When is it too much toy?
"Talk To Me Elmo" is an interesting toy. Now I have not seen one in action in person, but I have heard one in action over the phone being played with by my friend's 2-year-old and have seen the slightly more venerable "Tickle Me Elmo" which started that toy ball rolling. It was very interesting listening to "Elmo" chattering away with my "niece" while my friend was on the phone. My friend described how Elmo was flapping his arms and how my niece was flapping hers and later how she had set Elmo up at her drawing table expecting Elmo to do some drawing.
(image to left of "Talk To Me Elmo" from USA TODAY.com)
Now I don't think that "Talk To Me Elmo" is quite up to doing any drawing... yet ... but it did get me wondering about what people have said in the past about the effect of television on children. I was wondering about the effect of such life-like toys on children. There was always this controversy about how children might not understand the difference between reality and fiction, or reality and fantasy with the television offerings they had. That was combined with the large number of hours of TV viewing that children were starting to have.
Toys like the new Elmo might be bending that line further. Perhaps not too much problem with the current generation of Elmo toys, but what about the near future?
This Elmo can interact with the child at least by touch and "...remembers a child's name and habits..."¹ according the the 2005 article on USA TODAY.com. The current one I know does much and probably more than the 2005 edition.
I am not sure if we should be worried or at least be concerned over the direction toys might be taking in blurring the boundaries between toy and reality... or is it toy? These toys are small robots and computers and the children are becoming very comfortable with them.
Of course perhaps we have to watch about not the boundary between reality and illusion, fiction, or fantasy -- but rather the boundary between life and automation.
¹ "New tech toys walk, talk and play tunes this Christmas" Sept 6 2005; Angela Moore; Reuters USATODAY.com -- Tech Products..