A crusader for media literacy in kids

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One of the great things about attending professional conferences is the exposures and connections that I didn’t go looking for.

At the BEDA conference a couple of weeks ago, for example, I met and formed alliances with Dr. Adam Silberstein and Asher Gottesman, two Californians who are opening a treatment center for food addicts in Los Angeles. I also met and formed a friendship with Deb Burgard, a psychiatrist and proponent of the Health at Every Size movement.

And last weekend at the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood summit in Boston, I met Erin McNeill, a semi-neighbor who works at the intersection of marketing, media, and childhood.

Her “about” page is a manifesto of what she’s trying to accomplish and why:

Why do I do this? Because when my boys were young, I wondered why the cartoons they watched on commercial television showed boys making googly eyes at the girls. And the girls had on these skimpy outfits. My little boys weren’t interested in girls yet. Girls were just other kids at school. If their interests aligned, they would play together. If not, no big deal. And they certainly didn’t understand the concept of staring at girls and saying “hubba hubba.” Why was this version of male behavior being pushed on them? And why were they being trained from such an early age in gender stereotypes? Why this emphasis on the differences between boys and girls?


Then, there were the advertisements on television. When a boy of 6 or 8 or 10 sees soft porn in the form of a Victoria’s Secret commercial during a Red Sox game, I wondered: How does that affect him? What is it doing to the sexual development of young males?...


We would watch children’s movies. Everybody is male in children’s animated movies. Every preschooler knows that worker bees are all female. So we get the Bees movie, with all-male worker bees. Jungle Book has a herd of male elephants, although we learned at our very first trip to the zoo that elephants travel in packs of females. Most crowd shots in animated movies look like photos of crowds in the Taliban-controlled Middle East. ... If there was any female character in the movie, she was usually the only one. What is her role? To be the “female” one. Take for example the movie Madagascar. There’s the smart one, the adventurous one, the dopey one, and the female one. She bats her eyelashes a lot. Is it possible that there is more than one “female” personality?

I agree with every one of her points, and am glad to know she’s working on behalf of my son, as well as all the other kids left to fend for themselves in this mass media morass. I hope you’ll start following along, too, and help her make progress, as I am trying to do by sharing her work with you.

And, here's where you'll find her on Twitter.

Author and wellness innovator Michael Prager helps smart companies
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