Toy-based television programs, commonly known as program-length commercials, and television-activated toys exploit children as consumers. Of more urgent concern is their potential to promote violent and aggressive behavior, increase the intellectual passivity with which children view television, and inhibit imaginative play.1
Almost all of the 20 best selling toys on the market today are based on television programs. More than half of these toys have violent themes. Many glorify war. Clearly, the commercialization of children's television promotes violence as well as sales. It does little to entertain or educate our children.
Television-activated toys take the exploitation of program-length commercials one step further. These toys are activated by inaudible signals broadcast during a program. They are referred to as "interactive," but no descriptor could be more misleading. Although the television affects the toy and the child, no reciprocal interaction occurs.
Television-activated toys represent the third, and potentially most hazardous, phase in the commercialization of children's television. Initially, the promotion of toys on television was limited to commercials. After the toy was purchased, the child decided when and how to play with it. In the next phase, program-length commercials were developed to market toys and to show children how to play with them.
The development of television-activated toys almost completely eliminates the creative role of the child. Children need only to buy the toy; the television will play with it for them.
Parents should consider a child's playtime as an active, creative process that requires imagination. Television-activated toys interfere with this process.
- Copyright © 1988 by the American Academy of Pediatrics