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Posts tagged ‘technology’

Fight Like a Girl!

When I was younger my house was always chaos, mostly because I had six other siblings. Of the five girls in my family (fours sisters, two brothers, plus me equals seven), I was always labeled the tom boy and playing rough came with the title. Because of my love for rowdy play and wrestling, I remember receiving one of my favorite Christmas gifts of all time, the Sock’em Boppers!

Sock’em Boppers were inflatable boxing gloves that children would blow up and place over their fist then proceed to punch each other. They were very popular among kids of the 90’s but were produced in the 70’s. They resurged in the late  90’s with a slightly different name, “Socker Boppers.” They can still be purchased at any major toy store and can even be bought on for around thirteen dollars.

Despite the unavoidable fight that came with every purchase of this toy, the commercial ads depicted Sock’em Boppers as nonviolent play and even used the slogan “more fun than a pillow fight.” Honestly, I can remember on numerous occasions being “socked “in the faced with in one of these and it was not always pretty. Of course this toy was supposed to be played in the presence of adult supervision who could advise the “not in the face” rule but let’s get real; when two kids are alone playing with these oversized fists of fury it can get pretty brutal.

So who was it that said television, games are what make/made children wiolent?

Lynn Spigel, author of “Welcome to the Dreamhouse: Popular Media and Postwar Suburbs” argued that “so long as the young are protected from certain types of knowledge” they will stay an “innocent and pure” youth (146).  By “certain types of knowledge,” Spigel meant television. But while television may have been the source of commercialization of toys such as Sock’em boppers, the act of playing with this toy was the form of violence that altered the “innocence of youth”. This leads me to another reading that blamed the rotting of children on Television and technology, Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt.” Bradbury’s story also creates the technology in George Bradley’s house as the antagonist. The conclusion of the story outlines the children’s vicious act in forcing their playroom to eat their parents.

In the end, I am simply arguing that while television, video games, and other technology may have some violent affect on the nature of children; let’s not forget that playing outside with a pair of Sock’em Boppers can force children to think and act just as violent. Rowdiness and aggression is many times an inherent nature of some children, and ultimately as a child, how they release that inherent nature of rowdiness lies in their own hands, with slight parental supervision of course.

Here’s is a commercial ad from 1997 of the Sock’em Boppers.

Just a quick side note, I find it funny that there is not one single girl in this commercial.

Children’s Misuse of Technology

In the past couple weeks we have talked about technology and its effect on children. In this article,School Bullying- it’s not what it used to be, talks about how children have started misusing the computers and technology that are given to them from educational purposes. We talked about, especially with The Veldt, how technology is affecting children and the way they view society. It is clear through this article that this effect is still an issue decades later.

The article talks about how through the use of Facebook, Twitter, email, IM, etc… children have begun cyber-bullying. It used to be that children would be bullied at school, but once they left school for the day they could escape it. However, now children have found ways to continue bullying through all hours of the day. The article says that children will hear alerts from their computer at around 3 o’clock in the morning from people bullying them. John Martin, the writer of this article, says that when schools provide computers for their children to use it allows for the possibility of misuse by the children. Also, through the creation of smart phones, children can send messages to multiple kids at a time. This allows for kids to send rumors and information to many kids at one time.

Technology and new innovations are good things. However, these new generations of children that are used to all of the technology are not treating them as they are supposed to be used. Creators of the iPhone and Facebook were not trying to find ways for children to use these harmfully. However, the children are so used to these things that it seems ok for them to use them harmfully. This draws a whole other issue of the attitudes of the new generation, which I am not going to get in to.

Cortland Computer, School computer lab

The Woes of Mr. Potato Head

“In 1952, Hassenfield Brothers, a maker of pencil boxes and other school supplies, began advertising its new toy product, Mr. Potato Head, on TV.” (Chudacoff 172) The original Mr. Potato Head was actually relevant to a potato, or any fruit or vegetable for that matter. They were sold by Hasbro in $1-2 accessory packs to stick into fruit that was bought separately by the consumers’ own means. The entire idea was that children could create faces that never looked the same.

“A crucial shift involved consumer items for very young children. Soft, cuddly toys, like the teddy bear, appeared in American markets” (Stearns 7) like many of those things, Mr. Potato Head lost its original intent and Hasbro started producing plastic “potatoes” with holes for the accessories. Children didn’t get a chance to play with fruit anymore. Mr. Potato Head has created a huge revenue as he was featured in the Disney movie “Toy Story.” When I went to Disney world 12 years ago I remember going on a “3D adventure” with Mr. Potato Head. All of this was born out of simple appendages stuck into fruits and vegetables.

Screen shot of the search "Mr. Potato Head" on Google, showing the "classic" look of Mr. Potato Head, in all of which he looks the same

The true value of this toy was that it promoted creativity in children. They could make a potato look happy and a squash look mean. The plastic potato that is now sold was obviously a successful way to make more money from parents who don’t want their children wasting food and have to deal with the tantrums from the children who want to keep rotten Mr. and Mrs. Cantaloupe Heads. However, now all Potato Heads look the same. There are only so many looks you can give the potato without buying more accessories to go with it. Mr. Potato Head went from being a $1-2 toy, to essentially a gender neutral Barbie, always needed a new accessory. This fixed the problem that “boys and girls were attracted to dissimilar products,” (Chudacoff 180) but created a new one: You have to continue to buy accessories to personalize your Mr. and Mrs. Potato Heads. An accessory kit can run about $20 each according to Amazon but at the rate of childhood boredom, will one be enough?

Smile! You’re on Barbie camera!

Toys, were the staple of childhood. Whether you played with Transformers, Hot Wheels, action figures, Barbie or GI-Joe’s, the toy required that you use your imagination to create a scenario or plot, with a particular goal in mind that you and your toy could achieve. I am purposely using past tense for this description because kids have become so absorbed with today’s technology that toys no longer require the extensive thinking and imagination that they one did.

The New York Times wrote an article on how toys have changed, and once caught ahold of it, Stephanie Clifford wrote an update version of the article. “Classic toys are becoming much less classic because of upgrades meant to entertain technology-obsessed children.” Stephanie explains that the reason for children growing up with the desire to be more technological is because they see all the gadgets that their parents are playing with and operating. The main attraction that they are writing about is the new Barbie. The new Barbie has become a digital camera, her camera lens in behind her and the picture then appears on her t-shirt. The photo can then be uploaded to a phone or a computer. In my opinion this takes away the whole point of Barbie, all that she will be now is a camera, little girls won’t know how to make up a story and have their dolls act it out.

There are a lot of people, myself being one of them, that feel toys and technology should not mix and that children should still have to utilize their imagination. I feel that this new technological advance could cause something similar, just not as extreme, as the moral panic that our society experienced when children became obsessed with comic books. Perhaps this new technological craze that is taking over the toys could stand to resemble how comic books were seen taking over children’s innocense.

A picture showing how Barbie is now becoming a digital camera.

Technology: Society’s Youngest Handicap

A button on Barbie Photo Fashion's belt is pressed to take a picture that appears on her shirt, which can then be downloaded to a computer.

The New York Times article “Go Directly, Digitally to Jail? Classic Toys Learn New Clicks” by Stephanie Clifford follows the progression of what used to be simple toys, and their journey through the technologically enhanced world.

Following the American timeline through today, parents have been put under increased pressure to keep their children entertained and therefore “entertainment standards went up accordingly.” (Stearns 5) Toy companies have taken advantage of the technology boom and created a world where “Kids like to play with the gadgets that they see their parents using” according to John Alteio, director of toys and games for Amazon. Toy manufacturers are aware that kids will inevitably be playing with technology and have decided their “job is to not necessarily avoid that, but if you can’t fix it, feature it.”

Barbie Dolls used to “represent a free-spirited teenager, she enticed girls to emulate her style,” (Chudacoff 173) but has evolved into a doll (if you can even call her that) with less meaning and more function. One of the newest Barbie “Dolls” Clifford describes has “a lens in her back; children point the doll at an image, and press a button on Barbie’s belt to take a photo. The image then appears on the front of Barbie’s T-shirt.”

Typically games like Monopoly that were usually played without technology are now played on iPads. Technology has transformed the world of games that previously existed. However now a different phenomenon has emerged. The technology-based game comes first and stuffed animals follow – a different nontraditional way to make even more money.  Clifford sites the “Moshi Monsters, which started out as an online-only game, started selling plush toys.”

“Low-income families were unlikely to have downloaded apps for their children’s toys, for instance, which many of the new toys require,” according to the Common Sense Study. The iPhone and its apps have become the new version of the American Girl series. An American Girl “combination of doll, book and accessories for just one character sold from around $100.” (Chudacoff 185) Both examples are pointing to the inevitable truth that entertaining children to such an extent will only increase the material gap between children.

Julia Johnson argues that “You definitely lose out not having board games be the way they used to…” I would argue that just because it is different isn’t necessarily bad, however toys such as Barbie has lost its original intent and devices like the iPhone are creating a separated society, starting at a very young age.

Who Needs Board Games?

In an attempt to make up for the lost profits in the fourth quarter of 2011, and stay with the evolving times, popular toy companies like Mattel and Hasbro are adding technology into recent editions of classic toys.  In an article from the New York Times entitled “Go Directly, Digitally to Jail? Classic Toys Learn New Clicks,” Stephanie Clifford, documents the integration of technology into the most historically loved toys.

Hot Wheels no longer need to travel along tracks of small pieces that that children slaved away putting together, instead the newest cars have sensors and move across an iPad screen.  Remember the game of Life, and the spinner that went up to ten instead of the traditional six on dice? Remember the excitement that would come across a child’s face as the ticking sound slowed before the coveted ten space spin? Well that can now be done on the iPad too! Who needs to physically spin the wheel?  Better yet, remember the kid who cheats and lies about how much money he had accumulated during a game of Monopoly? That won’t happen anymore because now the virtual monopoly counts your money for you! When I was growing up Barbie and her plethora of outfits was enough to occupy my time for hours, but perhaps watching their parents’ excessive use of technology has taught kids that imagination and dolls are not enough.  Mattel has now inserted a digital camera onto Barbie’s stomach with software to upload the photos and videos onto a computer.

While it is hard to say what Stephanie Clifford thinks of this parallel evolution of toys with technology, as it is more of an informative piece and less of an editorial, it is easy to see that the benefits technology brings, also brings significant problems. Just as we discussed in class after reading the Rad Bradbury short story “The Veldt,” children who become dependent on technology for entertainment lose out on the imagination and play that is essential to what we think of when we think of a child.  Monopoly wasn’t just a game to see who could collect the most money, but it also taught basic mathematic skills that are eliminated when the child no longer has to count their own money.  Additionally Monopoly was a social game, a family game, and now who needs family or friends when you can play against a computer! Remember how boring it would be when you had to wait for someone else to take his or her turn?  That too can be eliminated while playing with a computer! You can fast forward through their turn!

You definitely lose out not having board games be the way they used to, it is amazing how young kids can use the technology so efficiently.  The father in the YouTube video below seems to think the benefits and educational games that iPads and technology offer, could outweigh the loss of mathematics and socialization.

Video from YouTube of a 2 year old efficiently using an iPad and playing an educational game