This holiday season, Mattel hopes to make Hello Barbie, a doll that records and analyzes children’s private conversations, a must-have toy. But experts agree: it’s a threat to children’s privacy, wellbeing, and creativity.
Here are 8 reasons not to buy Hello Barbie. Please help us spread the word about this terrible toy. If Hello Barbie is a hit, other eavesdropping toys are sure to follow.
Children confide in dolls and reveal intimate details about their lives, but Hello Barbie won’t keep those secrets. When Barbie’s belt buckle is held down, everything your child says is transmitted to cloud servers where it will be stored and analyzed by ToyTalk, Mattel’s technology partner. Employees of ToyTalk and their partner corporations listen to recordings of children’s conversations--and ToyTalk won’t even say who their partners are.
Dolls have always talked—through the power of children’s imaginations. Children should use their own initiative and creativity to hold conversations with a doll, impart a personality, and build their relationships. With Hello Barbie, Mattel and ToyTalk’s programmers and algorithms drive the conversation, undermining the creative play that is so critical to children’s development.
In an era where corporations monitor what we say, where we go, what we buy, and who our friends are, Hello Barbie will instill exactly the wrong habits in children. Children should be taught to protect their privacy, not encouraged to divulge their private thoughts to a device that will share their secrets far and wide.
Children naturally confide in their dolls and share their deepest feelings. At a tender age, they need to have their feelings genuinely heard and validated, and they should be sympathized with, uplifted, and supported. Children learn best from sincere dialogue with a real listener.
Barbie’s unattainable body type and her preoccupation with fashion and gender-stereotyped pursuits are well-documented. Research has found that girls have a more limited sense of what kinds of careers they can have when they grow up after playing with Barbie, and that girls’ exposure to images of Barbie correlates with lower body satisfaction and a desire to be thin. Mattel asserts that Hello Barbie is different, but the doll sports the same unrealistic body type, and sure likes to talk about fashion.
A child expects their intimate conversations with a doll to be private. But parents can access audio files of their child's conversations with Hello Barbie through daily or weekly email reports. Think back to how you played with dolls when you were young, and imagine how you would have felt if you learned that your parents were listening to recordings of everything you said.
Hello Barbie’s recordings of children’s conversations are vulnerable to data breaches, like all information transmitted via the Internet and stored on the cloud. In addition, media reports indicate Hello Barbie could be a tempting target for hackers, who could access data stored by your family on home devices and networks through the doll. ToyTalk has acknowledged: “No way that we are claiming that the doll can’t be hacked.”
What you can do: