Professor Diane Levin of Wheelock College, a well-known expert on children and play and a co-founder of the coalition to Stop Commercial Exploitation of Children (SCEC), was barred from the Hasbro exhibit at the International Toy Fair in February because she signed a letter to Tom Conley, president of the Toy Industry of America. The letter from the SCEC Steering Committee expressed concerns about children's toys that promote junk food, violence, precocious sexuality, and adult media.
Among the toys mentioned in the letter was Hasbro's Play Doh McDonald's Restaurant, recommended by Hasbro for children 3 and up. SCEC's letter described the toy as, "A Play-Doh kit with molds for making burgers, buns, fries and shakes. The molds take control of play away from children and undermine creativity. Toys linked to fast food restaurants focus children's play on foods high in fat, sugar, salt and calories. In doing so, they promote poor nutrition. While they may help create brand loyalty from an early age, they can contribute to obesity and eating disorders, a growing problem for children."
Professor Levin was scheduled to visit the exhibit with Boston Globe columnist Barbara Meltz, who is writing a story on toys that facilitate children's play. Professor Levin said, "Since the Boston Globe story is about toys that are good for children, I am shocked that Hasbro would not let me in the exhibit because of SCEC's letter. I think that Hasbro and other toy manufacturers need to hear how the toys they market affect children's growth and development."
The letter, and links to the toys, can be found at:
We have included this story because it illustrates what we see as an emerging movement in America by parents against not only the fast food restaurant industry, but also the popular media and businesses that exploit and take advantage of children to sell them goods and services. SCEC's letter aptly identified that not only is McDonald's, through its marketing, trying to colonize the minds of young children, but the company is also helping to create unhealthy lifelong eating habits. Our research indicates that SCEC is not some splinter radical group, but rather reflects the attempt by many parents to take control over their children's development by removing harmful influences from their lives. In next month's issue, we plan to discuss this in greater detail as it relates to away-from-home food and beverage.