Media, Technology and Commercialism

published in In Defense of Childhood

Children today are growing up in a world vastly different from the one their parents grew up in just a generation ago. Media, marketing, and technology have become pivotal influences in children's lives and they are profoundly altering the basic foundation on which healthy childhoods depend. American children ages two to five now spend more than 32 hours a week on average engaged with screen media (Neilson, 2009), a figure that rises sharply with age as children become more involved with video games, handheld devices, and the Internet (Kaiser, 2010). Much of the entertainment media children see depicts a world of violence where relationships are based on hurt, coercion, and disrespect. Corporations market to children without restrictions through television, movies, the Internet, video and computer games, fast-food chains, retail stores, and even schools. Taken together, these influences have become a dominant and harmful force in children's lives at a time when the potential of schools and parents to counteract them is diminishing. In the nation's schools, with their overemphasis on testing and academic standards, little room remains for attending to the needs and interests of the whole child. And many parents are too preoccupied with the struggle to survive in an increasingly harsh economic climate to find the time and energy to try to counteract these social forces.

Media, technology, and commercialism are undermining some of the basic building blocks of children's healthy development: creative play, a secure sense of self, and authentic relationships rooted in compassion and caring. These building blocks are already weakened for an increasing number of the nation's children whose basic needs are not well met. The United States ranks far below other advanced nations when comparing the well-being of children along lines of poverty, health, and education (United Nations Children's Fund, 2007). So while it is the children already at risk who are the most vulnerable to harm from media and marketing forces, virtually all of the nation's children, regardless of their circumstances, are affected by these influences pervading childhood today.

A Healthy Foundation Through Play

Researchers who have tracked children's creativity for 50 years are seeing a significant decrease in creativity among children for the first time, especially younger children from kindergarten through sixth grade (Bronson, 2010). This is not surprising given the number of hours children spend consuming media and the disappearance of creative play from their lives. Play is a remarkably creative process that fosters original thinking, problem solving, learning, and imagination. As children actively invent their own scenarios in play, they work their way though the challenges life presents and gain confidence and a sense of mastery.

In a kindergarten classroom I visited, I watched Sarah who came to school many mornings distraught, holding tight to her mom who was often hurrying to get to her high-pressured job as a retail executive. The teacher in this classroom set up a "business office" in the play area, and this was where Sarah frequently headed upon arrival at school. Typically she would choose a doll, stick the doll in a chair or on a bed, and then bid her goodbye. Sarah would then enter the "business office" where she'd sit busily writing on papers at the desk and talking on the phone. Periodically Sarah would walk back to the doll and speak to her, sometimes with concern such as, "oh my darling, how are you?" and other times with harsh admonishments such as "stop crying, I have to go to work."

Sarah's frequent play episodes were vital for helping her cope with the complex feelings she had about separating from her mom and going to school. Healthy play summons each child's imagination and ability to create original scenes and scripts. When children have the opportunity to become thoroughly engaged in play, they can experience deep, inner satisfaction that strengthens their sense of self and their inner resilience. These are the qualities children need today to withstand societal forces that threaten to destabilize their security and well-being.

Play is also vital to learning and inseparable from it. We know from decades of research and child development theory, now backed up by findings from neuroscience, that young children learn through play. When children play with materials, they are building a foundation of understanding for concepts and skills that form the basis for later academic learning. For example, a young child understands the concept of "four"—that it represents a quantity that is separate from objects--through manipulating objects in various ways, not by copying down the numeral "4" on paper. Open-ended materials such as blocks, play dough, and building materials encourage children to construct an understanding of concepts through their play. Neuroscience tells us that as children do this, connections and pathways in the brain become activated and solidified.

By moving through their environment—exploring, touching and investigating through play, not only are children learning concepts, they are learning how to learn: to take initiative, to ask questions, to create and solve their own problems. Good teachers know how to build on what children do in play by providing follow-up activities to extend learning. There is a growing body of research to show that play is essential for children's academic success and when teachers intervene to scaffold new learning, the benefits of play are especially potent (Isenberg & Quisenberry, 2002; Singer, Singer, Plaskon & Schweder, 2003).

Endangered Play

Children today are spending less time playing at home, outdoors, and at school. The more time young children clock in front of screens, the less time they spend engaged in creative play. In our nation's schools, the focus on academic skills and scripted teaching, alarmingly, has pushed down even to preschools and kindergartens where play experiences are disappearing (Miller & Almon, 2009). Our poorest children who are in the most overcrowded classrooms with the least qualified teachers receive the most drill-based instruction and the fewest opportunities for play.

Not only are children today playing less, their capacity to play creatively has diminished. The very play process itself has been eroding ever since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) deregulated the broadcasting industry in the mid-1980's and the floodgates opened for big business to market shows, products and toys linked together around single themes (Levin & Carlsson-Paige, 2006). Once this happened, teachers began saying that children's play was looking more like imitations of TV scripts than original scenarios invented by children. Teachers' concerns about the loss of creative play have intensified over the years as marketing campaigns have extended their reach to include Hollywood movies, video and computer games, the Internet, fast-food chains, and even schools.

We see the disappearance of play in childhood beginning with infants and toddlers. A Kaiser Family Foundation report found that in a typical day, 61% of children under the age of two watch screen media for more than an hour (Rideout & Hamel, 2006). At the same time, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under the age of two because of concerns that TV affects early brain growth and the development of social, emotional, and cognitive skills (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2001). The authors of the Kaiser report write that baby videos, computer games, and TV shows for infants and toddlers are becoming commonplace, and that an increasing number of TV shows, videos, websites, software programs, video games and interactive TV toys are designed specifically for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.

I visited a home recently where two boys, two and four years of age were both playing with electronic toys. Ronin had a plastic multi-colored radio and he was pushing the buttons one after the other. Each time he pushed a button, a different song played, but Ronin was pushing the buttons as fast as he could without listening to the songs. His brother Jake had a talking alphabet toy, and he was also pushing buttons that would activate a voice saying letter names that matched pictures of objects starting with those letters.

Electronic toys have become extremely popular with many parents who think they are educational. But these toys have real limitations. They don't allow for the level of exploration and learning that open-ended materials invite. Instead, they encourage more superficial interactions. The voices, actions, and lights that are built into electronic toys teach children to be entertained by the toy, to look to the toy to do something rather than to invent a question to explore through their own initiative. A friend told me recently that she babysat for a three-year-old who picked up the ball she'd brought to play with and asked, "How do you turn it on?"

Anne, a former graduate student who returned to teaching after raising three children, wrote recently to tell me how the children today seemed different:

"I've noticed a change for the worse in a time span of about 10 years. Play is missing from children's lives today. They do not know how to pretend and it's a tragedy. I'm noticing that they don't know how to create either. I have open-ended art materials in my art area and very few children know how to experiment, explore, or create with them. They seem happier with the product than the process and that scares me. The block corner is not half as popular as it used to be. We sit at circle and the little faces look at me as if to say, 'Okay, entertain me.'"

Hearing comments like this from teachers both informally and through my research, as well as observing these trends first hand, has convinced me that as the forces of screen technology and commercialism have loomed larger in children's lives, the creative aspects of their play truly have been slipping away. No one knows what the long-term consequences will be for children who cannot use this natural resource we call Play to its fullest. But I believe that the risks to children and to society of losing healthy, creative play are far-reaching and even dangerous, and that we should do everything we can to counteract the influences that threaten play and reclaim this vital resource for children.

Reclaiming Healthy Play

Even in the face of societal trends that are threatening children's healthy play, there are a great many things we can do to help children's play lives to thrive. In our local schools and communities, we can advocate for early childhood classrooms that foster play and hands-on learning. We can help administrators and policy makers understand that through play children develop the foundation for success in school later on (Coolahan, Fantuzzo, Mendez, & McDermott, 2000). We can cite the research showing that through play children develop critical thinking (Vygotsky, 1976), self regulation (Whitebread, Coltman, Jameson, & Lander, 2009), constructive problem solving (Wyver & Spence, 1999), creativity (Moore & Russ, 2008), and the ability to wrestle with life's challenges (Winnicott, 1971).

We can support children's creative play at home and in other settings in our communities such as parks and after-school programs. Children need uninterrupted playtime every day. In all of the settings where children play, we can provide access to open-ended materials—blocks, sand, water, play dough, building and collage materials, generic dolls and animals. As we watch children play, we can make comments, ask questions, and suggest materials—based on what we see children doing in their play--that will help their play deepen and expand.

We can avoid buying media-linked and electronic toys that place limits on what children can do and imagine. If a child is using a media-linked toy such as a Princess Ariel doll, we can try to introduce a more open-ended material such as blocks to use along with it, and gently suggest ideas for a story that break from the Ariel "script." When we are choosing toys and materials for children to use in any context, we can ask ourselves, "what is the potential of this toy for fostering imaginative play and creative problem solving?" and choose those that can optimally foster imagination and learning.

The Consumer Child and the Whole Child

There has been a staggering increase in marketing to children in the last two decades. Corporations pour about 17 billion annually into huge marketing campaigns that are increasingly fueled by rapid and continuing technological advances and innovations in marketing tactics (Horovitz, 2006). Most young children in the U.S. today are immersed in a world saturated with commercial images. Parents tell me they can't find generic toys, lunchboxes and pajamas that aren't tied to some corporate logo or Hollywood movie. When the last Star Wars film was released and marketed heavily to children through toys, food, and a host of products, a boy sitting at his math table in a second grade classroom turned to me and said, "Star Wars! I can't get it out of my head!"

The commercial culture children grow up in today is largely the result of a free pass handed to corporations in 1980 for unrestricted marketing to children. Before that time, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had the authority to regulate advertising to children, and there were a number of important restrictions in place to protect children from deceptive and unfair advertising (Linn, 2004). But in 1980, when the FTC decided it was time to enact a ruling that would ban all advertising to children under the age of eight, corporations reacted by feverishly lobbying Congress. The end result was legislation that stripped the FTC of all power to regulate advertising to children.

A federal regulation that prohibits advertising to young children is in the absolute best interest of a nation's children. The nature of advertising requires children to understand that someone with an underlying motive of self-interest is trying to sell them something. Because young children tend to see things at face value without comprehending the intention or motive beneath the surface, advertising is inherently unfair or exploitive of their developmental capabilities. Many parents tell me that when their children see ads on TV, they shout, "I want that!" Of course this is the case, because the pull of the visual image is strongly persuasive to the mind of a young child.

Beneath all the products that marketers sell to children there is one central message: Happiness comes from consuming: "You will be happy if you have this toy, if you eat this cereal, if you have these clothes." Children get the message that satisfaction comes from outside of oneself, not from within, that self-worth is based on what you have and how you look rather than who you are as a person. One first-grade teacher I spoke with told me that the little girls in her class are preoccupied with fashion, clothes, makeup and hair, that they compete with each other around these things and isolate little girls who are not dressed in popular fashions.

The consistent message children hear from consumer culture--there is something you need to acquire--undermines their ability to find peace and satisfaction where they are in any given moment. It's no wonder that research shows that the more children buy into consumer culture, the less happy they are, the more anxious, and the lower their self-esteem (Schor, 2004). Dora, a teacher and a parent, told me that she went to a birthday party for a boy six years old who opened presents at lighting speed, and threw them aside one after the other saying, "I have that," or "I don't want that." Dora said she felt alarmed and sad. The boy seemed to have no connection to the item or the people who gave it to him.

Combating Commercial Culture

There is growing awareness of the dangers of marketing to children, and mounting evidence that parents and professionals are concerned. I believe that the problem requires action at the federal level and that we should push for a return to the regulation of advertising to children by the FTC and for FCC regulations that will stop the marketing of media-linked toys and products to young children. Public health and medical organizations such as the American Psychological Association and the World Health Organization have called for restrictions on marketing to children (World Health Organization, 2006). Several advocacy groups, most notably The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC) (www.commercialexploitation.org), a national coalition of health-care professionals, educators, advocacy groups, and concerned parents, launch campaigns to push back against the commercialization of childhood. On the CCFC website, you can see a variety of ways to take action and download the list of 10 Things You Can Do To Reclaim Childhood From Corporate Marketers.

In our schools and communities, we can help raise awareness about the hazards of marketing to children by organizing discussion events on the topic. There is an impressive list of new documentary films about commercialized childhood available from a variety of sources, one being the Media Education Foundation (www.mediaed.org) that has several valuable films, including the acclaimed Consuming Kids.

With the children in our own lives, we can limit exposure to screens and commercial influences. When we see ads—on television, cereal boxes, as logos, as product placement in films--we can point these out to children. We can ask them why they think these ads are there, and talk with them about this, keeping in mind that young children will have unique ideas of their own and only gradually come to understand marketing as we do.

Threats to Relationships and Social and Emotional Learning

The images children see in the media have a powerful influence in shaping the view of the world they develop. The antisocial messages they absorb have great impact because children spend so many hours with media and many fewer hours interacting with peers and parents than in the past. Many shows tell children a similar story--of a world that is dangerous, where there are "good guys" and "bad guys," where people need weapons and must fight to settle their differences. As hundreds of teachers reported in my research, children take the behaviors they've seen in the media and try them out in their own interactions with other children—kicking, fighting, using mean-spirited, hurtful words—setting their relationships with peers in a downward spiral.

In the summer of 2000, after reviewing all of the relevant research, six major medical groups issued a joint statement: viewing entertainment violence can lead to emotional desensitization and increases in aggressive attitudes, values and behavior in children (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2000). More recently, other public health professionals have issued a similar statement about playing violent video games which can increase the likelihood of aggressive behavior in children and youth (Institute for Media and the Family, 2006). Yet even with all these expert voices raising red flags about the dangers of viewing entertainment violence, media that is fraught with violence—television shows, media-linked toys, movies, video games—continue to be routinely marketed to children. One common strategy that lures young children into violence is the promotion of highly enticing violent toys which are linked to movies—for teens and adults—rated PG-13 or R. The big media companies have used this approach successfully with Star Wars, Transformers, Lord of the Rings, and X-Men, to name just a few. Young kids play with these toys, have the logos on their underpants and toothbrushes, and then beg their parents to take them to see the movie. Parents, often confused by this marketing, go to see these films with their kids and later receive criticism because they don't say "no" to violent entertainment.

The violence in children's entertainment media is designed to look exciting and fun. Young kids are drawn to the graphic action of what's on the screen and don't see the hurtful effects of the violence. Before they are even old enough to understand that hurtful acts cause pain, many kids have become desensitized to violence and have even begun to acquire an appetite for it. This is especially troubling because researchers have shown that children exposed to violent programming at a young age have a higher tendency for violent and aggressive behavior later in life than children not so exposed (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2000).

Learning Empathy and to Care for Others

In recent years there has been a growing recognition that children's success in school and in life depends to a large extent upon their social and emotional skills: self-awareness, being able to handle difficult emotions, having a capacity for empathy with others and the ability to "put oneself in their shoes," and dealing effectively with relationships. Researchers have been able to show conclusively that social and emotional skills and competencies result in improved academic achievement and higher grades in school (Consortium for Academic, Social, Emotional Learning, 2007). And neuroscience has shown that how we interact with children can do a lot to influence and strengthen the neural connections in the brain that represent social and emotional skills.

At a time when children are exposed to so many antisocial models through media and commercial products, and given their more limited opportunity for play and social interaction both at home and at school, children today need more help learning relationship skills than they did in the past. But how do we teach these to children? We can't just tell children they should care about other people or be kind. No, they have to learn these things the same way they learn everything: through firsthand experiences that encourage them to construct their own awareness and build their own skills.

As I think about how to encourage social and emotional learning in children, I find it helpful to keep two general goals in mind. The possible ways these goals might be implemented by the creative adults in children's daily lives are truly endless. What any of us choose to do will be shaped by our situation—the developmental levels of the children we work with, their interests and needs, our cultural background and that of the children, and our own creative ideas.

GOAL #1: Give children an alternative to models of relationships based on coercion and violence.

Children need to see and, more importantly, experience alternatives to the models of violence and disrespect that surround them. In our interactions with children, we can present these alternatives. We can accomplish our adult goals while using non-coercive, nonviolent approaches; we can present children with a way of being based on dialogue, negotiation, and joint problem solving. Let me give you a couple of examples of what this can look like.

I was at the park one day with a group of kids including three-year old Brian. As Brian ran exuberantly across the park, he bumped into a little girl and knocked her over. Brian saw the little girl fall, then spun around and ran off in the other direction. I ran after Brian calling his name but he wouldn't stop. Finally I caught up with him, calling, "Brian, I want to talk to you!" He turned around as he kept running to say, "I don't want a time-out." I realized then that Brian thought I would make him sit out on a bench or have some kind of "consequence" for knocking over the little girl. Immediately I wanted Brian to understand that I was not going to use my adult power to punish him. "We're not going to have a time-out," I said. "But let's go over and find out how the little girl is who you knocked over." Hand-in-hand, we walked over to talk with the girl and her mother.

We adults have opportunities every day to decide how to get children to do what we want. Many of us do what our own parents and teachers did with us: We use time-outs, rewards, bribes, and punishments—all approaches that use our adult power over children. Every time we use such approaches, we are showing children that we too believe that coercion is necessary to get what we want from each other.

In the case of Brian, we walked over to talk to the little girl he'd hurt. I helped Brian ask how she was and to make amends. I showed Brian that I wanted to help him find a positive way to resolve this situation, not force him to behave by my standards. This approach helped Brian feel some concern for the little girl because he saw and talked with her, and could go beyond his first aim of avoiding punishment. As Piaget wrote, the more authority we adults use over children, the less likely they will learn to regulate their own behavior from within (Piaget, 1965). Because we want children to learn to feel genuine kindness toward others, we have to use approaches that will help them build feelings of empathy and caring from the inside out.

Here's a second example of how we might show children alternatives to coercion, this time using a conflict situation. Because kids see so many examples of adversarial conflict resolution in the media--of "we" versus "them" and "might makes right"--they need to see how things could be done differently. I went to a street fair with several families, including Lara and her five-year old son Quentin. There was a vendor there selling small bird statues and Lara bought one. As we were riding home, Quentin began saying that he wanted to put the new statue in his room, but his mom had clearly bought the statue for herself. Lara has taught conflict resolution to parents for several years, and she wanted to work out this problem cooperatively with Quentin. Here is how their discussion went:

Quentin: I want the statue to be in my room.

Lara: You want it to be in your room?

Q: Yes. I want to wake up and look at it in the morning.

L: That would be nice, wouldn't it, to wake up in the morning and look at the statue?

Q: It's beautiful. I love birds.

L: You really love birds, don't you? Well, I bought this statue to put in our living room. So, you want it in your room and I want to put it in the living room. What do you think we can do about this?

Q: I want it in my room!

L: So—you want the statue in your room. Hmmm. And I would like to put the statue on the black table in the living room. What can we do? Do you have any ideas?

Q: We could put it in my room for a year.

L: You want to have the statue for a whole year? I would really miss it if it went into your room for a whole year! How about we try it in your room for a week and then put it in the living room?

Q: Okay, I'll put it in my room for a week.

L: And I will tell you when the week is over and it's time to put it in the living room. Do you think you can do that—put it in the living room after a week?

Q: Yes I can, Mommy.

Later, Lara and I talked about how she had worked out this conflict with Quentin. I noticed how she had begun the discussion by listening carefully to Quentin and reflecting back what she heard him saying, and I commented on this. Lara told me that she had learned that listening—and really giving it her full attention and her presence—is the most powerful skill she knows as a parent. As Lara listens to her son, he feels safe and secure; he trusts that he can express what he truly feels. It can be hard to listen as Lara does in conflict situations with our kids--often we don't want to hear what they are saying! But in order to resolve conflicts with children, they first have to feel they've been heard. Once this occurred with Quentin, he and Lara were able to look for a solution to their problem. It's important to see that Lara doesn't "give in" to Quentin's request. She states her own needs and asks him to help solve their shared problem. The solution they come up with is often called a win-win solution because both sides feel satisfied with it.

As Lara resolves this conflict with her son, she is showing Quentin an alternative to power over ways to resolve conflicts. She shows him how even parents and children can work things out fairly without one person winning and another losing.

There are teachers who use this same problem solving approach in their classrooms with individual children and with groups of children. Jim teaches kindergarten and he regularly asks questions of his class at meeting time: We have a new aquarium in the room--how can we feed these fish so that every one gets a fair chance?" And, "I have noticed that there's been a lot of fighting in the block area lately. What do you think we can do about this?" Lengthy discussions usually follow Jim's questions, as children express their ideas and opinions about the problem and the group looks for a way to solve it that the whole class agrees to.

Jim has a Peace Corner in his classroom where children go to work out their conflicts. It has soft cushions, paper and markers for drawing, and stick puppets, each with a photo of a child in the class. Sometimes the children hold up their puppets and talk through them, especially when they are very angry. Jim has taken photos of children as they work out their conflicts and he's written down and posted their solutions on one wall of the Peace Corner. These solutions give ideas to other children who come to the Peace Corner with problems. They say things like:

Roseanne asked James, "How can I help you feel better?"
Jasmine and Tony are going to share blocks next time.
Melissa asked Danisha to say, "I'm sorry," and she did.
Robert and Jacob shook hands. We are friends now.

GOAL #2: Help children learn social and emotional skills.

Social and emotional skills develop throughout childhood, and are still developing for many of us long after. These skills can present challenges to young children, who tend to think in egocentric ways, making it hard for them to understand how their behavior affects others or how someone else might feel. In addition, media models that glorify violence present additional challenges to children's social and emotional learning.

We can begin working on social and emotional skills when children are very young, but we have to do it in ways that match how young children think and learn: through active learning experiences embedded in real social situations. The social and emotional skills that we can begin working on in the early years include: self-awareness, learning about our feelings and the feelings of others, developing empathy for how others feel, understanding someone else's view, and dealing effectively with relationships. Creative teachers and parents can generate an infinite number of learning moments to help young children develop these skills.

There are teachers around the country who are exploring ways to help young children develop the skill of self-awareness through various activities that focus children's attention on how their bodies and emotions feel. Jane teaches kindergarten in New York City. She has had a Peace Corner in her classroom for many years, but recently Jane has begun integrating moments of quiet reflection throughout the day. When it's time to transition to a new activity for example, Jane turns out the lights which tells the children it's time for a moment of quiet—to take some deep breaths, focus on their belly breathing, and the feeling of calm they may notice inside.

Jane and other teachers often start the day with passing the "Hug a Planet" ball—a big, soft planet earth—from child to child. Before she passes the ball, Jane asks the children in the circle for a moment of silence—to close their eyes and check inside on how they are feeling. When a child gets the ball, she can say how she is feeling that day. Jane said that recently, when one young child got the ball, he paused, then said, "I realize I'm very sleepy. Things are very bad at home and I can't sleep." Jane followed up later with the child's family, but was glad the boy felt safe enough to share his feelings.

Giving children moments like this at home and school on a regular basis can help them gradually become more self-aware and develop a growing capacity for reflection (Lantieri, 2008). These skills, sometimes called inner life skills, can build children's resilience and give them a deep sense of calm that can help them cope with the pressures from commercial culture.

Here is a second example of how we might teach social and emotional skills to young children, this one from some very ingenious teachers in a day care center in Boston. These teachers devised an interactive storytelling activity called "Problem Puppets." They used puppets to tell lively stories based on, but not identical to, the social dynamics they were observing among the children. One day when I was visiting this center, two girls who were playing under the tire swing at outside time told a third child that she could not join them. When it came time for the "Problem Puppets" that day, the teachers introduced the puppets by their fictitious names and began telling a story to the class. They told about two girls who were playing in the block area when a third girl asked to join in. But the two girls said, "You can't play with us—we don't like you!" As soon as the puppets said this, the preschoolers began calling out, "Problem! Problem!" The teacher stopped and asked, "What is the problem?" And then many hands flew up, excited to describe what had happened. The teachers went on to ask many questions: "How does the girl feel who can't play?" "What could she say to the other girls?" "How can the two girls help her feel better?" "What could they do next time?" After a while of collecting the children's ideas, the teachers completed the story using some of the ideas they'd heard.

Because the puppet stories grow out of interactions the teachers have observed among the children, they are always meaningful to the children and well matched to their developmental level. The children listen intently to these stories, waiting to shout out "Problem!" and then contribute their ideas. As teachers pose open-ended questions about the story, it challenges the children to think more deeply about how we get along and affect each other in our relationships. Through this active and engaging activity, children are helped to gradually construct social and emotional awareness and skill.

Taking Back Childhood

To reverse the trends undermining healthy childhoods today will require social action and systemic change that may be a long time in coming. But as we continue to press for public policies that will bring greater equality and well being to all children and protect them from media and marketplace exploitation, we can also take many steps with the children in our own homes, schools and communities to reclaim for them some of the vital childhood experiences they are losing out on today. I can never hear the words of Margaret Mead enough: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." I believe that you and I, with our commitment to children and recognition of the impediments they face today, can act on their behalf wherever we are and in our own ways, to bring a better society into being that truly will support all children as they grow up to reach their full potential as human beings.

 

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