Susan Linn

Susan Linn is author of The Case for Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World and founder of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.  

Recent Articles

Confessions of a Pokémon Go Grinch: Ethical Questions About World’s Most Popular App

The new mobile game poses critical question about privacy, commercialism, and children’s attachment to screens.  

Joshua Boucher/The Texarkana Gazette via AP
My favorite 16-year-old and I spent several happy hours playing Pokémon Go the other day. We joined the throngs tapping and swiping away while meandering through historic Boston in sweltering heat. I felt a fleeting yet mysteriously intense connection with other players, pride in my single-handed capture of a rare Squirtle , and vague anxiety waiting for the phone vibrations signaling a nearby Pokémon. And I was oblivious to everything but the thrill of the chase as I stopped dead in the middle of a busy sidewalk to catch one. Was it fun? Yes. Do I wish I was writing one of those blogs saying “I was skeptical about Pokémon Go, one of the most downloaded apps ever, but now I’m a big fan?” Yes. Am I going to do that? No. Even as technology pundits laud the game for ushering in the age of augmented reality, I’m worried about a host of moral, ethical, and even legal questions that urgently need answers. Advocates for children are already...

Devil in the Details

WE TOLD YOU SO, PART I In our September-October 1996 issue, Jennifer Bradley profiled the Rutherford Institute, a Christian legal organization founded by John Whitehead to defend clients who allege religious discrimination in the workplace or at school. Although the institute portrayed itself as purely a civil liberties organization, Bradley showed that it "uses the tools and words of liberalism to advance a pinched, illiberal worldview." If her characterization was just informed opinion then, it's national news now. The Rutherford Institute's latest client is . . . Paula Jones? Stepping decidedly outside of its realm of expertise, the institute introduced Jones to her new lawyer Donovan Campbell and offered to help fund her case. In its own words, the institute declares its dedication to providing legal assistance in the following areas: "1. Defending the sanctity of human life; 2. Preserving religious expression in the public schools; 3. Upholding religious freedom in the workplace...

The Trouble With Teletubbies

Jerry Falwell was right: the Teletubbies are insidious, but not because they’re insinuating dubious ideas into the minds of one-year olds. The program is the culmination of PBS’s long drift toward commercialization. 

"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...


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 responsible for the safety and behavior...