From Tamagotchis to Tablets…

Posted on February 22, 2012


By Lacey Dolan

With the festive season finally behind us and the forced interaction with various family members on hold for another year, I was quite intrigued by the number of toys my 6 year old brother had received from “Santa” and just how vast the difference was between my chosen gifts in the early 90’s to that of my younger sibling.

I remember with fondness my younger days when I would, biro in hand take to the pages of an Argos book like a lunatic, violently circling every toy in sight that I wished for Santa Claus to drop down my chimney on Christmas Eve. These toys were the standard Barbie’s, Hello Penny and other random plastic, brightly coloured objects.

My Little Pony was a firm favourite of my age group at that time, now children are expecting a real pony to come galloping down their hallway at 7 o’ clock on a Christmas morning.

Nowadays it’s all Ipads, tablets, laptops, digital cameras and more technology that doesn’t really benefit a child at all. In the case of Ipads etc, of course they can argue “they are educational” but at what price? Realistically, Ipads and tablets weren’t designed for sticky little fingers to pore over and what about children’s temper tantrums? Many parents will regret splurging all their hard earned cash on the latest gadget for their little “angel” when they are the recipient of an airbourne Ipad to the head.

When I had the pleasure of seeing my (spoilt) little brother on Boxing Day, we were comparing what gifts we had both received. As I pulled out my Tamagotchi that had been bought for me from a dear friend, I was mocked by him as he pulled out a Blackberry Tablet. Between laughs he rubbished my Tamagotchi and continued to inform me of the rest of his mound of treats……

Advertising is a major problem for this kind of consumerism. Parents are constantly bombarded with images of happy children playing with the latest gadget or ridiculous plastic toy. The amount of pressure thrust upon them today is incredible. They themselves are brainwashed into thinking the more money they spend on their child the happier they will be, it’s drilled into our heads as a socitey that the more possessions we own, our life will become more fulfilled, should parents yield to their kids wishes? Or is it harder to say no?

I spoke to my mother and discussed this issue further and asked her why she chose such extravagant gifts for my little brother.

“Toys are advertised as the way of the future, and for educational purposes, so that being said I don’t mind spending money on a piece of technology that could aid my child’s learning. But I do feel pressure, because I feel my child is under pressure as bullying can occur when they don’t have the latest game.”

“When I was growing up the toys I had were nothing compared to now. It wasn’t as commercialised as what it is now. I remember fondly Tiny Tears and spending a lot of time on my bike. Unlike nowadays with  public panic widespread concerning crime again children, it’s the norm to have kids at home playing with entertainment as opposed to myself being more outdoors as a child. Kids these days are more media orientated as they have grow up in a more fast paced technological world.”

My Gran sadly wasn’t as fortunate as my dear mother in the toy stakes “Growing up during the War and coming from a big family, we were lucky to get an orange at Christmas! It wasn’t a time were Christmas was toy driven, it was about spending time with loved ones. While now, it’s about seeing who can out do who or who has spent the most money. Birthdays were the same.”

As I scanned the internet for toys from the 40’s upwards I was pleasantly surprised to see that several games that are still widely played today have come from way back. The 40’s introduced the Slinky, which pleasured many a household from then onwards with the capability of taking on a pair on stairs like a pro.   Cue the giant Tonka truck, released in the late 40’s. The Tonka truck is still a big seller today, reinforcing my idea that it’s not the expense on a toy, it’s the durability of the item and the amount of endless fun that little boys have had throught the years with the Tonka truck.

The first toy ever advertised was “Mr Potato Head” which was released in the 1950’s and invented by George Lerner. This paved the way for the endless toy advertising on television. It consisted of the standard push pin plastic pieces that children would insert into various fruit or vegetables, thus giving the appearance of a face. “Mr Potato Head” was the biggest seller in the 50’s, and thanks to Toy Story and the revamp in undergone it came back with a bang in the 90’s and it’s success has only continued.  “Mr Potato Head” was providing kids with endless hours of entertainment (and wasted fruit and vegetables) until Barbie showed up in 1959 with her glowing skin and her hair begging to be brushed. Little girls went WILD! Again though, Barbie has stood the test of time, just like Mr Potato Head. Two classic toys that have entertained children and not a microchip in sight.

The 1960’s wasn’t only about peace and love, the amount of classic toys that were invented during that era are vast. Perhaps this was due to all the “free love” or the heavy drug taking, but you’ve got to give it to the 60’s, they know how to make a toy, they also know how to make it last. Operation, Twister, Etch-a-sketch and the Easy Bake Oven to name but a few were all introduced in this golden age and are still on the christmas lists of many children today.

Toy developers have to come up with enough ideas every day to quench the unrelenting need of kids so as I scoured the internet for various sites concerning children’s toys, I was slightly alarmed by several, so I delved deeper. It showed a number of toys that are incredibly inappropriate for kids. One in particular was  “Love N’ Licks” pets. A dog whose mouth salivates progressively the more you play with it. The more you play the wetter it becomes……then it makes you wet when it reaches a certain peak. A tad deranged for a children’s toy I must add.

Disney seem to be the main contenders for filling our children’s heads with inappropriate material and I’m not talking about their movies. The released the Wolverine Bop Hammer, which had to inflate. They chose to put the nozzle used to inflate the hammer at Wolverines crotch, making children all over the world resemble that they are performing fellatio on an inflatable Wolverine. Unless this product was developed, tested, assembled, and sold by blind robots, someone along the way must have seen the issue with this toy. You might go as far as to say that this was a conscious choice by some juvenile toy maker, because it is really hard to believe that with all the development that goes into toys, this made it through various tests without a hitch.

According to TIME Magazine, the greatest toy invented was the Radio Flyer – again enhancing the point that not everything has to come with a £200 plus price tag to entertain your little darlings.

When I tackled my sibling about toys, I asked him where he got his ideas for what he wanted from, his reply “the tv”. Quelle surprise. I then asked him which toy would he choose out of all the ones he owns if he had to pick, his retort “all of them” cue a throng of high pitched squeaks – again I persisted stating the it was only ONE to this he replied ” my tablet”. Why I asked “because you can download games for them”. He is 6 years old. This is proof of the way advertising affects our children growing up today.

Posted in: Opinion Pieces