by: Michael Kabel
 When it comes to their children, parents are sometimes like children themselves: they depend on a special kind of approval when making important decisions. 
 Parents use the seals of approval given by various research groups as lighthouses when navigating their way through thousands of consumer choices. Not surprisingly, many manufacturers jump at the change to win this kind of endorsement. Parents spend hundreds of millions each year on food, clothing, and amusements for their children, and a public perception exists that products "vouched for" by an independent organization are more legitimate, more valuable, than those that are not.
 But what do those seals of approval mean? How are they earned, and who awards them? Here are several that parents might find especially helpful.

The Good Housekeeping Seal 
 The grandfather of all seals of approval is the Good Housekeeping Seal, established by its parent magazine in 1912 as a means of guaranteeing consumers safe and dependable food and merchandise. The seal is awarded by the nonprofit Good Housekeeping Research Institute laboratory, whose staff evaluates products before allowing their manufacturers to advertise within the magazine. A battery of scientists, engineers, nutritionists, and researchers determine each product's safety, value, and the quality of its final result. The Institute evaluates more than 2,000 products each year, with only a percentage of those eventually achieving its endorsement. GHRI's test kitchens also evaluate, taste-test, and review the recipes published in the magazine each month.
Earning the official Seal of Approval requires passing an even stricter battery of tests, with tightened quality and durability tests, as well as value. Once a seal is rewarded, GHRI stands behind the product themselves: if a seal-bearing product is found to be defective within two years of purchase, GHRI will refund the money or replace the product themselves. 
The most innovative products each year receive the institute's additional Good Buy award, and the winners are announced annually in a special section of the magazine. Lists of seal-awarded products and award winners appear at the Institute's homepage:

The National Parenting Center's Seal of Approval
 Straightforward and with an almost-tangible fervor for their mission, the National Parenting Center began in 1989 as an information exchange between child experts and parents, with doctors, psychologists and researchers granting the center distribution rights for their findings and studies. The Center established its seal of approval in 1990, and continues to award its recognition to dozens of new products and services each year. The seal is used to recognize quality in everything from baby gifts and electronic toys to travel destinations, baby shower favors, and baby diaper backpacks. 
Researchers affiliated with TNPC solicit evaluations from parents and children, and then combine scores to determine seal of approval eligibility. TNPC's seal differs from the Good Housekeeping seal in that the award is based not on scientific data but on the first-hand perspective of fellow parents and children, creating a peer group-based evaluation. Listings of seal-approved products can be found at

Great Web Sites Seal of Approval
 Singular in purpose and focus, the Great Web Sites seal aims to designate only the best destinations on the Internet for children. Awarded by the Association for Library Service to Children – an offshoot of the American Library Association – the seal is given by a committee of educators who review each application with a variety of criteria. Evaluators look for authorship, clarity of purpose, design strength and character, and amount of content before granting the seal. 
Websites given the Great Web Sites seal are allowed to announce their status with a special emblem link, but that link must revert back to the ALA's website, so parents can inspect the criteria for themselves (located here). The Seal's homepage also includes a directory of approved sites and a means of submitting a web page for evaluation. The Seal's homepage is located at

Better Business Bureau Reliability Program
 Finally, the BBB's reliability program allows businesses the opportunity to qualify for their own standard of excellence through extensive criteria related to the Bureau's practices. Companies carrying the seal have agreed to comply with the Bureau's children's advertising policy and are registered members of the local BBB branch. In turn, the companies are allowed to display the Bureau's logo or banner on their site or store. That banner will link to a page showing the company's registration with the Bureau and display the dates and conditions of their compliance with Reliability Program guidelines. The BBB’s homepage is located at

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