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Marketing Violent Films to Young Children – Judge Baker Children’s Center Complains to the FTC

The Judge Baker Children’s Center recently sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission requesting an expansion of the marketing of violent entertainment to young children. In particular, they objected to the marketing of licensed toys, food promotions and advertising to children as young as two for the movie, Transformers which is rated PG-13 for “intense sequences of sci-fi violence, brief sexual humor, and language by the Motion Picture Association of America.

A review by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood found that Transformers (DreamWorks, July 4, 2007) is being marketed extensively to children much younger than the MPAA’s recommended age of thirteen for the movie.

The release of many blockbuster PG-13 movies, such as Pirates of the Caribbean or Spiderman, is often preceded by a line of licensed toys. While toymakers seek to capitalize on a movie’s popularity, the toys – in turn – help create awareness of the movie. Often the toys and movie are promoted together; television advertisements for a toy may include a clip from the movie or an exhortation to see the film and a mention of its release date. For these reasons, licensed toys must be considered marketing for the film itself.

Hasbro, which owns the exclusive license for Transformers toys, has created an entire line of new toys and games for the Transformers movie. Every single one of the 129 toys and games listed at Hasbro’s Transformers website comes with an age recommendation younger than the film’s recommended age of thirteen. http://www.hasbro.com/transformers/default.cfm?page=Products.
Seventy-two of these products (56%) are recommended for children as young as five; an additional thirty-two toys (25%) are recommended for children as young as four; thirteen toys (10%) are recommended for children as young as three. The age recommendation of these toys is likely to deceive parents into believing that the film is appropriate for young children.

What are your thoughts? Should the marketing of violent entertainment be allowed to target children under the age of 10? Should government work with media and toy companies to set a consistent set of ratings for toys and the media they represent? Does this concern you?

For more information, go to http://commercialfreechildhood.org/pressreleases/transformersftcletter.pdf

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