Hell No Barbie: 8 reasons to leave Hello Barbie on the shelf

This holiday season, Mattel hopes to make Hello Barbie, a doll that records and analyzes children’s private conversations, a must-have toy. But experts agree: it’s a threat to children’s privacy, wellbeing, and creativity. 

Here are 8 reasons not to buy Hello Barbie. Please help us spread the word about this terrible toy. If Hello Barbie is a hit, other eavesdropping toys are sure to follow.

1) Children’s private conversations shouldn’t be shared with corporations or strangers.

Children confide in dolls and reveal intimate details about their lives, but Hello Barbie won’t keep those secrets. When Barbie’s belt buckle is held down, everything your child says is transmitted to cloud servers where it will be stored and analyzed by ToyTalk, Mattel’s technology partner. Employees of ToyTalk and their partner corporations listen to recordings of children’s conversations--and ToyTalk won’t even say who their partners are

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 2) Is Hello Barbie a “friend,” or a viral marketer?

Mattel says “there is no advertising content within Hello Barbie,” and “your children’s conversations will not be used to advertise to your child.” But Mattel doesn’t define what it means by “advertise.” Will Hello Barbie discuss other Barbie products with children? Her script already includes several lines of dialogue about her sisters, who have dolls of their own for sale on Mattel.com. Mattel has also acknowledged that Hello Barbie will talk to children about pop culture, and the doll’s script will be updated to discuss the latest movies and music. Isn’t that marketing? How does Mattel decide which artists and media Barbie talks about? And when Mattel and ToyTalk update their privacy policy, they could use Hello Barbie—and the valuable information it collects—to advertise to children. That means parents (if they are even aware of the privacy policy changes) will face a terrible choice: allow Hello Barbie to market to their child, or take their child’s “friend” away.

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3) Hello Barbie undermines creative play.

Dolls have always talked—through the power of children’s imaginations. Children should use their own initiative and creativity to hold conversations with a doll, impart a personality, and build their relationships. With Hello Barbie, Mattel and ToyTalk’s programmers and algorithms drive the conversation, undermining the creative play that is so critical to children’s development. 

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4) Surveillance has no place in children’s play.

In an era where corporations monitor what we say, where we go, what we buy, and who our friends are, Hello Barbie will instill exactly the wrong habits in children. Children should be taught to protect their privacy, not encouraged to divulge their private thoughts to a device that will share their secrets far and wide.

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5) Children deserve a genuine listener, not a robot.

Children naturally confide in their dolls and share their deepest feelings. At a tender age, they need to have their feelings genuinely heard and validated, and they should be sympathized with, uplifted, and supported. Children learn best from sincere dialogue with a real listener.

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6) Why let the Barbie brand have more influence over your child?

Barbie’s unattainable body type and her preoccupation with fashion and gender-stereotyped pursuits are well-documented. Research has found that girls have a more limited sense of what kinds of careers they can have when they grow up after playing with Barbie, and that girls’ exposure to images of Barbie correlates with lower body satisfaction and a desire to be thin. Mattel asserts that Hello Barbie is different, but the doll sports the same unrealistic body type, and sure likes to talk about fashion. 

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7) Even parents shouldn’t listen to secret recordings of their children. 

A child expects their intimate conversations with a doll to be private. But parents can access audio files of their child's conversations with Hello Barbie through daily or weekly email reports. Think back to how you played with dolls when you were young, and imagine how you would have felt if you learned that your parents were listening to recordings of everything you said. 

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8) Hello Barbie is vulnerable to data breaches. 

Hello Barbie’s recordings of children’s conversations are vulnerable to data breaches, like all information transmitted via the Internet and stored on the cloud. In addition, media reports indicate Hello Barbie could be a tempting target for hackers, who could access data stored by your family on home devices and networks through the doll. ToyTalk has acknowledged: “No way that we are claiming that the doll can’t be hacked.”

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What you can do:

  1. Don’t buy it! And let friends and family know why you don’t want them buying Hello Barbie for your child either.
  2. Spread the word by sharing this page far and wide. Pick your favorite reason(s) why Hello Barbie is a terrible toy and post our sharable pictures on social media with the hashtag #HellNoBarbie.
  3. Talk to your child about Hello Barbie. Having an age-appropriate conversation with your child about why you won’t buy this toy is exactly the kind of good relationship-building that Hello Barbie devalues.