In the News

The U.S. is in, or at least heading toward, a crisis of financial illiteracy, decried panelists at a Newseum event Monday.

The Newseum Institute, based in Washington, D.C., hosted a panel discussion titled, “The State of Financial Literacy Education Today.” The topic is endlessly discussed, but never becomes irrelevant.

The happily-ever-after endings of Disney movies may matter more than we thought.

A recent study from Duke University looked at the highest-grossing children’s movies and determined that they sanitize poverty and inequality by making them seem like no big deal.

Think dwarves happy to labor in the mines, cheery chimney sweeps, and a host of other poor and working-class characters who never worry about food, shelter, employment or health care.

The Boston Globe

Retiring founder of small Boston nonprofit notched victories against some of the world’s largest companies

Four colorful, chubby creatures are what transformed Susan Linn from a concerned parent into an ardent activist.

For years, she had worried that advertising and marketing were saturating children’s lives, from the toddler she met who idolized Britney Spears to her daughter’s grade school concert of Disney music. But when PBS began airing “Teletubbies” — a TV series Linn viewed as falsely claiming to be educational for babies — she reached her limit.

Driven by her outrage, the Brookline resident created a small Boston organization aimed at protecting kids from corporate marketers. In the 15 years since, in real-life David-versus-Goliath fashion, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has repeatedly taken on some of the world’s largest companies and won.

It has notched victories — including against Hasbro Inc., McDonald’s Corp., and Walt Disney Co. — with only four full-time employees, no in-house legal team, and an annual budget of just $370,000 last year.

Ever since Siri appeared as a regular feature on the iPhone, certain young children — and, let’s face it, some of their parents — have spent hours chatting up the virtual assistant, curious about the details of her humanoid back story.

Siri, where do you live? Siri, do you have a boyfriend? Siri, how old are you?

At a time when grown-ups can use voice commands to find restaurants, change channels on their TVs or get directions, it seems logical that children would now expect devices to understand their speech and respond in kind.

Boston Magazine

Kids today are subjected to an avalanche of digital media—TVs, computers, tablets, smartphones—and the advertising that comes with it. As researchers try to figure out what that's doing to our children, Susan Linn and her tiny Boston nonprofit have become a child marketer's worst nightmare. Just ask Disney, Hasbro, Scholastic, and Kellogg.

Susan Linn is a Harvard Medical School instructor of psychiatry, the author of two books, and one of the country’s leading experts on how marketing and television exposure affect children. and right now, addressing a roomful of concerned parents at a nursery school in Lincoln, she’s got her arm jammed halfway up a puppet of a duck named Audrey. The duck, with its thick yarn braids and button eyes, cranes its neck to get a look at the room, while Linn’s face is frozen in a tooth-clenching grin. “Susan,” says the puppet, the voice seeming to emanate from nowhere, “what are we doing here?”

Linn, an award-winning ventriloquist who in her younger days performed everywhere from the streets of Boston to the set of  Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, today runs the tiny but hugely influential nonprofit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. The CCFC, as the group is known, is concerned with two overlapping issues: the amount of time children spend in front of an ever-growing array of screens — TVs, computers, smartphones, tablets — and the marketing messages they are subjected to while glued to them.

CBS News

The partnership looked good on paper: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services teaming up with Dreamworks animation to use the widely popular movie character Shrek to get kids off the couch.

"Get up and play an hour a day," the character tells kids in a public service announcement.

But beyond the public service, the studio's also going after promotion — through tie-ins with more than 70 food products, some healthy, some junk, CBS News anchor Katie Couric reports for the series "Gotta Have It: The Hard Sell To Kids."

It is an irony not lost on one late-night TV show.

The Colbert Report said: "Shrek gets an additional tip of my hat for spreading his message of health through joint ventures with Snickers, Pop Tarts, Skittles, Cheetos."

But it's no laughing matter to Dr. Susan Linn, a psychologist and co-founder of the campaign for a commercial-free childhood. She thinks Shrek's public service ads should be pulled.

Dr. Susan Linn

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