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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).

Call 1-505-989-8076 or order on-line today!


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Request for a New MPAA Rating for Preschoolers

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.

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

For more information please contact Jacqueline M. Sears, PO Box 382, South Hampton, MA 01073.


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!

Your Name
Your Address


"These stories are as real (to preschoolers) as the life they are living."
-Joanne Cantor, Professor of Communications and Researcher on Children's Media

  • 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:

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.

Meg's Gifts was established in 1996 on behalf of a young woman, Meg Clemens, who died of leukemia and whose family initiated this project.

"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 are good.

We thank you,
The Clemens Family"

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 at

Industry suppliers whose generous donation made this possible include:

Acorn Media
Barry Simon Productions
Blackboard Entertainment
BMG Video
Bright Ideas
Celebrity Home Entertainment
Community Music
Creative Wonders
Dreams Come True Productions
Educational Activities
Food Play Productions
Fred Levine Productions
Grey Dawn Productions
Hallmark Home Video
Humongous Entertainment
Let's Create

Lightyear Entertainment
Little Mammoth Media
Living Arts
Lyrick Studios
M3D Productions
MGM Home Video
Milestone Media, Inc.
Monterey Home Video
Polygram Home Video
Random House
Shadowplay Records and Video
Sign Enhancers, Inc.
Small Fry Productions
Sony Wonder
Tow Truck Productions
20th Century FOX Home Video
Western Publishing
Westhill Press

See Meg's Gifts Report for the list of beneficiary hospitals.

Dr. Irving Lazar, CQCM Board Trustee:
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 over time.

George Cowan, CQCM Board Trustee:
Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

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:

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 intended?
2. What are its biggest assets and/or drawbacks? What's missing from these mandates?
3. Do you feel the public has benefited from these ratings and if so, in what way?
4. Do you feel any of the new programs launched this season meet the intent of the '3-hour' rule? Which ones?
5. Of all the children's programs currently on the air, what is your personal favorite and why?
6. What 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 appropriateness.

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 group

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 designation.

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 way?

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 ones?

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 educational.

I've noted that scheduling of programming is only on weekends in the mornings and generally ignores youngest audience members.

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 watch.

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 system.

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

Executive Director Position Available at Children's Fund of Connecticut

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 internationally.

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 style.

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 world.

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 contacts.

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 positions.

Laura Gassner, Associate
Miller Isaacson
334 Boylston St., Suite 500
Boston, MA 02116-3805
Tel: 617-262-6500 Fax: 617-262-6509
E-mail: [email protected]

Computer Guru 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 information E-mail: [email protected]


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.

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