Where are the ethical boundaries in videos aimed at children? Is it OK to show a video about Santa and his helpers? We know (shhh) there’s not really a Santa Claus; is it OK to pretend there is to entertain (and mislead) children?
So OK, Santa is a fiction, but writing fiction is ethical. Fiction deals with real life and real issues—life and death, war and peace, love and hate, duty and temptation, and so on. Fiction for children, especially children of an age to want cuddly teddy bears, is more likely to deal with more age-appropriate issues—telling the truth, being a friend, obeying parents.
The Build-a-Bear Company is in the business of selling build-it-yourself bears to children, and along the way, to teach children something about citizenship and helping others. Their website until a couple of days ago had—along with interactive games designed for the 3-5 yr old set—three videos about Santa’s helpers, a penguin, and two cuddly polar bear cubs, all of whom were worrying about global warming and the ongoing melting of the polar icecap. One of the videos had a gross exaggeration—that the polar icecap would disappear before Christmas (i.e., today).
It’s arguable how great a sin it is to exaggerate the degree of icecap melting in a video about Santa. Build-a-Bear should have been more accurate. But apparently the greater sin is to deal with global warming at all. In response to expressions of outrage from global-warming deniers and threats of boycott, Maxine Clark, founder and Chief Executive Bear of Build-a-Bear, apologized and withdrew the offending videos from the Bear website.Rather than police what their children do on the computer, some people prefer to shut down the voice of Build-a-Bear, so that nobody can hear it. And shamefully, Build-a-Bear knuckled under to the pressure and gave up on their effort to teach a few children a little about global warming.