What to do if you find a toy that looks too much like a dinosaur
Posted On July 2, 2021
A toy that comes with a warning about being “too much like” a dinosaur is not the sort of thing that’s worth owning, according to a recent study.
In fact, it’s not even likely to be the kind of thing you’ll be able to keep in your garage for a long time, the study found.
Rather, the toys are the product of the “social engineering” of toys by the makers of ride-on toys, which the authors call “social-engineered toys,” which is to say that the company or designer has created the toy to be something that is appealing to children, rather than the toy it actually is.
What makes this possible is that toys have been designed to be toys.
In this case, the researchers found that the “toys” were not toys at all, but rather social engineering devices, intended to encourage kids to “act like a child.”
And the findings are the first to come to light in a decade.
“Our research suggests that these social engineering toys are not just a matter of ‘toy manufacturing’ but of the social engineering of the toy,” said study author and developmental psychologist Dr. Tanya Cepeda.
She said that the toys “are really an extension of a culture of social engineering and manipulation.”
The researchers surveyed parents of children ages 4 to 11 and found that over half of the children who bought the toys had experienced some form of “social manipulation” from the manufacturers.
In other words, many parents believed the toys were being marketed to children by parents who were using them as a means to get kids to act like children, according the researchers.
This, the authors said, could lead to “disruption and alienation of children from their families.”
They also found that while the parents did not always take responsibility for the toy’s behavior, many did.
In some cases, the parents were the ones that created the social-engineering devices.
“These are not products of the manufacturer, they are the products of social engineers,” Dr. Cepera said.
“So parents were able to get their children to act and act in ways that they would never do on their own.”
The study authors also said that in the study, they had only used the toys they purchased, so the researchers did not have enough data to draw any firm conclusions about how many children actually had these “toy-like” interactions.
In the future, the research team will focus on what kinds of toys the toys could be used for and what kind of parents they could help in the classroom.
This kind of research could lead the way to better-designed and better-controlled toys.
“In the long term, the goal is to use these toys to foster better social-emotional development for children in the home, to reduce childhood isolation and conflict,” said Dr. David C. Kowalski, a pediatrician and a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who was not involved in the research.
“It could be something as simple as the teaching of empathy skills to children to help them develop their own skills, or to help parents in the family to better relate to their children in ways they could not normally.”
The research was published in the journal Developmental Psychology.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.