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How media and commercialism harm kids with Susan Linn

Release date: December 11, 2023

As we navigate the gift giving season and the accompanying onslaught of sales and advertisements, I think it is important to understand the impact that the media and commercials have on the behaviors and, ultimately, the health and well-being of our kids. My guest to discuss this is Susan Linn. Susan is a world-renowned psychologist; the author of Consuming Kids, The Case for Make Believe, and, most recently, Who’s Raising the Kids?; and a ventriloquist who appeared frequently on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. This episode was intentionally produced to support the formation and coordination of adolescent-centered care and services, so you also will hear from Beheir Thompson and Vinny Chulani of the Arizona Alliance for Adolescent Health. It was recorded live using a webinar platform to encourage questions from alliance members and other listeners. More information about Susan and about the Arizona Alliance for Adolescent Health is below.

Biography of Susan Linn

An author, psychologist, and award-winning ventriloquist, Susan Linn, Ed.D., is a world-renowned expert on creative play and the impact of media and commercial marketing on children. Her book, Consuming Kids has been praised in publications as diverse as The Wall Street Journal, and Mother Jones and helped launch the movement to reclaim childhood from corporate marketers. The Boston Globe called her book The Case for Make Believe “a wonderful look at how play can heal children.” Her work has been featured on Good Morning America, Today, Sixty Minutes, Dateline, The Colbert Report, and the acclaimed documentary The Corporation.

Dr. Linn was Founding Director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood from 2000-2015. She is currently Research Associate at Boston Children’s Hospital and Lecturer on Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She is internationally known for her use of puppets as therapeutic tools for children. She pioneered this work at Children's Hospital Boston and the Children’s AIDS Program, where she used puppets to help children cope with illness, hospitalization, death, loss and other life challenges. She has lectured on the importance of creative play, the impact of media and marketing on children, and the use of puppetry as a therapeutic tool in venues throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Dr. Linn and her puppets appeared in several episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. She has written and appeared in a number of video programs designed to help children cope with issues ranging from mental illness to death and loss. This Secret Should Be Told, a syndicated TV program for children about sexual abuse won a coveted Action for Children’s Television, and earned Dr. Linn a New England Emmy Award. With Fred Rogers’ production company, she created the acclaimed educational video series Different and the Same: Helping Children Identify and Prevent Prejudice. Different and the Same has been used in classrooms in all 50 states and won numerous awards, including the two top prizes from the International Communication Film and Video Competition and the Media Award from the Association of Multicultural Educators.

Among other honors, Dr. Linn received an UNIMA-USA citation for excellence, a special award for puppet therapy from Puppeteers of America; A Champion of Freedom Award from the Electronic Privacy Information Center; The Creative Leadership Award from the Puppet Showplace Theater: and a Presidential Citation from the American Psychological Association for her work on behalf of children.

Biography of Beheir Thompson

Beheir Thompson (she/her) serves as Adolescent Health Program Coordinator for Affirm. Primarily, she works to include and uplift youth voice to ensure healthcare and social service spaces are welcoming, safe, and informed by the young people they serve. She has a background in Public Health, specifically, human growth and development, healthy weight, and behavioral health initiatives. She believes in the power of lived experiences and storytelling and uses this to inform her work and daily life. Beheir has been dedicated to improving the lives of children and families for over 10 years. She is passionate about creating spaces where folks feel a sense of safety and belonging, to build and sustain healthy relationships.

Biography of Veenod Chulani

Dr. Chulani is Section Chief of Adolescent Medicine at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Clinical Professor of Pediatrics in the University of Arizona -Phoenix Department of Child Health. He is also a founding member and clinical consultant to the Arizona Alliance for Adolescent Health. He completed his pediatric residency training at Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn, New York; his fellowship in Adolescent Medicine at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles; and, his Master’s in Education from the University of Southern California-Keck School of Medicine. His clinical and research interests include adolescent sexual and reproductive health, the care of gay, lesbian, bisexual transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, health equity promotion and diversity and inclusion. He has lectured nationally and internationally on a host of topics related to Adolescent Medicine. He has delivered lectures and workshops nationally and internationally and is the recipient of numerous awards recognizing his contribution to adolescent health.


Susan Linn

Arizona Alliance for Adolescent Health




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