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Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood: Why is the National School Boards Association Selling Kids on MySpace?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NOVEMBER 16, 2007
2:05 PM

CONTACT:  Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood
Josh Golin 617.278.4282;
jgolin@jbcc.harvard.edu

 
Why is the National School Boards Association Selling Kids on MySpace?
CCFC asks NSBA to Disavow Industry-Funded Report on Social Networking
 

WASHINGTON - November 16 -The escalating push to drive kids to commercial online social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, which are rife with embedded advertising, is getting a boost from an unexpected quarter—the National School Boards Association. This summer the the NSBA published a report urging school boards to reconsider any rules against using commercial social networking sites in classrooms. While extolling the educational benefits of these sites, the report made no mention of the fact that it has become glaringly obvious that their primary purpose is to generate advertising revenue. This omission is not surprising. The research, conducted by a public relations firm which is selling its data to corporations who wish to exploit it, was funded by Microsoft (which has a financial stake in Facebook), News Corporation (which owns MySpace) and Verizon, which advertises on both sites. Citing the inherent conflict-of-interest, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood sent a letter today to NSBA Executive Director Anne Bryant demanding that NSBA disavow the report and advise school boards around the country about the subtle and unscrupulous marketing techniques practiced by major commercial social networking sites.

“Local educators need objective, honest information—not marketing hype—to guide their efforts toward helping students grapple with the current unprecedented convergence of sophisticated, ubiquitous media technology and unfettered commercialism.” said CCFC’s director Dr. Susan Linn, a psychologist at Judge Baker Children’s Center. “It is disappointing that the NSBA would lend their good name to a public relations effort designed to assuage legitimate concerns about the use of MySpace and Facebook in schools.”

Marketing on MySpace includes ads promoting fast food giants McDonald’s, Burger King and Jack-in-the-Box; tobacco brands including Marlboro, Camel, and Skoal; and brands of alcohol including Skyy Vodka and Captain Morgan. The Captain Morgan MySpace page explicitly promotes binge drinking and alcohol-fueled sexual activity. Both MySpace and Facebook also plan to mine users’ profiles for data that will allow marketers to send ads targeted specifically to their interests. Facebook is also encouraging young users to allow the company to send their friends unsolicited ads disguised as personal endorsements.

Added Dr. Linn, “As marketing becomes more sophisticated and more ubiquitous, organizations like NSBA, whose mission is to promote the education and well-being of children, should be setting limits on corporate access to children, not helping to promote their brands.”

CCFC ‘s letter to the NSBA complete letter can be found at http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/nsbaletter.pdf.

The NSBA’s report is available at http://www.nsba.org/site/docs/41400/41340.pdf.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is a national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups and concerned parents who counter the harmful effects of marketing to children through action, advocacy, education, research, and collaboration among organizations and individuals who care about children. CCFC supports the rights of children to grow up – and the rights of parents to raise them – without being undermined by rampant commercialism. For more information, please visit: http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org.

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