The Fisher-Price baby bouncy seat with an iPad holder just above the little tyke’s face is one of several kids products coming under fire from parents and consumer groups this holiday season.
Last week, the advocacy group Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) launched an attack on Fisher-Price—specifically, the child product manufacturer’s Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat for iPad. “There are so many awful screen products for babies these days,” the CCFC states, but this “device is the worst yet.”
Selling for $80, the seat features a plastic arm stretched over the seat, where an iPad can be held. “It’s a bouncy seat for an infant – with a place for an iPad directly above the baby’s face, blocking his or her view of the rest of the world,” the CCFC points out in an online petition urging Fisher-Price to stop selling the device. What the CCFC finds most disturbing is that Fisher-Price markets the product for newborns and claims that it’s educational, even though American Academy of Pediatrics has affirmed its stance recommending that children under age 2 avoid screen time entirely because infants and toddlers learn best from watching people, not tablets or TV.
At last check, the petition was within a couple hundred signatures of 12,000, the goal set by the CCFC. Nonetheless, Fisher-Price and parent company Mattel defended their decision to offer the “niche product” to customers, and clarified that despite product description language stating that baby apps can help “develop eye-tracking skills,” they’re not trying to sell the seat as an educational product. Via a statement sent to Fast Company, Fisher-Price said:
We want to clarify that we do not position the Apptivity Seat, or any of our other infant seats, as educational products for children. It is unfortunate that factual omissions about the product, such as the time-out feature that only allows for 10 minutes of activity with our app before requiring a manual reset, and parent reviews from those who have purchased the product that show strong parent involvement and support, have not been accurately characterized in recent reports.
The Apptivity Seat is a niche product that is only available online. Though we knew the product was not for everyone – we have over a dozen seats from which parents can choose – we wanted to offer it as yet another option for those parents who want to the added feature of engaging in age-appropriate content with their children.
In addition to signing online petitions, consumers have gotten into the habit of voicing their opinions on a range of issues via product reviews on Amazon.com. The Mizuno sneakers worn by filibustering Wendy Davis and Paula Deen’s books were swamped with reviews, as have plenty of odd products ridiculed by legions of online jesters. Over the last few weeks, reviewers have hammered the iPad Apptivity Seat with negative reviews.
Amazon just so happens to have included Fisher-Price’s iPad baby seat among its Holiday Toy List recommendations for 2013. On Wednesday, the world’s largest e-retailer was also featuring a product voted as the worst of the year among its “Lightning Deals” for babies: the iPotty, a potty-training seat with an iPad holder. As you’d guess, it too has gotten a fair share of jokey reviews (“Perfect gift for my college-age son!!”). More importantly, parents voted the iPotty as the “top winner” in the CCFC’s dreaded TOADY Awards, which highlight Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young children.
The runner-up for worst toy of the year was The Real Tooth Fairies VIP Upgrade Membership. The Real Tooth Fairies book series has won a few awards from parents’ groups and educators, but the online VIP upgrade, which costs $59.90 per year and allows members to give the Tooth Fairy a virtual makeover, was criticized for encouraging kids to “transform a unique childhood icon into a generic fashion doll website and brand, complete with stifling gender stereotypes.”
Tru TV’s Dumbest Christmas Gifts list, meanwhile, bashes plenty of other child products, including several popular ones like the Leap Pad 2 tablet. Parents who buy tablets for their kids “can look forward to their kids having hours and hours of fun sitting in a corner, basking in the faint glow of a tablet screen,” the post states.
Finally, dealnews calls attention to “The Most Dangerous Toys of 2013,” as named by a group known as WATCH (World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc.). Like every year, the group’s 2013 10 Worst Toy list is chock full of choking hazards, projectiles, lead, and more.