And the TOADY for ‘Worst Toy of 2011’ Goes To … The Vinci ‘Tablet for Babies’

And the TOADY for 'Worst Toy of 2011' Goes To ... The Vinci 'Tablet for Babies'

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) is an organization whose purpose involves understanding and limiting the impact of commercial culture on children. Here is their mission statement:

CCFC’s mission is to reclaim childhood from corporate marketers. A marketing-driven media culture sells children on behaviors and values driven by the need to promote profit rather than the public good. The commercialization of childhood is the link between many of the most serious problems facing children, and society, today. Childhood obesity, eating disorders, youth violence, sexualization, family stress, underage alcohol and tobacco use, rampant materialism, and the erosion of children’s creative play, are all exacerbated by advertising and marketing. When children adopt the values that dominate commercial culture—dependence on the things we buy for life satisfaction, a “me first” attitude, conformity, impulse buying, and unthinking brand loyalty—the health of democracy and sustainability of our planet are threatened. CCFC works for the rights of children to grow up—and the freedom for parents to raise them—without being undermined by commercial interests.

For the last few years they have awarded a dubious distinction called the TOADY – which stands for Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young Children – to what they call the worst toy of the year for young kids. This year they chose the Vinci Tablet ‘Learning System’ for babies and toddlers. Here is some of the rationale:

The push to convince parents that screen time is educational for babies is what propelled Vinci to outpace its formidable competition. “While all the choices were horrifying, the Vinci seems the most insidious to me,” said CCFC member Anne M. Deyser of Westborough, Massachusetts. “It’s likely to convince parents that they are doing something positive for their babies when that couldn’t be farther from the truth.” Added Peggy Sissel-Phelan, Ed.D., of Little Rock, “People don’t know that without human attention, babies won’t develop normally, much less optimally. They will, however, learn how to push the buttons to make the screen react. Rats can do that!”

Here is another quote that further demonstrates the harmful impact:

The Vinci tablet looks so harmless, but it will suck hours of time that babies need to spend interacting with the world when their brains are the most vulnerable and in need of real interaction… What children need are toys that encourage them to use their imagination, instead of toys that do and say everything for them… Using bogus “educational claims,” this company preys on vulnerable parents of infants (many first-timers) who just want to do the best for their child. A caregiver can provide everything this “learning tool” offers — games, songs, lullabies, stories — for far less than the almost $500 price tag.

The Vinci site touts the educational benefits and also that it was ‘designed by a mom’ (because thay makes it ok, right?), but never addresses the real concerns: that having limited human contact is not good for a young child and that excessive screen time is a really bad thing.

You will notice that every image on the Vinci website with a child also has a parent and often an older sibling. The message is clear – this is a shared experience. But the reality is very different – just as too many kids are tossed in front of the TV as a babysitter, so too will this be used largely in isolation. And while most parents know that too much TV time is detrimental, they are only beginning to learn that screen time in general is a problem in young people as they develop.

The problems with excessive screen time have become more and more apparent over the years, with these recommendations given by health professionals:

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under age 2 have no screen time, and that kids older than 2 watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming.

Of course, while the Vinci folks tout ‘research’ and quotes from MD’s and PhD’s, none of it is objective, nor is any actually directly linked to the Vinci. They talk about developmental years without addressing the AAP guidelines.

I am strongly of the opinion that our kids get too much screen time – from cell phones to iPods (especially internet connect Touch) to tablets to laptops to TV and video games, stimulus is never far away. It is unhealthy in general, but even worse is the sort of mentality that has people marketing $500 tablets to babies … and parents buying them out of fear that their child will somehow be disadvantaged if they aren’t a touch-screen whiz before they are out of diapers. This doesn’t create smarter kids, it creates an even more dysfunctional society.

Source: CCFC via GeekDad

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About the Author

Michael Anderson
I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!

2 Comments on "And the TOADY for ‘Worst Toy of 2011’ Goes To … The Vinci ‘Tablet for Babies’"

  1. Maybe I’m being a bit of a curmudgeon here, but I think that giving the Vinci system a TOADY is hypocritical.

    If you walk into an average restaurant these days, you’ll see about 25% of the people in the restaurant on their cell phones, doing some form of social media.  I will confess to being guilty of it a bit myself.

    I think that the harm of a plugged-in culture is not just harmful for babies and toddlers, it is harmful for all of us.

  2. I don’t disagree with you – but the point of the AAP and other research is this:

    There is NO point at which excessive screen time is more harmful – and unnecessary – than in the 0-2 age bracket.  And in the next couple of years it should be extremely limited, used interactively and coupled with adult interaction, and NEVER as a babysitter.  Which is pretty much where this product lies.

    So while I agree that the commercial of the couple on the date where he is streaming the game silently to his phone is a BAD thing rather than the celebrated event in the ad, just like with many things, the best way to get something under control is to start at the very earliest stages.

Comments are closed.