December 2015

Hello Barbie Takes Home the TOADY; Wi-Fi Enabled Toys Raise Major Privacy Concerns; All Year-End Gifts Matched!; The Garden State Gets It; FTC Complaint Filed Against Google for Student Privacy Violations; Teacher Expresses iPad Remorse; Recommended Reading

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In This Issue: 

Hello Barbie Takes Home the TOADY
The results are in! And you might be unsurprised to learn that eavesdropping 
Hello Barbie took home the prize for Worst Toy of 2015. With a whopping 57% of the vote, Mattel’s cloud-connected corporate spy earned more votes than all of the other nominees combined. Read about why voters made the choices they did, plus see the whole terrible TOADY (Toys Oppressive and Destructive to Young children) lineup on our blog.

And on the Today Show, CCFC members Tanya and Ron Fortier explain why traditional toys are so much better than high-tech ones for stimulating children’s imaginations.

Wi-Fi Enabled Toys Raise Major Privacy Concerns
Last month, the personal information of 6.4 million children was compromised when VTech, a company that sells tablets, “learning” toys, and apps for young children, was hacked. In related news, security experts who studied Hello Barbie 
say the toy can also easily be hacked

Considering these risks, parents should avoid all Internet-connected toys, advises CCFC Board Member and privacy law expert Angela Campbell—especially since they offer no benefit to children over traditional toys. Please spread the word to make sure your friends and family leave Hello Barbie and other high-tech toys on the shelf this holiday season.

All Year-End Gifts Matched!
As 2015 comes to a close, a CCFC Board member has stepped up with a generous challenge: Between and now and December 31, all donations to CCFC will be matched dollar for dollar! To double your impact and help us continue our important work in 2016 and beyond, please visit www.commercialfreechildhood.org/contribute.

The Garden State Gets It
Two great editorials were published this month in New Jersey in support of CCFC’s advocacy. The first explains why school bus advertising—long opposed by CCFC—is such a terrible idea. The piece explains that in addition to the serious safety concerns they pose and the tiny revenues they generate, “ads on school buses are another step toward commercializing the school environment.” The Press of Atlantic City editorial board recommends that the New Jersey legislature revisit its 2011 decision to allow school bus advertising – we agree!

And on NJ.com, Linda Stamato endorses our recent complaints urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to stop Google's deceptive and unfair advertising practices on its YouTube Kids app for preschoolers. Highlighting the problem of “camouflaged” junk food commercials on the app, Stamato argues that the FTC should take action to ensure that federal rules protecting children from advertising on broadcast and cable also apply to digital platforms.

FTC Complaint Filed Against Google for Student Privacy Violations
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) 
has filed a complaint with the FTC against Google for “collecting, maintaining, using and sharing student personal information.” EFF found that Google’s Sync feature for the Chrome browser—the required browser on many school computers—allows the company to track, store, and share data including students’ Internet browsing, search history, and saved passwords. Since Google doesn’t obtain permission from students or their parents before gathering and using this data, EFF requested that the FTC require Google to destroy the student information it has compiled. The group also asked the Commission stop Google’s practice of collecting this student data going forward. 

To learn more about protecting students’ privacy online, check out the ACLU of Massachusetts’ Back to the Drawing Board: Student Privacy in Massachusetts K-12 Schools. While geared toward Massachusetts students, parents, and administrators, the information is helpful for anyone seeking guidance on how to protect schoolchildren’s data in the digital age.

Teacher Expresses iPad Remorse
We were so moved by third-grade teacher Launa Hall's description of what happened when she introduced iPads to her classroom. Hall acknowledges the great projects her students did with their new technology, but ultimately decides that the benefits weren’t worth the costs to their social development and classroom interactions. We hope you’ll read and share this incredibly important piece with the educators, school administrators, and parents in your life to help raise awareness of what can be lost when technology is made a focal point of the classroom.

Recommended Reading