THE BLOG

Peggy Charren Always Put Kids First, Policymakers Should Follow

02/03/2015 07:49 pm ET | Updated Apr 05, 2015

With the passing of Peggy Charren, the country has lost an important voice in the fight for civility and civic responsibility in media aimed at children.

Charren was a trailblazer who pushed television networks to develop more intelligent and appropriate programming for kids. Her fight took her from communities around the country to the halls of Congress, giving voice to a silent majority of parents, families and concerned citizens in the face of powerful opposition.

Her work continues to inspire those of us who fight for quality programming for children as we evolve into new media and a new century. Charren's central message remains the same: those seeking to draw the attention of our children must feel a sense of obligation to help educate them and not simply treat them as the next generation of consumers.

Charren's life and work holds valuable lessons for today's children's advocates who still face resistance to change from powerful, entrenched interests. Like many of us who continue this fight in Congress, state houses and communities across the country, Charren's interest grew out of her concern as a parent.

In Charren's 1960s America, the culprits were, as she called them "wall-to-wall monster cartoons" and incessant marketing of sugary breakfast cereals on kids' television shows. Today, we still face a dearth of quality programming for our kids, from movies to television to other, new forms of digital media and overzealous companies eager to begin marketing to our children.

While some of the details have changed, many of the fundamental problems from that distant America remain. And Charren's call to action is just as relevant as it was 50 years ago: makers of media aimed at children should feel a greater sense of responsibility and civic duty to create quality programming for children.

Of course, the challenges of the day go beyond kids overdosing on monster cartoons. Today's media is more graphic, more violent and further pushes the boundaries of good taste with potentially harmful effects to our children.

Media is also now two-way and interactive, raising a host of new privacy and safety concerns. We now leave behind digital footprints in our wake, offering irresistible temptations for companies to find new ways to gather data and market products to our children.

In this new, interactive media area, there are additional incentives for companies to misbehave, and new dangers we are all still learning how to navigate -- both as consumers and as parents.

As we continue to find our voice and our way, Charren's work is an important reminder about the power of the individual, even in the face of powerful corporate interests. We need additional vigilance to ensure our children are being protected at all costs.

Though we may have replaced the scourge of violent cartoons with digital profiles, the memory and track record of Peggy Charren is a reminder about the importance of standing up for our children and the power of the individual to affect change.