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Will Barbie Recover?

Barbie is selling less in the United States these days. At least that's what the dolls' mom and pop company, Mattel, reported this week. But Mattel is hopeful the doll will recover now that she has an "online community."

Ah, the new buzzwords: online community. Webkinz.com, the site tied to the plush toy, has 13 times more visitors now than a year ago. At its heels is competitor Club Penguin. Both Web sites engage kids ages 6 to pre-teen in online games and let them interact with their friends online.

But is this a good thing? The jury's out on that, according to the Associated Press. Parents and kids alike are using computers more. These communities aim to be safe havens for kids as they learn the safety and etiquette rules online. Plus, they give parents a chance to be engaged with their children as the kids learn the Internet. On the down side, kids gain more from face-to-face contact, Peggy Meszaros, a professor of human development at Virginia Tech, told the AP. In the grey middle is the fact that these sites teach kids about consumerism. They learn money management, but they also learn the importance of buying stuff.

How much time are your kids spending in these communities? Are they valuable or do they take them away from real life too much?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  July 18, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Tweens
Previous: Do the Dutch Have It Right? | Next: Potter Mania

Comments


My daughter has 41 Webkinz pets (yes, we are addicted). She is only allowed on the website on the weekends but doesn't even spend much time online then. She doesn't go on any other website, doesn't play any other computer games, doesn't watch any commercial television. She does however, love to play with her toys in her playroom, play board games with us, play with friends, and read lots of books.

I think websites like webkinz are great when used in moderation. My daughter's hand-eye coordination has improved since she first went online 6 months ago and her typing skills have improved, too. I think the problem lies with parents not being able to set up and enforce boundaries.

Posted by: 21117 | July 18, 2007 7:50 AM | Report abuse

My kids have very little exposure to the computer. I'm not in the slightest concerned about their lack of ability to use a mouse or type at age 4. These are things that will come later. I think more time outside and playing is the goal, not in a web community. Freaky.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | July 18, 2007 8:31 AM | Report abuse

Computers are good in a lot of ways; and bad in a lot of ways. Changing our lifestyle in many ways - the bad way - the computer stinks. Watch out for teenagers posting myspace and facebook. Watch out for spouses seeking new "friends" via the internet. The computer is a dangerous thing for people who otherwise would be almost perfect human beings if not lured by computer temptations - too easily available.

Posted by: MM | July 18, 2007 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Trend in higher education (grad school) is to BAN computers in the classroom b/c students who are typing notes are becoming typists - not THINKERS.


Children don't need any time on the computer - and anything they learn now will likely be useless 15 years from now b/c technology is changing so fast. Any one remember learning DOS? Using it now? Children are better off playing imaginitively than clicking a mouse or improving typing skills. (Again - will we still be typing in 15 years? Voice activation?)

Posted by: McLean | July 18, 2007 8:53 AM | Report abuse

A 9 yo family friend was inappropriately approached by someone on one of the kids only websites. Fortunately, she had just completed a internet safety course at school and recognized it. She immediately told her parents who agreed that it was not someone who should be on the site. They reported it but the bottom line is to teach your kids that you have no friends on the internet. My kids are allowed on it but with limits. I think there is a lot of good out there for them but there is also a lot of bad. I don't think the commercially endorsed sites are all bad but with moderation.

Posted by: MDMom | July 18, 2007 8:53 AM | Report abuse

McLean,
Yes, some of us do still use DOS. Learning to program in one language will help even if that language become obsolete - it is the thought process.

Kids have to learn to do research on the internet and to know what is for real and what is junk. It is what the future holds so the kids should know how to use it appropriately.

Should they be on the computer for hours at a time? Definitely not but they need to have a good comfort level with it as it will be a certain part of their future.

Posted by: MDMom | July 18, 2007 9:00 AM | Report abuse

I don't do much from DOS these days, but it did give me a good understanding of how computers work behind the Windows-style interface. That's not exactly useful either, but it does give me a certain amount of computer literacy, I think.

Concerning commercial kids' Web sites: why is it the child's responsibility to spot potential predators? I'm not suggesting legal action against every site that allows a predator on, but seriously, why isn't all interaction on these sites monitored? The parent companies gain sales from the kids using the site, so shouldn't they offer security in return?

A parent has responsibility, too (of course!) but it seems like the commercial interests behind the children's playspaces--be they brick-and-mortar or virtual--should ultimately share that responsibility.

Posted by: Josh | July 18, 2007 9:42 AM | Report abuse

MDMom -

good points, but in higher education what I see (and what is currently being debated) is that students haven't learned how to think. Typing in words and having research appear isn't using analytical skills - it's relying on the computer to process and sort the information.


Plus - the comfort level seems widely overemphasized in defending and funding early computer use (perhaps for financial gain by those who sell computers?). Introducing a computer too late - say when one is aged 45 or up - will make it hard for that person to adapt. But introducing a computer to a teenager or young adult will produce the same comfort level as introducing it at age 4. Fine motor skills are better developed playing, learning to tie shoes, etc, than keyboarding.

Posted by: McLean | July 18, 2007 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I was expecting an insightful aritcle about Barbie and how the image affects young girls..blah blah, I'm sure it's been done before though.

I don't see a problem with letting children spend an hour or so a day on the computer, better then the TV, right? It's never too early to learn typing and how the computer works. The internet isnt going away anytime soon.

On a side note, can you imagine typing being replaced by voice activation? I would never be able to think at work with everyone talking to their computers.

Posted by: amc | July 18, 2007 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Children should be out playing, climbing, running. Getting stronger, using their bodies and improving their eye hand coordination. Not sitting around surfing the web. No wonder kids are getting fatter by the day. I can't think of anything more sad than encouraging 5-7 year old to park themselves in front of a monitor on the internet.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 18, 2007 9:55 AM | Report abuse

We purposely do not have the internet at home because we don't want our little kids staring at a computer screen all day. If they want to use the internet, I drive them to the public library where they go on Webkinz and Club Penguin for about an hour a week.

As for Barbie, I think she is much more preferable than those Bratz Dolls. They are horrible and really give impressionable young girls the mistaken idea that dressing and acting trampy is a good thing. Yuk!

Posted by: Steve | July 18, 2007 10:05 AM | Report abuse

We purposely do not have the internet at home because we don't want our little kids staring at a computer screen all day. If they want to use the internet, I drive them to the public library where they go on Webkinz and Club Penguin for about an hour a week.

As for Barbie, I think she is much more preferable than those Bratz Dolls. They are horrible and really give impressionable young girls the mistaken idea that dressing and acting trampy is a good thing. Yuk!

Posted by: Steve | July 18, 2007 10:05 AM | Report abuse

My older daughter (8 1/2) has a webkinz and likes to spend time on the computer (for that, and other websites, plus games). We limit the amount of time she can be on--half an hour a day, with an additional half hour as a reward at our discretion. She has friends from school with Webkinz and they try to be on at the same time to play together. I occasionally get arguments about needing more time, but not nearly as much as with TV. And I notice more behavior issues overall if I let her watch more TV.

We've been really impressed with the Carmen SanDiego and Liberty's Kids computer games--she really learns a lot from them. As for Barbie--she has several, but really doesn't play with them much at all any more. Would rather play with Polly Pockets and Groovy Girls, or even sit and read a book or go outside and play with friends.

I think it's fine to let kids play on the web, but you need to set limits and keep an eye on the interaction. That's key.

Posted by: MomO2 | July 18, 2007 10:23 AM | Report abuse

"My kids have very little exposure to the computer. I'm not in the slightest concerned about their lack of ability to use a mouse or type at age 4. These are things that will come later. I think more time outside and playing is the goal, not in a web community. Freaky."

Hi WORKINGMOMX , another good post. I agree. By the way I agree with steve, those bratz are just hollywood's version of what is appropriate as role models for girls. Might as well bring out paris hilton, lindsay lohan, britney spears dolls

Posted by: pATRICK | July 18, 2007 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Hi pATRICK! I agree with you about the Bratz dolls. They make me ill. I don't know when it became cool to have a doll that looks like a total tramp. It's like we are encouraging young girls to be spoiled brat divas.

LOL about Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears dolls (none of which would be wearing underwear).

Posted by: WorkingMomX | July 18, 2007 10:32 AM | Report abuse

"Might as well bring out paris hilton, lindsay lohan, britney spears dolls."

Sadly, it's probably a matter of time before the toy stores do.

Posted by: Josh | July 18, 2007 10:34 AM | Report abuse

"My daughter has 41 Webkinz pets (yes, we are addicted). . .I think the problem lies with parents not being able to set up and enforce boundaries."

Wow--at $10-$15 per toy, that's $400-$600 that someone (or a combination of someones) has spent on these toys for one child. Of course, it's your choice on how to prioritize spending. It seems like a lot to me though.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 18, 2007 10:43 AM | Report abuse

"Might as well bring out paris hilton, lindsay lohan, britney spears dolls."

Duh, the dolls are already out!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 18, 2007 10:44 AM | Report abuse

LOL about Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears dolls (none of which would be wearing underwear).

They would have some cool accessories though! Jail jumpsuit, shaved head, crashed car, empty vodka bottles, ex husband- kfed etc. LOL

Posted by: pATRICK | July 18, 2007 10:44 AM | Report abuse

The Britney doll would also have a Manny. Also, iPhones, used needles, roach clips, hay-uge sunglasses, laxatives, barf bags. Paparazzi dolls sold separately.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | July 18, 2007 10:47 AM | Report abuse

"Wow--at $10-$15 per toy, that's $400-$600 that someone (or a combination of someones) has spent on these toys for one child. Of course, it's your choice on how to prioritize spending. It seems like a lot to me though."

How much does your car, house, etc. cost?
How much did you spend on rings & wedding?
It seems like a lot to me.

What's that you say? It's none of my business?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 18, 2007 10:48 AM | Report abuse

LOL about Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears dolls (none of which would be wearing underwear).

They would have some cool accessories though! Jail jumpsuit, shaved head, crashed car, empty vodka bottles, ex husband- kfed etc. LOL

---

Can't forget the ever-fashionable alcohol-monitoring ankle bracelets!

Posted by: Josh | July 18, 2007 10:49 AM | Report abuse

what about Bongo the tattoo artist friend? Or Slash the dealer? Don't forget the cougar mom set either.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 18, 2007 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Can't forget the ever-fashionable alcohol-monitoring ankle bracelets!

Posted by: Josh | July 18, 2007 10:49 AM


Absolutely. Also, a Bible, because it looks good if you're trying to make a comeback. Would also need to sell Police Officer dolls separately, as well as Stylists, hangers-on, and Plastic Surgeons.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | July 18, 2007 10:54 AM | Report abuse

amc: You're right. We have discussed sexualization of girls in past blogs, but it's always something of concern. Here are two past blogs. They're focused more on Bratz and Club Libby Lu than on Barbie:

Little Girls, Big Influences:
http://blog.washingtonpost.com/parenting/2007/02/little_girls_big_influences.html

Club Libby Lu:
http://blog.washingtonpost.com/parenting/2007/03/club_libby_lu.html

Posted by: Stacey Garfinkle | July 18, 2007 11:29 AM | Report abuse

One only has to look at the Barbie of today to understand why they are selling less of them--the doll is ugly.

The Brat's sphere of influence, has produced a doll that is not pretty and looks like hooker. I was a child who loved Barbie, and I wouldn't buy one of these new dolls for my child.

Posted by: BBNotes | July 18, 2007 11:35 AM | Report abuse

"I think the problem lies with parents not being able to set up and enforce boundaries."

Boundries, ummm, like, I dunno, maybe like not buying 41 stuffed toys for your child! What child needs 41 of anything in this world? What is she going to expect when she is 16 - a Lexus and one of those awufly MTV parties?

Posted by: Moxiemom | July 18, 2007 11:47 AM | Report abuse

What is she going to expect when she is 16 - a Lexus and one of those awufly MTV parties?

MOXIEMOM,I saw that. I thought it was a travesty and a warning. That girl is ruined for life.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 18, 2007 11:57 AM | Report abuse

"How much does your car, house, etc. cost?
How much did you spend on rings & wedding?
It seems like a lot to me."

I don't drive an expensive car (depreciating asset). My house was expensive because of it being a high cost of living area, but it's not fancy and the land itself will hold value because it's close to public transportation.

Wedding rings are simple bands. Wedding was small--per plate cost wasn't exactly cheap, but I earned the money to pay for it myself.

I did acknowledge that it was your choice to spend that money as you choose. If it gives you pleasure to give those items to your child, go for it. I was making the point that this stuff adds up to real money. I'll still be using my car, living in my house, and wearing my ring years from now. I'm trying to teach my kids that while it's ok to buy some fun things, buying a lot of trendy stuff means you can't save for something bigger and/or more lasting later (a bike or something).

Posted by: Anonymous | July 18, 2007 12:09 PM | Report abuse

"If it gives you pleasure to give those items to your child, go for it. I was making the point that this stuff adds up to real money."

Duh, I can do the math.
It's none of your business how I spend my money!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 18, 2007 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Hey Patrick, I feel like sending a card of condolence to her future husband now. How sad and unfulfilled that girl's life is going to be. My dad has always said that affluence can do as much harm as poverty to a child.

Posted by: Moxiemom | July 18, 2007 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Moxiemom

"Hey Patrick, I feel like sending a card of condolence to her future husband now. How sad and unfulfilled that girl's life is going to be."

The toys are gifts from relatives. DH alone has 15 siblings. Again, it is none of your business!

Interesting that you have a crystal ball. What are tomorrow's lottery numbers?

Your parents paid for your education, you worked for a few years, and now you are living off of your husband as a SAHM. Sounds like a pretty sad and unfullling life and a huge waste of an education.

Where's the moxie?

Posted by: Guns of Navarone | July 18, 2007 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Again, it is none of your business!

When you make a statement about setting boundries after saying that you had 41 webkinz and saying that you are "addicted", you pretty much invite public comment on your choices. Just because DH has 15 siblings does not mean that they all need to give a gift. If you believe in boundries, then set and enforece them. They could contribute to her college fund, donate to a charity, buy her books (gasp).

As for the petty insults about how I live my life; they serve as just another indicator of how little you have to back up your statements. When challenged, try to come up with something more credible than "I don't like you" and "you are lazy" really!

Posted by: Moxiemom | July 18, 2007 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Moxiemom

"Hey Patrick, I feel like sending a card of condolence to her future husband now. How sad and unfulfilled that girl's life is going to be."

The toys are gifts from relatives. DH alone has 15 siblings. Again, it is none of your business!

Interesting that you have a crystal ball. What are tomorrow's lottery numbers?

Your parents paid for your education, you worked for a few years, and now you are living off of your husband as a SAHM. Sounds like a pretty sad and unfullling life and a huge waste of an education.

Where's the moxie?

Posted by: Guns of Navarone | July 18, 2007 12:21 PM

Of course, conspicuous consumerism is our business. We have to live and work with the adults such kids turn out to be. If the toys are gifts from relatives, set some boundaries by telling your relatives that your kids don't need any more crap, but that a gift to Heifer International or the Food Bank would be welcome. Maybe all the excess gift money could be put into a collective family pot and used to purchase gifts for an Angel Tree child at Christmas time -- or best of all, maybe you could ask your relatives to contribute to our child's college fund instead of buying an excess of junk.

It doesn't surprise me in the least that someone who would demean moxiemom's choices in such an insulting manner would think it perfectly appropriate to raise a child who doesn't appreciate the value of a dollar or the difference between want, need, and excess.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 18, 2007 12:34 PM | Report abuse

When you put the number of webkins your kid has (41!) on a public blog, it's not surprising that someone might comment. It's a parenting blog, and people often discuss values held about raising children in the context of our larger society. It's not as though the subject of materialism, marketing, and children isn't the topic of research and news articles is a new one.

I would expect that many if not most of the webkins were gifts. In my community and in my family, the grown-ups who would like to give gifts usually talk to the parents of the child who is to receive the gift. We're of like mind in wanting to limit the influence of the marketers and in keeping mountains of toys from overtaking our reasonably-sized homes.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 18, 2007 12:38 PM | Report abuse

MOXIEMOM, they are just as crazy here as on ON BALANCE. You are right about the sad and unfulfilling part. Shopping will be her hobby.I have gotten much more sensitive to how girls are raised since I have my delightful daughter to worry about.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 18, 2007 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Moxiemom

"I have gotten much more sensitive to how girls are raised since I have my delightful daughter to worry about."


Send the sympathy card to Hall Monitor pATRICK's daughter.


Posted by: Anonymous | July 18, 2007 12:43 PM | Report abuse

"Send the sympathy card to Hall Monitor pATRICK's daughter."

That was pretty incoherent, been hitting the sauce again? When you wake from your drunken stupor, log back in and give it another shot.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 18, 2007 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I don't see anything good about Webkinz ...

I have two children of prime Webkinz age and have not purchased a Webkinz for them. They have a lot of regular stuffed animals and love to play with them.

We also stopped all video games at our house about six months ago, with great results. Our kids are much better behaved, much more content with their other toys, and generally better at entertaining themselves.

I do not understand why parents buy Webkinz for their kids. Just because they are trendy and other kids have them doesn't mean that you HAVE to buy them as well.

There are lots of wonderful, fun things for kids to do and childhood is too short as it is. Why install a "time thief" like the internet and make it even shorter?

Posted by: Virginia | July 18, 2007 1:19 PM | Report abuse

The "SAHM living off your husband" comment pi##ed me off. I am NOT "living off my husband (as if a SAHM lives off a husband). In seven years, I did well enough, and more importantly, saved and financially planned well enough that I sufficiently contribute $$ to my family without working.

Of course, it is sans Lexus, summer home, satellite TV, and 60 Webkinz . . .

As for Barbie, buy, buy, buy. Have you ever met a woman so accomplished that she has been a teacher, Senator, pilot, rockstar, and doctor, all while exercising, spending time with her husband, and making time for her friends and kid sister. You think the Bratz are doing that? Maybe Barbie needs to become a mentor to the Bratz. . .

Posted by: Just Saying. . . | July 18, 2007 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Hey, way to go just saying. I was going to say that, but then I would have to pause Ellen and put down my bon bons and I need to rest up before my Pilates instructor, with whom I am having an affair, gets here. I don't even bother responding to that stuff anymore.

Posted by: Moxiemom | July 18, 2007 1:52 PM | Report abuse

I always thought Barbie looked like a hooker, or at best a transvestite. Why would any kid want to play with a doll that looked like that? Maybe it was for the Dad instead ;-). The dolls I had while growing up looked like real babies.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 18, 2007 1:56 PM | Report abuse

"Boundries, ummm, like, I dunno, maybe like not buying 41 stuffed toys for your child! What child needs 41 of anything in this world? What is she going to expect when she is 16 - a Lexus and one of those awufly MTV parties?"

Just because the child has 41 doesn't mean the parents bought them. I have older children who together have 200-250 Beanie Babies. These were accumulated over several years. The Beanies were very popular and their friends gave them anywhere from 1-4 Beanies as birthday gifts. Relatives gave them for birthdays and Xmas gifts. They could honestly receive 20 at one birthday party. The girls saved allowances, any money they earned, and gift money and bought many of the Beanies for themselves from their own spending money. And, yes, DH and I bought some for them.

Those tiny stuffed toys brought them endless fun. They played with them. They definitely weren't collectors items in our house. They created families, classrooms, parties, vacations, etc. They grouped and regrouped by types (birds, cats, dogs, etc). It may seem excessive to some, but it was fun and educational for my girls. And we didn't spend a lot of money. The girls knew that if they wanted more, they would have to pay for them out of their own money.

Posted by: lurker | July 18, 2007 3:20 PM | Report abuse

lurker

"Those tiny stuffed toys brought them endless fun. They played with them. They definitely weren't collectors items in our house. They created families, classrooms, parties, vacations, etc. They grouped and regrouped by types (birds, cats, dogs, etc). It may seem excessive to some, but it was fun and educational for my girls."

Will you be my Mommy?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 18, 2007 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Not making sure a (middle class with computer at home) child grows up with basic computer usage skills, on the way to touch typing, no problems with mouse coordination, web safety and search skills, email etiquette and the like borders on bad parenting for me.

It's part of life now and the sooner they are exposed and it becomes a normal part of how they do things, the easier it will be to add on all that OTHER stuff later.

And I don't know why people think that those skills listed above MUST somehow mean a kid is spending hours a day online or will be fat or unable to think.

Good parents DO balance- and that means making sure ALL relevant skills and behaviors are taught.

Posted by: Liz D | July 18, 2007 5:04 PM | Report abuse

My parents were the same sort of kill joys that I hear here. They banned televisions from my home. That robbed me of common ground with my peers and I craved what I knew I was missing.

Computer games, and the ones on the internet are a way that kids relate to one another separate from their parents. It's their own world. My kids earn their way into these games by doing their homework, sports and music, as well as getting outdoors with their friends.

I do let my kids make their own choices in entertainment and sometimes I just hate those choices. What I limit is the amount of time that gets spent on the games

Posted by: free bird | July 18, 2007 5:37 PM | Report abuse

I have heard of webkinz but my kids have not been on it yet. I don't want them getting involved in on-line activity this young (6 and 9). We just set up an email account for them to email a friend in CA and they think that is a big deal.

I always say this but my kids are outside playing 90% of the time, rain, snow, heat - it doesn't matter. "Go outside and play!" is my mantra.


Posted by: cmac | July 18, 2007 5:57 PM | Report abuse

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