Could Toy’s Facial Expressions be Harming our Kids?

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According to the Mother Nature Network there may be a link between Lego facial expressions and children’s emotions.  Since their inception, Lego figurines’  facial expressions have evolved to display more negative emotions.  This has led some to believe that these negative emotions could have a negative impact on the children playing with them.

Christoph Bartneck, a social robotics researcher reports that Legos have become more expressive over the years and that their expressions have changed from mostly happy to mostly angry.

When the line was first introduced in the 1970’s almost all of the faces were smiling and content.  After 1989 however, researchers noticed a change.  Bartneck and his team were able to break these new faces into six different categories of emotion; disdain, confidence, concern, fear, happiness and anger.

While this particular study, which will be presented at the First International Conference on Human-Agent Interaction in August, does not explore the effects these angry faces have on children it does bring up the point that these negative faces and images could be having a huge impact on children and the way they play.

Why have the faces of Legos changed so much over the years?

It is our impression that the themes have been increasingly based on conflicts, the authors reported in their study. Often, a good force is struggling with a bad one.

In contrast to the media’s portrayal of the negative impact on young children, a Lego spokesperson did not seem too worried about its impact on children stating that Lego always has a good sense of humor and that the good guys always triumph over the bad (angry) guys.

An interesting fact to point out is that many other toy lines have products that represent angry or sad characteristics in some form or another.

1)  Two such examples Angry Birds and the ever popular Barbie.  These too could be perceived as having a negative impact on our youth, but more research needs to be conducted for any concrete evidence that directly suggests this is cause and effect relationship.

2) Also, what about children’s movies; are the agent-less toys that only come to life through a child’s imagination more harmful than the children’ movies that are readily available as well ? These types of movies have evolved to reflect more mature topics and have characters that are more expressive than ever before.

A follow up piece from Yahoo News  notes that there is no evidence that Legos and their angry faces have a negative impact on children.  Scientific American and author of the study, Bartneck point to the media and its use of scare tactics as the real source of negativity.

Bartneck says that the study was never intended to provide scientific evidence of harmful effects, and that this point of negativity has just been one mostly reported by the media, most of which he claims have not even read the report.Around 20% of reporters read the study beforehand,estimates Bartneck.The bad ones just copied what everybody else was writing.”

What do you think? Could angry/negative toys be affecting children?

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