TOADY — Worst Toy Award 2016

Posted on December 5, 2016 at 11:15 pm

CCFC has announced the results of its annual TOADY award for the worst toy of the year:

The votes are in for the 2016 TOADY (Toys Oppressive and Destructive to Young children) Award, and Pink Fizz’s skin-irritating, endocrine-disrupting makeup set — marketed to girls as young as age three as the “the ultimate glam makeup collection in a box” — took the title handily with 33% of the vote.

The Game of Life: Empire was runner-up (17%), followed by the View-Master Batman: The Animated Series Virtual Reality Pack (16%), Shopkins Tall Mall Playset (16%), Pokemon GO (15%), and Play-Doh Hulk and Iron Man (2%).

Thanks so much to this year’s TOADY partners: EPIC Privacy (which nominated Pokemon GO), Families Managing Media (View-Master Batman Virtual Reality Pack), New Moon Girls (Lulu’s Makeup Set), Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert program (Game of Life: Empire), The Story of Stuff (Shopkins Tall Mall Playset), and TRUCE (Play-Doh Hulk and Iron Man). If you haven’t already, we hope you’ll take a minute to read their great nominating blog posts.

And thanks to all who voted! Many of you left great comments which captured the essence of exactly how “oppressive and destructive” these toys are.

Kaylan Crowther of San Antonio, TX, commented on our award winner so tartly, we may ask her to be a guest writer for next year’s campaign materials! Crowther said: “Pink Fizz Lulu’s Makeup Set deserves the 2016 TOADY. Ages 3 – 20? Hey, you know what your beautiful toddler face needs? MAKEUP. Start having insecurities about your looks already! Need to sexualize your preschooler? Look no further! But wait, there’s more! Because this makeup set doesn’t just contain subtle misogyny, it also has flammable and carcinogenic ingredients!”

Frank Rogers of Washington, DC, said the runner-up, Game of Life: Empire, was “Shameless corporate advertising to kids. There’s more to ‘Life’ than mindlessly giving all of your money to corporations.”

Pokemon GO, the fad of the summer of 2016, earned the vote of Thomas Mason of Scotts Valley, CA. “Children need more time outside, but not looking at a smart phone,” Mason said. “What happened to catch, or playing in a mound of dirt? We have stifled their imaginations.”

Craig Hinch of Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, voted for the Shopkins Tall Mall Playset. “I believe this is the worst, and the series in general, as it encourages a child to consume and shop,” Hinch said. “It encourages the notion that shopping and spending money is a goal to achieve, all while disguised as cute characters. It’s using stereotypes, marketing it as something for girls alone (despite boys liking it too) because girls ‘should be’ all about shopping and materialism.”

Mary Ann Jacob, M.D., of Anchorage, AK, voted for the View-Master Batman Virtual Reality Pack. “As a pediatrician, I had a difficult time just picking one of the candidates for the 2016 TOADY,” Dr. Jacob said. “In the end, two things made me choose the View-Master Batman: the fact that ‘virtual’ reality keeps young children from experiencing the real world, and the concern that with this ‘toy,’ children could access developmentally inappropriate images and stories.”

Vicki Bartolini of Franklin, MA, lamented the 2016 version of Play-Doh. “Originally Play-Doh encouraged children to really use their imaginations—to come up with all kinds of scenarios from the simple to the complex,” Vicki notes. “There was no push in any direction—especially towards any kind of violence. The ‘power’ was in the creativity. Let’s keep Play-Doh open-ended to stimulate children’s expressiveness!”

But Lulu’s Makeup Set was clearly the worst of the worst—exploiting the aspirations of very young girls, with chemicals that can hurt them!

Thanks to everyone who voted and helped spread the word. Together, we’re shining a light on the toy industry’s most troubling trends—because children’s play is too important to surrender to marketers.

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Features & Top 10s

What’s the Worst Toy of 2015?

Posted on December 6, 2015 at 8:00 am

It’s time for the TOADY Awards again. The most oppressive, destructive, exploitative, media-saturating, imagination-killing products on the market. The Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood has posted the TOADY nominees, and now is your chance to vote. Will it be the spy drone? The doll who comes with her own selfie stick? The toy gun for girls that comes with matching jewelry? The info-mercial book series that teaches toddlers about brands? Or the doll that spies on your kids and can easily be hacked to let others spy on them, too?

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Google’s YouTube Kids is Saturated with Stealth Ads

Posted on April 11, 2015 at 3:37 pm

In February of this year, Google launched the YouTube Kids app, specially designed for “little thumbs” to get kids hooked on devices and videos as soon as they can hold an iPhone. They assured parents that the app was completely safe to use and that all content was family-friendly.

I support the policy of the pediatricians’ association of no screen time of any kind under age two and strictly limiting it thereafter, but I recognize that there are times when it can be handy to have a way to distract and entertain a child. And I can appreciate how important it is for parents to have some way to allow kids to get what’s best on the internet without the risk that a search for say, “dolls” or “spanking” will bring up something disturbing or inappropriate.

Unfortunately, Google and YouTube Kids have saturated the app with commercials, including channels devoted to brands like McDonalds, Barbie, Fisher Price, and LEGO. A detailed complaint filed by a coalition of public interest groups representing children and consumers calls on the Federal Trade Commission to give parents the same kinds of protections that they have imposed on television programming directed at children, requiring a bright line demarcation between advertising and programming, for example.

YouTube Kids is a long way from that now. Much of the advertising is “native” and completely integrated with the other content. While some ads on the app have disclaimers noting, for example “compensation provided by McDonald’s,” this is a problem in an app for kids, who are (1) too young to understand what “compensation provided” means, (2) too young to comprehend the difference between sponsored and un-sponsored content, and (3) TOO YOUNG TO READ.

I was quoted in this SFGate article about advertising on YouTube Kids. “Google has said they are curating material they guarantee is OK for children, so they have to do better than this.”

Google says that they need advertising in order to keep the app free for all families. I appreciate that. But, as they say, on the internet, if you’re not the paying customer, you’re the product. We should not be selling our children to advertisers, and Google should not be acting as broker.  Visit the FTC’s website to file a complaint.

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Advertising Internet, Gaming, Podcasts, and Apps Marketing to Kids Media Appearances Parenting Preschoolers

TOADY 2014: The Worst Toy of the Year

Posted on December 10, 2014 at 3:49 pm

I look forward to the TOADY (Toys Oppressive and Destructive to Young children) worst toy of the year award given out each year by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood with a horrified fascination. What could they have been thinking? The CCFC are the folks who exposed the fraudulent claims of “Your Baby Can Read” and “Baby Einstein.”

And this year’s winner: the AT&T U-verse app by BabyFirst. It is bad enough to encourage kids to stare at one screen. This app, incredibly marketed at kids ZERO to five, is intended to have them watch two at once. Children need to be interacting with people and using their imagination and curiosity. They need to be exercising. The last thing a toddler needs is another reason to turn into a couch potato.

It’s the fourth year in a row that voters awarded the dreaded TOADY to a screen-based toy for infants and toddlers. Parents, educators, and health professionals are clearly fed up with the escalating push to insinuate screens into every aspect of our youngest children’s lives. Kate Snyder of Burgin, KY captured the feeling of many TOADY voters, “Anytime I see screen technology marketed to infants, it automatically gets my vote!”

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Commentary Marketing to Kids Parenting

What’s the Worst Toy of 2013?

Posted on November 24, 2013 at 8:00 am

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has come up with another list of the most dreadful and appalling children’s toys of the year.  Take a look at these horrible products and cast your vote for the CCFC’s TOADY award.

2013 was a banner year for terrible toys. From the multitude promoting precocious sexuality, branded entertainment, violence and/or electronic wizardry at the expense of children’s play, we have selected these exceptional finalists: A board game with more ads per square inch than Times Square. A gun-toting . . . dinosaur?!?! An app that takes all the fun and creativity out of a classic creative toy. The most ridiculous use of an iPad yet. A brand that transforms a childhood icon into “ugh!”

Each year, the Toy Industry Association of America presents its annual TOTY (Toy Of The Year) Awards. CCFC created the TOADY (Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young children) Award in response to the industry leading the way in commercializing childhood. So please join the fun and help us bring attention to the worst the toy industry has to offer. This year’s TOADY will join past winners Nickelodeon’s Addicting, Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader Barbie, the Vinci Tablet, and the Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Apptivity Monkey as Worst Toy of the Year.

Which will it be?  The tarty, crass tooth fairy “upgrade” package that lets children use their “sparkle dollars” to give their Tooth Fairy a makeover, party in their “party room” and mock the buck-toothed, glasses-wearing fairy-wannabe Stepella.  The iPad potty?  The weaponized dinosaur?  The all-ads Monopoly game?  Cast your vote by December 4 and stay tuned for updates.

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