As a 19-year-old, less than a year away from no longer being a teenager, I often find myself thinking about my childhood. Everyone’s fondest childhood memories include playing with their toys. I would play pretend games with my dolls and confide in my teddy bear, knowing that no matter how realistic “Toy Story” seemed at the time, my secret would remain safe with him. Of course, now with a technological revolution progressing faster than ever, the toys you see in stores are not like the playtime pals of the past. Remote controlled helicopters come with cameras attached to them, laptops are available for ages five and under and Barbie comes with Internet!
The latest development on Barbie is Hello Barbie, a doll that listens to children and uses the Internet to respond with one of thousands of prerecorded messages. While this sounds cool, cybersecurity analysts discovered major security flaws that could have allowed hackers were able to wriggle their way into the not-so-secure server and eavesdrop on children’s play sessions. Let us take a second to evaluate the creepiness of this whole ordeal. On a scale of one to Chucky Doll, Hello Barbie ranks fairly high up the scale. While a majority of playtime is spent creating pretend scenarios, children do tend to treat their toys as their partner-in-crime. In doing so, they are often able to speak their mind freely. If an adult hacker is able to listen in on some of these children’s most intimate and confidential play sessions, the implications are horrendous. Hello Barbie’s lack of security makes the toy susceptible. Essentially, it is serving as a recording device for a household’s private information, which can be misused in any number of ways.
I’m all for advancements in technology, but perhaps it’s a better idea to not include Internet in a Barbie doll. While the company is doing everything it can to fix the issue at hand, this wouldn’t even have had been a concern if Barbie was left as she is. My Barbie dolls never had Wi-Fi and I had just as much fun playing with them. I never had to worry about some stranger listening in on my conversations. Playtime for children is meant to occur in a safe and secure environment, and if technology is negatively impacting that environment, then it’s probably not necessary for technology to be omnipresent. Furthermore, children are innocent and naïve, and the fact that Hello Barbie could be hacked would be taking advantage of that. I understand the initiative was well intentioned but I would much rather have a mechanical pull-string doll like Woody talk back to me.
I have had a great childhood, and Barbie’s products can definitely be thanked for it. I have nothing but nice words to say about the brand, too. Its new empowering advertisements prove that their heart is in the right place, but of course the latest addition of Hello Barbie was certainly a bad idea.