Susan Linn

Susan E. Linn is associate director of the Media Center of the Judge Baker Children's Center as well as an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Recent Articles

The Trouble With Teletubbies

"If Public Television doesn't do it, who will?" —PBS motto Public television's pithy tag line is meant to have positive connotations—innovating, filling a void, performing a vital public service. But the slogan took on ironic overtones last year when it appeared on advertisements heralding the arrival of Teletubbies , the first television program ever broadcast in the United States for a target audience of children as young as 12 months. Teletubbies features a huggable band of four alien toddlers who have televisions in their tummies. Their heads are topped by antennae conveniently sized to fit in a baby's grasp—kind of like plush rattles. As the Teletubbies babble in a language sounding a lot like toddler talk, they frolic in a lush, fairy tale–like landscape. Under the watch ful eyes of a blue-eyed, giggling baby ensconced in a glowing sun, they interact with things of great interest to young children—a butterfly, a giant ball, or a toaster. One of the program's main characters is a...

Sellouts

T he FTC's recent report on Hollywood's violation of its own voluntary rating codes had politicians of both parties expressing indignation about how the entertainment industry targets children with violent and indecent material. Both Gore and Bush promised to increase pressure on industry executives; Gore even threatened regulation if the industry failed to "clean up its act." But few critics have focused on the deeper problem--that media executives routinely exploit children for profit by marketing kids' products the industry officially rates as unsuitable for them. Children are big business. And that means my daughter is a popular kid these days. Taco Bell wants her, and so do McDonald's and Burger King. Abercrombie & Fitch has a whole store devoted to her. Pert Plus has a shampoo she'll love. Ethan Allen is creating bedroom sets she can't live without. ALPO even wants to sell her dog food. Even while I, like all American parents, am held...