The Dirty Dozen
12 Toys To Avoid
For 2002 - 2003
Army Forward Command Post, Ever Sparkle Industrial Toys
Recommended Age: 5+
Description: This dollhouse looks like a home that has been hit by a bomb: there are holes in the roof, one wall is demolished, bullets are scattered on the floor, and the porch railings are broken.
Why we chose it: This playhouse, marketed as appropriate for children five and up, trivializes the harsh reality of war. The house comes with dozens of accessories, including a machine gun, rocket launcher, magazine belt and explosives. This bombed-out version of Barbies Dream House is sure to excite bloodthirsty passions in even the most passive of preschoolers, wrote one Amazon reviewer. Unfortunately, the set does not come with charred infant or mangled toddler action figures.
This dollhouse, with minor variations, is carried by several major retailers, including KB Toys, JCPenney and in Toys R Us stores. Toys R Us told Lion & Lamb that the Command Post is still available in stores, although it is now off the Amazon.com web site (the online retailer for Toys R Us). JCPenney has also removed this toy from its web site, but is not returning phone calls regarding whether the toy can still be ordered from the catalogue. We are providing e-mail links here for those who want to contact the companies and voice their concerns about this toy.
Star Blaster Set, SRM Entertainment
Recommended Age: 5+
Description: A Battle Blaster, an extendable sword and a voice changer.
Why we chose it: The Battle Blaster-batteries included so children can test it out at the store-makes machine gun sounds as a loud voice yells, Fire! Fire! While the gun itself does not look realistic, it may send a confusing message to kindergarteners: guns are fun to play with.
Zoids, Gun Sniper, Hasbro
Recommended Age: 4+
Description: A posable action figure of a creature called Sniper, wielding a gun in each hand.
Why we chose it: This toy takes the dinosaur concept and gratuitously adds a sniper element. The Gun Sniper includes missile-launching side cannons! The packaging promotes other Zoids, which children can customize for battle! They include the Liger Zero with a Hel Digunner cannon and Raynos, with turret and launching cannons. The Zoids line melds two traditional toy categories-construction toys and animals - and adds violent themes, which are then marketed to pre-schoolers.
NRG Paintball, Toymax
Recommended Age: 8+
Description: A toy version of paint ball, which fires up to 40 feet.
Why we chose it: This game encourages eight-year-olds to shoot their friends, and the paint shows them how successful they have been. The instructions with this toy warn children not to shoot anyone in the face or eyes, but second-graders cannot always be relied upon to follow such cautions-especially at distances of up to 40 feet.
Nerf Blastin Zurg from Toy Story, Hasbro and Disney/Pixar
Recommended Age: 4+
Description: A brightly-colored action figure for pre-schoolers that shoots Nerf laser darts.
Why we chose it: This action figure, which appears rather innocuous and is based on a character from a popular movie for young children, does only one thing: shoot darts from a triple-barreled toy gun. Prepare to meet your DOOM! reads a strip on the back of the box. Take that!! the Zurg continues as he blasts away at Buzz Lightyear, who deflects the darts. ARRGGH!! screams Zurg as a dart bounces back and hits him in the chest. This toy, while seemingly innocent, gives a distorted message to very young children. It takes cartoon violence off the screen and puts it into childrens playrooms.
Galidor Ooni, Lego
Recommended Age: 4+
Description: A fantasy constructible action figure that children can build themselves. One of a series of action figures whose body parts are interchangeable.
Why we chose it: The Lego brand has long been a leader in creating quality, open-ended construction toys. But starting with the Star Wars figures, continuing with Bionicles, and now with the Galidor line, Lego is moving away from its traditional base and toward the action figure category. While the Galidor action figures are not nearly as violent as many others, children may still use them for fantasy fighting. With a video game and TV program tied to Galidor, it is clearly more a marketing opportunity for Lego than a toy for children.
VIOLENT VIDEOGAMES FOR CHILDREN
Burnout 2: Point of Impact, Acclaim for the PlayStation 2
Recommended Age: E for Everyone with a Mild Violence descriptor
Description: An extreme racing game highlighting street races and spectacular crashes.
Why we chose it: A Game Informer ad for this game-rated as appropriate for children ages six and up-shows a mans head crashing through a windshield, with glass flying around him. The last thing to go through your mind will be your ass, the ad promises. Racing games are not generally violent, but this one breaks the mold. Best car crashes on the planet ... big, violent and damaging, according to one review touted in the ad. The best part is seeing the result of each crash: the crunched metal, the totaled vehicles & notes a review in gamezone.com.
Timesplitters 2, Eidos Interactive for the Playstation 2
Recommended Age: T for Teen, with a Violence descriptor
Description: A first-person shooter game rated as appropriate for teens. Reviewers compare it favorably to ultra-violent Mature-rated games such as Halo, Perfect Dark and Quake.
Why we chose it: Most parents would assume that a first-person shooter game such as this-where the player sees a gun or other weapon at the bottom of the screen at all times, as though he is carrying it in his hand-would be rated Mature. But for unexplained reasons, the industry ratings board has given a Teen rating to several of these games. Point. Aim. Shoot, reads the xbox.ign.com review of Timesplitters 2. The gamespy.com review notes that there are the occasional orgies of random violence, but thankfully, there is usually some sort of heavy weapon nearby to facilitate the quick disposal of your opponents.
James Bond 007: Nightfire, Electronic Arts for the Nintendo GameCube and PC
Recommended Age: T for Teen, with Violence and Suggestive Themes descriptors
Why we chose it: This first-person shooter game is based on the ever-edgier James Bond franchise. Todays Bond packs many more weapons and kills many more people than the Bond most parents grew up with: call it extreme Bond. From the gamers.com review: Naturally Bond will be packing his standard Walther pistol, but hell have a lot more weapons at his disposal. These include & various rifles, a grenade launcher, and a four-tube missile launcher. Each weapon also has an alternate fire, such as a silencer for the pistol, a scope for the rifle, and a three-round burst for the submachine gun. Of the three console systems, Nintendo used to be the most child-friendly: parents should be aware that Nintendo is now pursuing an adult audience, and producing ever-edgier titles.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Take Two Interactive for the Playstation 2
Recommended Age: M for Mature with Blood and Gore, Violence, Strong Language, and Strong Sexual Content descriptors
Description: The sequel to Grand Theft Auto III (the best-selling game of 2002), Vice City allows players to hijack police cars, gun down pedestrians, kill policemen, pick up prostitutes in order to get health points & and then kill the prostitutes in order to get their money back.
Why we chose it: Even though this game is rated M for Mature, it has been touted as the best game of 2002 for the freedom it offers players. As a result, middle and high school students have been flocking to the Grand Theft Auto franchise, as well as other Mature-rated products. Neither the video game nor retail industries enforce the voluntary ratings system, which means that teens can easily buy and rent Mature-rated titles. Even retailers with policies that restrict the sale of Mature-rated games to children allowed children to purchase Mature-rated video games 73 percent of the time, according to a recent Federal Trade Commission survey.
If you have any suggestions for toys for our next list,
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