TV on SCHOOL BUSES? Why Not Just Set Up A Deep-Fryer & Throw Kids’ Brains In?

Hi Readers — Here’s a post from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood about School Bus TV. The idea of kids being force-fed even MORE screen time just nauseates me. Fortunately, Josh Golin, associate director of the Campaign, articulates the arguments against bus TV far better than my fake retching sounds. He also references his group’s successful 4-year fight against BusRadio, an equally appalling idea to pipe in radio — and ads —  to moppets riding the bus to school. —  L.

THE NEXT BUS RADIO? BY JOSH GOLIN

Haven’t we been down this road before? A few years ago, it was BusRadio promising to make school buses safer and calmer with its student-targeted radio broadcasts. Now it’s television that marketers claim will soothe the beast. From theDallas Morning News:

Television can be a ready baby sitter in the living room, but will it work on school buses?

The Garland school district is experimenting with playing educational videos on a school bus to help cut discipline problems.

For $1,500 per bus, Carrollton-based AdComp Systems installs a 26-inch flat screen TV at the front of the bus. The screen plays videos supplied by NASA, the Discovery network, History Channel and others.

The similarities between BusRadio – which closed its doors last September after a four-year campaign by CCFC and Obligation, Inc. – and Bus-Ed-Safe-TV (BEST) are striking. Like BusRadio, BEST is claiming it will improve student behavior and touting its plan to air safety messages and PSAs in its pitch to school districts, while downplaying its commercial content. The Dallas Morning News is even reporting that BEST will have no commercials.

Even if that were true, it’s still a terrible idea. At some point we’re going to need to stand up to the flat-screen invasion and the ubiquitous blaring TVs that compete for our attention and with our conversations at seemingly every turn. Since children 8-18 already spend 7.5 hours a day with media and excessive screen time is linked to poor school performance, keeping televisions off of school buses might be a good place to start.

And just as with BusRadio – which once boasted on its website for advertisers that it would “take targeted student marketing to the next level” – it’s clear the underlying purpose of BEST is to deliver a captive audience of students to advertisers. The BEST website includes a section of “ideal partnerships” which include “targeted content partners” and “commercial sponsorships.”

As for the claim there will be no commercials, the website says only that BEST won’t run “Direct commercial ads that parents can object to and are not good for kids” or air violence or sexually explicit material. That’s not setting the bar very high.

As we learned with BusRadio, it’s not just the content that parents object to – it’s the very business model of forcing children to consume media and marketing on a school bus. Before the BEST team proceeds any further, they should do their homework. They could start with the more than 1,000 comments that parents submitted to the FCC in opposition to BusRadio, or by reading how parents in Louisville, Montgomery County, and cities and towns around the country organized to keep the company out of their school districts. Because if BEST, like its failed predecessor, underestimates parents’ determination to keep their school buses commercial-free, it’s sure to be the next BusRadio. — J.G.

Recent Tweets — And Off to Tucson

Hi Readers — From time to time I like to post  some of my recent tweets here, for those who are not (yet) Twittering away. So – voila, in no particular order:

1 -Whole NY Times story on whether Disney ousted anti-commercialism kids group from its Harvard home: http://nyti.ms/9y4IV3

2 – New blog from KaBoom (playground advocates): “Play Haters.” Stories of classic grumps & spoilsports: http://bit.ly/bNxgFI

3 – Best essay EVER on the way we react to any tragedy by creating new oversights we don’t need or won’t help: http://bit.ly/cQcxth

4 – I kid(ney) you not! New study shows kidney donors not at greater risk of death than those of us with 2! http://bit.ly/aM8uo7

5 – Here’s me, talking about stranger danger, along with my adversary who says even ADULTS shouldn’t talk to strangers.http://bit.ly/a44qt3

6 – PBS is debating Free-Range Kids on its website. Sorry to say, not sure the idea is winning! Help! http://to.pbs.org/a5btJR

Ok — that’s enough for now. I’m off to the Tucson Book Fair. If you’re in the nabe, stop by. I’ll  be speaking on Saturday morning. Love to say hi! Meantime, my deputy will be posting this weekend while I’m away. Enjoy! — Lenore

A Baby Einstein or Your Money Back

Hi Readers — Hope you saw this piece in The Times:  Disney is offering refunds to any parents who bought its Baby Einstein videos and found, to their shock, that watching shapes, songs, kids and colors on TV did not turn their babies  into instant geniuses the way a name like “Einstein”  might suggest.

This mea culpa  is a huge victory for the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood, which got the Einstein folks to drop the word “educational” from their marketing materials a few years ago. This new refund is an even bigger deal, because now the company has to put its money where its Mouse is. (Sorry. It’s not even quite a pun, but who could resist?)  Anyway, Baby Einstein sells $200 million worth of products a year.  About a third of all American tots own one of its DVDs.  Giving their parents refunds  represents a lot of money, and a lot of embarrassment. What made Disney budge? According to the Times:

Last year, lawyers threatened a class-action lawsuit for unfair and deceptive practices unless Disney agreed to refund the full purchase price to all who bought the videos since 2004. “The Walt Disney Company’s entire Baby Einstein marketing regime is based on express and implied claims that their videos are educational and beneficial for early childhood development,” a letter from the lawyers said, calling those claims “false because research shows that television viewing is potentially harmful for very young children.”

I don’t think watching a little TV is going to turn any kid into a Dudley Dursley. But to think that watching TV is the key to kiddie education, rather than, say, letting the kid dig in dirt, or splash in the tub, or bang on a pot — whew. That’s just plain Goofy. — Lenore