Baby BlackBerry: Evil or the Evilest Baby Product?

LeapFrog, the company whose concept of educational toys includes the magic of electronic sounds, LCDs, microchips and batteries, is set to unleash another amazing product.

Photo of a Leap Frong hand-held Text and Learn device complete with an LCD screen, miniature keyboard and other buttons.

Called Text & Learn, it’s a BlackBerry-like hand-held device for ages 3 and up. It teaches those all-important thumb texting skills that every cell phone-packing first grader must prove proficiency in before graduating to second grade.

Text & Learn contains games about spelling and computer skills. It also lets you exchange text messages with a fictional friend and surf a fake web browser. The toy was announced at UK Toy Fair last week with a US announcement pending.

I don’t expect any BlackBerry-packing parents to understand this, nor parents who believe it’s never too early to stick a computer into a child’s hands, but I dare say there are some grown-up activities that should not be encouraged in emulation play. [This is Burn Your Blog Day where I offend my core audience by being honest.]

One a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being admission into the Evil League of Evil, how would you rate this baby product?


18 Responses to “Baby BlackBerry: Evil or the Evilest Baby Product?”

  1. GBK Gwyneth says:

    Ugh. That is horrid. I can’t imagine your core audience would be offended, except for the fact that you made a pretty damning statement about Blackberry users. Just because a parent uses a mobile device does not imply that they want their preschoolers to emulate them in that way.

    February 3rd, 2009 at 3:25 am

  2. Jeremy says:

    Absolute evil. If your scale went to 20 this product would receive a 40 just because the blackberry is a truly evil device. I had one for 3 years and I couldn’t take my hands off it. Pure Evil… Like the fruits of the devil! BAD BAD BAD!!

    February 3rd, 2009 at 5:23 am

  3. Teacher Jennifer says:

    I rate it a 10, because it’s just another unnecessary consumer product that people will buy to shove into their kids’ hands when they really should by giving them finger paints and play-dough so they can express themselves and nurture creativity and self-esteem!

    Ok, to be fair, I’m writing this (in a bad mood) after visiting the toy department at Target for the first time and leaving with nothing but a headache. Ouch.

    I intend to raise my babies with creative toys. I’m sure, in the course of his childhood, I’ll run into a friend of his who’s packing a Baby Blackberry. I’ll just roll my eyes.

    February 3rd, 2009 at 6:22 am

  4. Andie says:

    This rates an 11+! Out*@$^rageous. Can you tell I hate technology aimed at pre-schoolers???

    February 3rd, 2009 at 7:43 am

  5. Stephanie says:

    My daughter (who is about to turn 2) uses my husband’s travel alarm clock as a Blackberry. Her Nana uses one for her real estate business, and one day we noticed her playing with the buttons and then holding it up to her ear and saying, “Hello? Hello?”

    I thought this toy was hysterical and put it on our blog. At least she’ll be learning her alphabet in the process. How is this different from the little pull phone I had when I was a kid? It’s how we communicate now. My daughter has very few toys and actually enjoys books more than anything else. I find this harmless considering she doesn’t have tons of blinky, loud toys.

    February 3rd, 2009 at 7:52 am

  6. Lyn says:

    I agree, this toy is outrageous for a toddler. My son tells me that kids in Pre-K and K at his school have cell phones and are on computers already. I just cannot get on board with letting my child into the cell phone world at such a young age. Why teach them so young? The government is currently making laws to teach adults how to use these devices safely…why encourage the misuse any earlier than necessary? This rates a 10 for me.

    February 3rd, 2009 at 8:00 am

  7. anjii says:

    I agree with Stephanie… my kids use a calculator as a Blackberry. (Yes, I own one, lol). We also have various toy cell phones, some of our obsolete ones and the classic FP chatter phone as mentioned above.

    February 3rd, 2009 at 8:28 am

  8. Jeanne says:

    Okay, it’s awful. But I can’t give it more than an 8.5. Personally, my kid won’t have one. But, at the very least, it teaches letters and reading, unlike some other electronic devices I see a LOT of little kids with on the Metro.

    I prefer parental interaction and unplugged books, and I’d rather have my son use his imagination with a pretend blackberry (like the travel alarm clock Stephanie’s daughter uses).

    February 3rd, 2009 at 9:23 am

  9. Gregory says:

    I personally don’t understand the backlash against electronic toys. There are good toys and not so good toys, even in the unplugged world. Just because a toy is electronic, it gets a bad mark… I don’t understand that.

    Also, I don’t understand why an electronic toy is automatically marked a “no parent interaction” toy… any toy could be that way. Why is it better to leave a child alone playing with blocks versus a parent interacting with a child while playing with an electronic toy?

    To me, it really comes down to what you expose your child to, and how much time you interact with them. If a parent uses devices like a Blackberry all the time, how can the child not notice. Why judge a parent based on the product? How do you know the parent isn’t using the product in interactive play, like any other unplugged toy?

    Anyways, I’m ranting. AJ, the reason I read your blog all the time is because you do honestly share your opinions. I just don’t always agree. :)

    February 3rd, 2009 at 9:47 am

  10. KGS says:

    I don’t think this is all that terrible, just a potential waste of money (and probably noisy). I imagine kids will mostly end up having pretend conversations on it just like any other (simpler, cheaper) toy phone, or possibly pretend to look up a map or something, both of which seem fine to me. I suspect kids won’t use the “educational” part much, simply because endlessly hearing about letters and numbers from some machine is really boring. Parents and teachers can make letters interesting, machines generally can’t; to me that makes them pointless, but not evil.

    That said, I will admit my daughter learned the alphabet song partially from a Leapfrog brand singing frog toy. We only sang the song together about 20 times every single day during the course of that particular obsession of hers, and “froggie” was perfectly willing to sing it on demand at least 60 times MORE per day, which she seemed to really really want for a week or two. Am I sorry I didn’t sing that song personally all 80 times each day? Nope.

    February 3rd, 2009 at 10:08 am

  11. Katie says:

    I agree with Jeanne. It’s bad, but only about an 8 or 9. I personally would never buy it for the same reason I would never by any toy that takes batteries. However, it seems like the kind of toy that my parents might get for our daughter and if they did I wouldn’t take it away or hide it, just leave it in the toy box with all the other electronic toys for her to play with at will. No matter what toys we get for her she is more interested in random stuff she finds about the house anyway.

    February 3rd, 2009 at 11:30 am

  12. MoJo says:

    As a blackberry toting parent, I do understand and agree that some activities are not meant to be emulated. Including a pretend blackberry. My husband and I both use them. They allow us to be disconnected from the computer, while not ignoring responsibilities we have to work. Our kids know they are ‘work phones’ and not to be played with. Only in a few instances (long plane ride and 1 year old who refuses to be buckled in a car seat) where we hand them our evil devices for a moment of peace. So I rate this device a 5. Only because long before this toy blackberry, I have seen pretend MP3 players, pretend keys that have the electronic lock/unlock device and so on. I wouldn’t buy them, but toy marketers definitely know that there is a market for emulating the things that parents use often.

    February 3rd, 2009 at 11:36 am

  13. Jeff says:

    Not sure I would need this one, my nearly 5-yr old already has a iPhone, bluetooth headset and a 17″ Macbook Pro. Ha!

    Seriously though, this is nuts but not something that surprises me in the least.

    I’m going to NYC Toy Fair in 10 days and I’m sure I’ll see a lot more of this type of thing ready to be pushed on us and our kids.

    February 4th, 2009 at 4:59 am

  14. Pippin says:

    Bleh. I have to remind and remind and remind my family NOT to get my 20 month old toys like this. I don’t understand why a child needs a “crackberry” toy.

    Just last week, I gathered up the battery-operated, blinking, loud toys and took them to my mother’s house. Mom wanted some “toys to stay at Gammie’s house”.

    Well, Mom, remember all those loud toys I begged you not to buy? They’re at your house now.

    I sympathize with a previous poster who said she went to Target to buy a toy and left in disgust. My child has lots of books.

    (The noisy books went to Grandma’s house too).

    February 4th, 2009 at 7:45 am

  15. Christy says:

    Wow. I really had no idea that this type of toy was out, though I shouldn’t be surprised.

    I have a 1st Gen iPhone (hubs has a 3G) and we let our 3 y/o daughter “play” with them. She knows how to use the iPod, turn on her games, and even check the temperature outside. We are teaching her to handle it carefully, but we are also not giving her free reign of it. She does use other flat-surface objects to imitate the iPhone. She can “swipe” with the best of ‘em!

    That being said, there is no way that I would get her a “toy” like this. If she is going to play with an item, why not make it the real thing in this case?

    February 4th, 2009 at 3:48 pm

  16. Jen says:

    I’m not quite sure what to think of this… I’m not a fan of handheld games… especially when a kid is constantly “plugged in”, as Dr Phil would say.

    But, we do own toy laptops… i got them right before my older daughter turned 3 and was getting interested in using the computer, and I didn’t want her to play on the real one.

    Would I buy this for my kids? Definitely not!

    February 10th, 2009 at 7:53 pm

  17. Lori says:

    I’m so with Gregory on this post. My family had a Commodore 64, I played the original NES as a child and I surf the ‘Net as much as the next person. Yet you most often find me curled up with a book. If you’re allowing your kid to sit for hours on an electronic device, it’s not the device’s fault, it’s the parent’s.

    As a cautionary note for e-access when the kidlets get older, I taught English in a low-income district. The kids with little computer access had a MUCH more difficult time dealing with new programs like Word and PowerPoint. Then there were kids who were teaching me shortcuts on the programs, they’re so familiar with computers. Even if they had never used the program, they could navigate the menus because they had familiarity with them.

    My two cents! :)

    February 21st, 2009 at 9:14 pm

  18. leeleea says:

    At Christmas my fifteen month old got a the Baby Leaps system. It’s seriously like a little Playstation for baby. I am so completely uncomfortable with it, I think I’m going to sell it on Ebay. We also got TWO of those ridiculous Ride & Spin Ponies. They’re going on Ebay also. I don’t think she needs video games so soon. She’ll play with her books all day long.

    February 28th, 2009 at 10:29 pm