I remember buying a baby monitor when my son Will was born but Mattel’s new invention is being hailed as the latest evolution of the baby monitor, but it seems more like a disturbing intruder & cynical marketing & data capturing tool to me.

I’m a great fan of technology – in balance, in context and in moderation. I’m not a technophobe or old fashioned fuddy duddy but when you ponder the inferences and implications of this device perhaps it will make you ‘Pause To Ponder’ too.

The toy company recently announced the launch of Aristotle, a digital nanny-companion for children. The device is meant to replace certain tasks traditionally carried out by parents or other adult human carers, such as recognising when a child wakes up, soothing them with lullabies, white noise, or a favourite song, answering questions until a child falls asleep & optionally requiring children to say ‘please’ when making requests, and even tutoring babies in a foreign language but it does more than that. PSFK describes it enthusiastically:

“Aristotle” has a Wi-Fi enabled camera that can detect movement & motion and can identify objects. Parents can watch the video feed on their smartphones from another room, and even utter commands to help calm a crying or scared child. Among the uses of this ‘clever’ or sophisticated  device include the ability to order baby toys and supplies, dim lights, play children’s songs and lullabies, act as a baby monitor, and tell jokes to a child. There are also several child-friendly learning contributions, including testing toddlers on their ABCs or teaching them their colorus with flashing coloured lights. It can also help children from toddler to teen complete their homework or find age-appropriate entertainment!

Tech writers are calling it “the most exciting thing Mattel has ever produced,” but I fail to see why this device is a good idea. Aristotle sounds more like a intrusion than a good idea. It could be used by ill informed parents to replace cooing, talking, interacting and soothing a baby or young child or could be used to ‘hot house’ a child by pushy parents to learn Chinese!

Whatever happened to real hugs, cuddles, talking, listening, interacting, playing and being with a child?

Yes raising children is hard work, tiring and demanding but replacing some of these natural interactions by a computer is disturbing to me.

The disturbing thought that children won’t be getting the face-to-face interactions that they need and want from parents is mind boggling.

There’s  so much evidence that shows that bonding with a baby is crucial to their emotional, physical and mental wellbeing long term & there’s so much more going on when a Mum or Dad rocks a baby, sings to a baby, reads to a toddler or spends time with a their child helping with homework or playing games with them.

Even Mattel’s chief of product officer, Robb Fujioka, admits that they don’t know what the long term damage that could be done to a child denied real connection.  “Honestly speaking, we just don’t know. If we’re successful, kids will form some emotional ties to this. Hopefully, it will be the right types of emotional ties.”

WHAT ?

Finally, it’s downright scary & disturbing  that Aristotle stores information about children. According to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, it can track “babies’ feeding, sleeping, and changing patterns,  & can store and  can analyse that data, to prompt parents to buy nappies, formula, or other products from its corporate partners. This data about children could be shared with other corporations and used to target parents and kids with marketing. Another name for this is ‘spying,’ as Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, points out:

“Companies that offer Internet-connected toys are simply spying on young children. And they can’t even protect the data they secretly gather. They have already lost passwords and personal data and exposed families to ransomware demands. Toys that spy are unsafe for children.”

What are your thoughts?

If you would like to sign the petition

Read on and sign here

“Dear Ms. Georgiadis,

We ask you not to release Aristotle, the Amazon Echo-type device for babies and young children. Young children shouldn’t be encouraged to form bonds and friendships with data-collecting devices, nor should they be targeted by advertisements based on those interactions.

Aristotle attempts to replace the judgment and nurturing of loving caregivers with faux companionship of a robot designed to sell products and build brand loyalty. Mattel’s own chief products officer, Robb Fujioka, has admitted that the product’s impact on childhood development is not known.

Young children should not be subject to targeted advertising, and they absolutely should not be guinea pigs in AI experiments. Please put the privacy and well-being of children first and cancel the production of Aristotle.”