Blasts New Programming Aimed at 2-Year-Olds

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WASHINGTON ( -- As Time Warner's Cartoon Network today launched a new daily two-hour block of programming aimed at 2- to 5-year-olds, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, led by Harvard psychologist Susan Linn, publicly attacked the move as a cynical marketing ploy.
Cartoon Network's new 'Tickle U' is aimed at 2- to 5-year-olds.
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'Tickle U'
Cartoon Network's new tot-targeted show is called Tickle U and airs at 9 a.m. on weekdays. The network described the content as “fun, funny and fearless animated programming presented by Marty, an adult with a kid’s unlimited imagination and big heart. Marty will inspire kids to sing along, play and, most importantly, laugh with him and his characters."

Ms. Linn blasted Tickle U as "the latest attempt to get young children in front of screens -- which is exactly where marketers want them," and said: "We should not be fooled by network executives’ claims about the benefits of this commercial venture."

National coalition
Headquartered at the Judge Baker Children's Center in Boston, CCFC is a national coalition of health-care professionals, educators, advocacy groups and parents concerned about the impact of marketing activities aimed at young children.

Ms. Linn said there is growing concern that young children are being exposed to too much TV and quoted Wheelock College professor Diane Levin, the author of Remote Control Childhood.

“Children don’t need TV to develop a sense of humor. It comes from play and their natural interactions with the world around them,” Ms. Levin writes. “This is a classic case of marketers trying to create a need where none exists and to dupe parents into thinking that watching more TV is good for their children.”

Product placement ban
Cartoon Networks says its motives are far more favorable and noted it has imposed restrictions on the marketing in the programming, including a ban on product placement.

“We know this is a special, vulnerable audience, so not only is programming designed with children’s developmental needs in time but there are clear distinctions between programmatic material and commercial material,” said Alice Cahn, vice president of development and programming

Ms. Cahn, a former educator and a public broadcasting executive, also said children that learn humor skills do better in school and social situations and are less likely to lash out when an obstacle comes their way.

Ms. Linn says there is little evidence of that.

Basis of claims challenged
“The issue is whether there's any research showing that watching TV contributes to children developing a sense of humor. [Network executives are] claiming that their programs are promoting the development of a sense of humor -- what basis do they have for claiming that?” she said.

Ms. Cahn, meanwhile, says she has received e-mails of support for Tickle U’s concept, including some from experts like David Kleeman, executive director of the American Center for Children and Media, and Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, professor of developmental psychology at Temple University.

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