Mattel has managed to make all of our creepy doll nightmares come to life with Hello Barbie, the doll with WiFi. The WiFi connection allows children to create a more personal relationship with the doll by transmitting the child’s voice to a cloud server. Hello Barbie will use the response to create a friendly, encouraging reply.
The making of Hello Barbie is concerning to some parents. Would their child’s voice recording be stored and used as marketing information? Robert Phillips, Leesville English teacher and father of two, said, “Barbie doesn’t live in [my family’s] house. She visited, but she soon vanished.” Phillips opposes the production of Hello Barbie, saying, “Where does this information go? Where is it stored? Is it secure?” Phillips wants parents to consider their child’s privacy before purchasing Hello Barbie, saying, ”We are in a weird place with what toys can do now.”
Mattel wanted to create a toy that would inspire kids to choose certain career paths–not invade privacy. Hello Barbie asks harmless questions about the child’s likes/dislikes and then offers career ideas based on the child’s response. Barbie has previously been made into a veterinarian, doctor, scientist and teacher. These generic career barbies created room for creativity by leaving the doll without a mind of its own, but with the help of WiFi, Hello Barbie has changed that dynamic.
Nathan Dungan, like Phillips, is a parent who opposes Hello Barbie. Dungan created a petition meant to stop the production for Hello Barbie because he was “more than a little disturbed” after learning what the doll is capable of. The petition has over 35,000 signatures and Dungan hopes to have 50,000 soon. “The good news is that toy companies have responded to Change.org petitions before,” Dungan mentioned in his petition appeal.
For example, Toys R Us, Target and other toy stores pulled Breaking Bad action figures off of the shelves in 2014 after a Florida mom created a petition stating that the show was inappropriate for children. Similarly, Hasbro received complaints regarding their Easy Bake oven being gender unfriendly. The toy company soon created an oven that would be fit for girls and boys.
Dungan and Phillips both agree that the Hello Barbie doll crosses the line by having intimate conversations with children. However, despite the concerns, Hello Barbie is a technological advancement in the toy world.