Child Advocate Rips Kid Ads for PG-13

By Robert Marich

   Aug. 5, 2009 -- The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood launched a letter writing campaign to pressure major studio film distributors from marketing PG-13 rated films to children audiences.
   The issue is not clear-cut because a PG-13 rating usually flags some content as potentially unsuitable, such as language or violence, but parents may decide such movies are okay for their kids anyway. There's a firm barrier for the R-rating.
   “Burger King Iron Man toy giveaways for preschoolers...Indiana Jones Lunchables...  Incredible Hulk toys for children as young as three…The Dark Knight Cheerios,” says the CCFC’s website. “This summer’s violent PG-13 blockbusters are being marketed to young children. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) could stop this onslaught but they won’t.
   The MPAA is the trade group representing Hollywood six major studios. An affiliate administers the industy’s film ratings system and monitors that ad placements are appropriate. 
   “The PG-13 rating states that parents should be ‘strongly cautioned’ that ‘material may be inappropriate for children under 13,’ but the film industry is doing everything and anything to ensure that violence-packed movies are the talk of elementary and preschool playgrounds,”  CCFC’s Director, Dr. Susan Linn said in a May press release.

   Child protection pressure groups are also riled up because of what they perceive as “ratings creep” – meaning standards for PG-13 have loosened in recent years. A film that might barely get an R rating a few years ago now passes with a PG-13 because the audience Classification and Ratings Administration (CARA) board is adjusting standards—which happens to match changes in society. Cartoonish violence – even on a massive scale – seems to be landing PG-13.

   Separately, the Council of Better Business Bureau's Chidren’s Advertising Review Unit is an industry self regulation entity that watches for abuses in children marketing. It has flagged ad placements for Paramount’s Star Trek, Fox’s Wolverine and Warner/New Line’s 17 Again for ads in children’s shows.

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