-6509
Position Available at Center for Media Literacy
If you are or know of a Mac-based computer/LAN
expert interested in children's not-for-profit organizations in the
LA area, the Center for Media Literacy is looking for some ongoing
maintenance assistance and forward looking computer/internet options.
Please contact Elizabeth Thoman if you have
ALWAYS LOOKING FOR NEW JURORS
A perk for Jurors is that you may keep any title
that you approve. For many teachers and librarians, it is a nifty way
to increase your collection.
If you are interested in becoming involved as a KIDS
FIRST! Juror, contact at the Coalition, phone: 505-989-8076.
FIRST! (CQCM) Web Site clocks over
monthly and has received several awards including:
Cybermom Dot Com
Parenthood Web Select
Parenting Site Award
Check out our new Television and Videotherapy
Information on How
to Become a Member
As a benefit to membership, producers can link
from our site to theirs - you could sell your title off the net. For
more information, contact
Other organizations that support the
KIDS FIRST!® initiative are offering the Directory to their
members and will generate a small profit from doing so. If
you know an organization interested in doing this, please
have them contact