A Father's Letter to Fisher-Price

by: 

David Banerjee

We loved this letter from CCFC member David Banerjee to Fisher-Price Executive Vice President David Allmark so much we wanted to share it with you.

Dear Mr. Allmark,

My name is David Banerjee, and I am a father in Toronto, Canada. I would like to share two thoughts with you regarding your product line.
 
1) During a class on child development in grad school, my professor related some interesting findings on Baby Einstein. Many parents of infants were thrilled that their children could attend for prolonged periods to the videos and had assumed that their children were absorbing the content. Instead, fMRI research indicated that the children's threat receptors were activated by the moving images. In short, their stares were a defensive posture against what their developing brains perceived as danger. The product was actually disregulating the child by keeping them on alert.
 
2) I recently re-read Robert Jackall's Moral Mazes: The World of Corporate Managers, a neutral, sociological examination of how business decisions are made. Dr. Jackall observed that successful executives are uniquely "alert to expedience": capable of finding ways to justify their superior's decisions. Managers did not experience moral dilemmas as dilemmas: the only course of action was to support the boss.
 
Well, you're the boss now. And I want you to understand that you should feel deeply ambivalent about the Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity product. I imagine that you are receiving several such emails, and that you have your justifications: the time and effort, legal-wrangling with Apple, and the fact that your competitors are working on a similar product. I have no doubt that you recommend that the product should be "used properly," for short periods so parents can do the dishes. Moreover, I know that your shareholders are demanding a strong return this quarter and that you are obligated to them and to the product development team.
 
I imagine that the good people at Phillip Morris used similar rationalizations to continue fighting legislation against cigarettes. And they are still deeply complicit for creating a highly addictive and damaging product.
 
As are you.
 
Don't submit to expedience. This is a moral dilemma, not a matter of simple pragmatism. Your obligation to your consumers—the babies—outweighs your obligation to your shareholders. This is bad for them and it is better to pull the product and take a stand.
 
I await a considered reply.
 
Sincerely,
 
David Banerjee

David Banerjee is a father and elementary teacher from Toronto.

Have a message for Fisher-Price about their iPad bouncy chair for newborns? Click here to sign our petition and add your own comment.

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Comments

Thank you David Banerjee

I too teach elementary school. I do not cable in my home. Infants need to interact with people not view screens.

Fischer Price Bouncy ipad chair

I used to believe in Fischer Price. I was raised with the wonderful record player, cash register and imaginary towns that you created. I am now disgusted by a company that I thought had my best interests at heart. The ipad chair is obscene, a torture to device to force an infant to watch junk. I am employed as a labor and delivery nurse at a chic urban hospital. I am making a point of spreading the word among co-workers and new mothers to avoid this product and warning them that it appears you company cares more about the bottom dollar than a child's play. Please stop this. I'm ashamed for you.

Well

The frequency of usage or what parents are showing the kids are controlled by the parents themselves. Though the product might have encouraged the thought, tempting parents to keep their kids quiet by showing them videos via iPad, I think the responsibility should still lie in the parents. It's a matter of choice. If there is no demand for such product, it will not exist soon.

developing imagination

I sincerely appeal to the makers of the Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity product to pull out this product from the market. There are many reasons for the appeal to pull out this product. One of them has been cited by David Banerjee. Another reason is this: the imagination of the toddlers cannot be developed by forcing on them already made images from an electronic media. The appropriate and humane way to develop images is to show them puppets and toys that are simple and wholesome. If you would like to have more ideas what products and practices can best develop the imagination of babies and young children, please I'm willing to give you free consultation - I have worked for young children for many years.

Screen time for infants

I've worked with babies and their care givers for years and find this iPad Bouncy Seat to be almost obscene. Infants need to spend all of their time learning about the real world around them and developing relationships with people. They are busy learning about cause and effect which is totally absent in screen use. Too many parents are hooked on technology and know little about infant development. Their children will suffer from using these seats. Please consider it your duty to take this product off the market.

baby bouncy seat with Ipad

Thank you Ms.Marie Avenir+all others who took time to Stand Up for Saving Childhood! I have been a teacher for 42 years! Becoming an adult is at minimum a 21 years process of development!The ipad, pc,mobile phone...all technical gadgets are remarkable devices for the 20th,21st centuries!However, the illnesses overwhelming children in these times are staggering: Adhd,Add,Aspergas....etc.Child- is a developmental processs with developmental stages of consciousness!A baby is not a 1 year old; a toddler is not a 5 year old.Ideally prior to age 14, and at the earliest at 12 years old, all technical cadgets will have detrimental effects physically,psychologically-socially +cognitively! For the sake of our children please remove this product+replace it with toys that nurture the sense of balance,movement, well beingness+life, and warmth!

Mixed reaction; Hopes vs. Reality

I am not sure what to think of this letter... It seems to put the onus on companies to not produce such products but then again they are catering to demand. Ultimately, once you become a parent, it is up to you to act in the best interests of your child by making informed decisions. It seems we live in a day and age where the issues of responsibility and accountability are those of a bygone era. You can never rely on others when it comes to your child's welfare. Companies are looking at profitability, and unfortunately so are others as they seek to access parents' dollars... we have several instances of horrible daycare services coming into the news...We live in a world of consumption driven by dollars, self interest, and a lack of common sense. Parents shouldn't waste time and hope writing letters to corporations exhorting them to make the right moral or ethical decision because history has shown they usually do not. Parents are better served educating each other and letting these commercial products die as they gather dust on store shelves from lack of demand... BTW- I am also a father and a teacher who is taking a sabbatical to raise my son who just turned 1.

Mixed reaction

Hi Mike,

I think I share your ambivalence on both counts. For starters, it does seem a bit of a lost cause to write to corporations on issues like this. Executives are bound to shareholder demand, which is immediate and very tangible. Child development is abstract, long-term, and (seemingly) not their direct responsibility.

Ultimately, it seems as if parents should exercise some kind of objective judgement in these matters. My feeling, however, is that objectivity is a slippery thing: our sense of 'what's right for kids' changes by degrees so slowly and with such subtlety that "new normals" are easy to accept, regardless of how bad they might be. It's almost as if there is an implicit assumption that "if it's on the market, and if it's being purchased by thousands of families, it must be great." By virtue of it's existence on the market, it seems to legitimate itself. It's not like most families have the inclination to look up the American Association of Pediatrics website for an opposing opinion (I don't).

On the other hand, campaigns like this can raise awareness, which may eventually create enough debate to either force than hand of regulators or of the companies themselves. This is part of the education campaign that you mentioned at the end. But usually they take time, money, and luck (I've worked on several myself: some have failed, but others have helped to gavlanize opinion and made a difference).

So I do share your sense of frustration, but on the other hand I do think the corporations responsible have a direct obligation to their consumers (Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Business in Toronto, has recently written a book on this theme called "Fixing the Game").

Dave

Hopes vs. Reality

Unfortunately, most parents are unaware of the issues of brain organization and have no idea that a product is harmful to the children. The company does know. Writing letters is not a waste of time. It is advocating for all our children and is a professional responsiblility for those of us who work in this field. I will continue to spread the word of the potential harm of this and other inappropriate "toys" as those whose mission is to educate on other topics such as tobacco, alcohol abuse etc. do the same. I will attempt to get as many as possible to boycott the product and a company who is damaging a defenseless comsumer--babies.

I PAD Bouncy seat

I just saw this product on facebook ,I was appalled that Fisher Price has resorted to this type of product. I raised my girls using their imagination with so many Fisher Price products such as the people house ,people school ,circus train ,telephone ,grandfather clock, just to name a few. There was so much imagination and thought processes used to play with these toys. This new line up of toys is nothing but another brain washing scheme,set out to make Fisher Price money. I'm ashamed of you Fisher Price to see how little you consider the children being raised today. Yes it might be good for the parents who want to have a few minutes of free time ,but your products should be for the children not the parents !

watching people is better

It is better for the baby to be in a bouncy seat watching the parents going about their chores, listening to them talk. Believe it or not, babies enjoy this! They love observing and do not need entertainment every second, especially not tv!

Appalled

I've been working with children a lifetime in childcare settings where infants are held when they need holding, when someone looks into their eyes and gives authentic reciprocating smiles, and where observing children and honoring their needs from adults is at the forefront of quality.
I am truly disappointed that Fisher-Price has translated the need for care by infants to be held and honored with product sales under the guise of technological advances. If you don't have developmental specialists, then hire some so you can be heralded as true leaders in the field of products which support young development.

Parental Decision-Making and Corporate Responsibility

I appreciate the comments made about parents being responsible for the choices they make when purchasing products for their children. We live in a society which has an economic system based on supply and demand. If the consumer doesn't buy a product, the company may discontinue selling the product.

HOWEVER - There are many parents who do not have the time, skill, or ability to research which products are best for their children. They learn to trust certain companies with which they have experience to provide them appropriate products. Fisher-Price is a perfect example. For many years, Fisher-Price has created and sold appropriate, durable products for young children. They are well-respected in the field of toys and equipment for young children. They have earned the trust of families, particularly those who have grown up with their products.

Many families will be buying the bouncy seat with IPad for their infant because they trust Fisher-Price to provide them with age-appropriate products and they are not able, for whatever reason, to do the research. Therefore it is up to those of us who understand the dangers of this product to inform Fisher-Price of our concerns. And it is Fisher-Price's responsibility to do the right thing.

Infant I pad bouncy seat

With brain wiring developing at this innocent age, this product DOESN'T show thinking of the child first; but it does cater to the consumer adult who buys the product. What happen to binding and attaching and relationship building with holding and cuddling and connecting through touch?
This father, hands down is right on, and we should listen to him; this is what the child us asking.....

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