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Child Development Expert Barred from Hasbro Exhibit at Toy Fair
Professor Diane Levin of Wheelock College, a well-known expert on children and play and a co-founder of the coalition to Stop Commercial Exploitation of Children (SCEC) was barred from the Hasbro exhibit at the International Toy Fair yesterday because she signed a letter to Tom Conley, president of the Toy Industry of America. The letter from the SCEC Steering Committee expressed concerns about toys marketed to children that promote junk food, violence, precocious sexuality, and adult media.
Among the toys mentioned in the letter was Hasbro's Play Doh McDonald's Restaurant, recommended by Hasbro for children three and up. SCEC's letter to Mr. Conley describes the toy as, "A Play-Doh kit with molds for making burgers, buns, fries and shakes. The molds take control of play away from children and undermine creativity. Toys linked to fast food restaurants focus children's play on foods high in fat, sugar, salt and calories. In doing so, they promote poor nutrition. While they may help create brand loyalty from an early age, they can contribute to obesity and eating disorders, a growing problem for children."
Professor Levin was scheduled to visit the exhibit with Boston Globe columnist Barbara Meltz, who is writing a story on toys that facilitate children's play. Wayne Charness, Senior Vice President for Corporate Communications at Hasbro, phoned Ms. Meltz and informed her that because Professor Levin signed the letter, she would not be allowed in the Hasbro exhibit.
Professor Levin said, "Since the Boston Globe story is about toys at that are good for children, I am shocked that Hasbro would not let me in the exhibit because of SCEC's letter. I think that Hasbro and other toy manufacturers need to hear how the toys they market affect children's growth and development."
Harvard psychologist Susan Linn, another signatory, said she hoped the letter would start a dialogue between child development experts and toy manufacturers. "Unfortunately," Dr. Linn noted, "Hasbro seems more intent on retaliating against Professor Levin than discussing what's good for children."
The other toys described in SCEC's letter are: Lil' Bratz Fashion Doll Yasmin (MGA Entertainment), Stretch 'n Roar Hulk (Toy Biz), and Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines Figure: Arnold (McFarlane Toys). The letter, and links to the toys, can be found below.
Mr. Tom Conley, President
Toy Industry Association, Inc.
200 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
Dear Mr. Conley,
We are here today, as educators, child development experts, health professionals, parents and advocates for children, to protest this year’s American International Toy Fair that your organization is calling, “The Business of Play.” We are here to express our deep concern that the “The Business of Play” has resulted in many toys that can harm our children’s health.
Play is not a business. Play is an essential part of children’s development that fosters important creative, cognitive, and social skills. When toy companies view play as a business, when they place profits ahead of the well-being of children, the results are toys that can harm children because they encourage junk food consumption, promote violence, encourage precocious sexuality, or introduce children to the inappropriate content of adult media.
The toys that we are returning to you today are emblematic of toys that we do not want for our own, or anyone else’s, children. We selected them, not because they are unusual, but because they are representative of a great many toys marketed to children today.
The toys we are returning are:
- Lil’ Bratz fashion doll, Yasmin, recommended for children ages 4 & up (MGA Entertainment). Bratz dolls are highly sexualized dolls with extremely high heels, eyes heavy with make-up, large puffy lips and very skimpy, tightly fitting clothes. These dolls are at the forefront of a toy trend for girls that promotes stereotyped and sexualized behaviors that children cannot understand. They make the way bodies look a focus of play and equate self-worth with appearance, including being unhealthily thin.
- Play-Doh McDonald’s Restaurant, recommended for children ages 3 and up (Hasbro). A Play-doh kit with molds for making burgers, buns, fries and shakes. The molds take control of play away from children and undermine creativity. Toys linked to fast food restaurants focus children’s play on foods high in fat, sugar, salt and calories. In doing so, they promote poor nutrition. While they may help create brand loyalty from an early age, they can contribute to obesity and eating disorders, a growing problem for children.
- Stretch ‘n Roar Hulk, recommended for children ages 5 & up (Toy Biz). A 12 inch, huge-muscled, malleable figure in shredded clothing that yells and roars in anger when he is poked. There is only one thing a child can do with this “toy:” punch and fight. Such toys promote an unhealthy focus on anti-social play that undermines the positive social lessons that adults try to teach.
- Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines Figure: Arnold, recommended for children ages 12 & up (McFarlane Toys). This toy, with its blood-covered face, is an example of a whole line of highly realistic Terminator 3 action figures, some with age recommendations for children as young as 5, that have been marketed with the R-rated movie. Marketing toys linked to R-rated movies lures children into content that can confuse and scare them and teaches harmful lessons.
We are here today to demand that you put the well-being of children back into the toy equation and STOP THE COMMERCIAL EXPLOITATION OF PLAY. To do this you must:
- Stop marketing toys that promote precocious sexuality.
- Stop marketing toys that promote junk food.
- Stop marketing toys that promote violence.
- Stop marketing adult media through children's toys.
- Stop marketing toys directly to children eight and under.
We look forward to meeting with you to discuss our concerns.
SCEC Steering Committee:
Enola C. Aird, JD
Diane Levin, PhD
Priscilla Hambrick-Dixon, PhD
Allen Kanner, PhD
Jane Levine, EdD
Susan Linn, EdD
Velma LaPoint, PhD
Alvin F. Poussaint, MD