Is today’s Barbie doll increasingly molding minds & bodies by remote, unknown knowledge sources?

As the goal of Wellness, Inc. is to enable young children to discover their ‘own’ creative brains, bodies, and individual voices before we entrust their learning skills to a machine encoded, non-human, plastic Botox-like skin and relatively tone-deaf playmate – with anatomically adjustable ankles so she can wear flat shoes for the first time – we decided to post the following article FYI:

This link was forwarded to us by CCFC, Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood. CCFC works for the rights of children to grow up—and the freedom for parents to raise them—without being undermined by commercial interests. They advocate for policies to protect children from harmful marketing, and promote commercial-free time and space for kids.

Please feel free to read more about CCFC, and to contact them regarding any questions or comments you may have regarding this article.

ccfcOur campaign to stop Mattel’s “Hello Barbie” is off to an incredible start. Already, our concerns have been featured on Good Morning America, The Washington Post, the front page of USA Today, CNN, Fox News, Mashable and hundreds of other publications around the world. The creepy doll that records and analyzes children’s conversations is the talk of social media.

Imagine your children playing with a doll that records everything they say and transmits it all to a corporation which analyzes every word to learn “all of [your child’s] likes and dislikes.” That’s exactly what Mattel’s eavesdropping “Hello Barbie” does. Unless we take action, it will be in toy stores this autumn.

Kids using “Hello Barbie”‘ aren’t only talking to a doll, they are talking directly to a toy conglomerate whose only interest in them is financial. It creates a host of dangers for children and families.

The Wi-Fi-connected “Hello Barbie” uses an embedded microphone to record children’s voices—and other nearby conversations—before sending them over the Internet to cloud servers. From there, Mattel’s technology partner ToyTalk processes the audio with voice-recognition software.[1] During its Toy Fair 2015 product demonstration, Mattel said it will use this information to “push data” back to children through Barbie’s built-in speaker.[2]

Any talking toy diminishes opportunities for truly creative play. But “Hello Barbie’s” eavesdropping capabilities take technology to an even more troubling level.

Children naturally reveal a lot about themselves when they play. In Mattel’s demo, Barbie asks many questions that encourage kids to share information about their interests, their families, and more—all of which could be of great value to advertisers and be used to market unfairly to children.

“Hello Barbie” ensures that Mattel—not the child—is driving the play and the relationship. It’s being marketed as a toy that will “deepen that relationship girls have with [Barbie].” The goal is to have the child and Barbie “become the best of friends.”[3] But children need relationships with real friends—not corporate computer generated messages created after listening in on anyone within range of Mattel’s microphones.

Thanks for caring about children and families!
Dr. Susan Linn
Executive Director

[1] The Register, “Hello Barbie: Hang on, this Wi-Fi doll records your child’s voice? What could possibly go wrong?” by Iain Thomson. Posted 19 Feb 2015 at 07:39.