Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why is the new View-Master a disaster?” you ask? Good question. (Besides, it sure beats answering any question about “bathroom parts”, mmmkay?)
According to John Patrick Pullen, online contributor to TIME, Mattel and Google recently joined forces “to re-launch the classic View-Master.” He explains that it will be an updated version of “the classic stereoscopic slide reel toy.”
He adds that the press release claims the “forthcoming product is essentially a virtual reality headset aimed at toddlers. But instead of showcasing static images on a wheel, the new headset will use an inserted smart phone to display video that lets kids ‘take engaging field trips where they can explore famous places, landmarks, nature, planets and more in 360 degree photospheres.’” It’s even going to be “low-cost”.
So why do some say the new View-Master is a bad thing when it sounds so exciting? Pullen notes that statistically-speaking “47% of babies spend nearly two hours a day watching television or DVDs.” So even before the new View-Master hits stores almost half of all infants already spend too much time in front of a screen.
One problem is if it is like the original, Mattel might pull the classic “educational bait and switch”. They promote it as a way to see the world but it quickly turns into what Pullen calls “a pair of Disney-pushing binoculars, overflowing with . . . animated adventures.”
Dr. Susan Linn, founding director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, told TIME: “I question whether all of the content . . . is going to be the . . . educational stuff they’re marketing now, or is it going to be the content that Mattel already owns, like Barbie in Hawaii . . .”
While the new View-Master was allegedly approved by pediatric ophthalmologists, as this goes to press it remains unconfirmed. This leaves parents like Pullen pondering that even if “strapping a smart phone to my kid’s face is safe enough on his eyes” there are still other potential problems.
Previous research has proven that too much “screen time for toddlers” can “increase BMI” and that it can also result in “delayed language acquisition”, reduce creative play time which is essential to the development of problem solving skills and later lead to lower school achievement.
A report in the journal Pediatrics reveals that children who have two hours or more of daily screen time could develop psychological issues like hyperactivity, problems with peers and an inability to control emotions and behavior. “But, it’s cool,” snarks Pullen, “their eyes will be just fine.”
Linn notes yet another potential problem. She believes that even if Mattel claims the product if for children over the age of seven, the new View-Master will wind up with “pre-schoolers.”
She says: “Marketers do something called ‘aspirational marketing’. Developmentally, kids want to be older; they look up to older kids; they want to have the things that older kids have.”
Pullman believes this means “if Mattel and Google claim to be targeting seven year old children, they’re really after for four-, five-, and six-year-olds — because older kids won’t play with something if they think it’s meant for babies.” He concludes that “just because we have the technology to build something like a virtual reality View-Master, it doesn’t mean we should. Children don’t have the willpower to stop staring at the screen.”
Why is the new View-Master a disaster? Now you know.
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