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Thursday, October 10, 2019

Strategic CSR - Sesame Street

Sesame Street has to be one of the best programs on TV today. Not only is it educational and fact-based, but it tackles challenging social issues in a way that can be appreciated by children. The goal is always to raise awareness without any unnecessary judgment. Recently, for example, Sesame Street introduced a muppet with autism (in 2017) and one whose family "experiences homelessness" (in 2018). Exposing children to such sensitive information, during a formative period, increases the likelihood of informed decisions later in their lives, which has to be good. Now, the article in the url below announces the program's decision to tackle the opioid crisis in America. It does so via the introduction of a muppet whose mother is dealing with drug addiction:
"Sesame Street is taking a new step to help American kids navigate the thornier parts of life in America: the opioids crisis. Sesame Workshop is exploring the backstory of Karli, a bright green, yellow-haired friend of Elmo's whose mother is battling addiction."
The evidence suggests that, unfortunately, addiction is very much a part of many children's lives:
"Sesame Street creators said they turned to the issue of addiction since data shows 5.7m children under the age of 11 live in households with a parent with substance use disorder. America's opioid crisis has grown steadily worse in recent years. The Department of Health and Human Services reported 10.3 million people misused opioid prescriptions last year, and an average of 130 people die every day from opioid-related drug overdoses."
Of course, such vulnerable children may also be in households where they are less likely to watch Sesame Street. But, the hope of the program's staff is that more exposure on this topic is better than less, and that if addressing these issues aids just a small number of children/families, it is worth it:
"'There's nothing else out there that addresses substance abuse for young, young kids from their perspective,' said Kama Einhorn, a senior content manager with Sesame Workshop. It's also a chance to model to adults a way to explain what they're going through to kids and to offer simple strategies to cope."
In the show, the topic is raised in discussion between Karli and a child whose parents are suffering from addiction. As always, there is science and considerable thought behind the way the issue is introduced:
"The segment leans on carefully considered language. Creators prefer 'addiction' to 'substance abuse' and 'recovery' to 'sobriety' because those terms are clearer to children."
Also interesting is that the muppet, Karli, had been introduced on the program earlier this year as being in foster care. This latest narrative, therefore, is designed to provide Karli with a backstory that helps explain "why her mother had to go away for a while." Needless to say, I am a big fan of the show – it began in 1969 a few months after I was born and forms a vivid memory from my childhood:
"Sesame Street has a long history of masterfully tackling sensitive issues. The show broached the subject of death in 1982, after one of its stars, Mr Hooper, passed away. The show has also touched on racism and adoption and introduced a muppet on the autistic spectrum during its 50-year run."
Take care
David Chandler
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Sesame Street takes on opioids crisis as muppet's mother battles addiction
By Guardian staff
October 9, 2019
The Guardian