The TOADY (Toys Oppressive and Destructive to Young children) Award goes to the AT&T U-verse app by BabyFirst, the first two-screen experience for babies.
Crystal Brunnelli of Raymond, NH explained why the U-verse app, which encourages babies to use an iPad while watching TV, is the worst of the worst: "This is insidious. It seems creative and interactive, but it's not the kind of creativity and interactivity that developing babies need, and may actually harm their development." For Laura LeClair of Sunderland, MA, BabyFirst's targeting of newborns earned her TOADY vote, "I've got to go with the 'toy' that's marketed to children ages 0-5. Really? Zero? Newborns should use this 2-screen abomination?"
Other nominees had passionate "fans." Voters were particularly appalled by the Girl Scouts of the USA's decision to accept $2 million from Mattel. Wrote Brandy King of Wilmington, MA, "I really was so disappointed that an organization that taught me about leadership, friendship and service is now teaching commercialism." Added Elizabeth Versten of Chicago, IL, "This horrifying toy is letting girls down in two ways: promoting body image problems, and showing that their beloved Girl Scouts could be sold to the highest bidder!"
Robin E. Brooks of Topsham, ME voted for the Mini Mall because "masquerading as a doll house of sorts, this toy turns imaginative play on its head, from a place of imagination and invention to one of consumerism and brand identification." Annie Silk of Ann Arbor, MI picked the LeapBand because, "Anyone who thinks a preschooler needs a screen to tell him to run around has clearly never met a preschooler before!" And Victoria Byres of West New York, NJ cast a strong vote for the Cartoon Network Anything app: "As a teacher I believe there is nothing more important than developing focus and concentration in children. This app makes me weep!"
In the end, the U-verse app won. 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!"
Thanks to everyone who voted and helped spread the word about the TOADYs. Children's play is too important to surrender to marketers.