Hacking Barbie

Theatrical poster for “Cult of Chucky” (Copyright Universal Pictures) (NFCC#8)

Our society has become obsessed with technology.  Barbie dolls now come equipped with mechanical brains, and miniature versions of “smartwatches” are being marketed as necessary for a full and enriching childhood.

The technology tsunami is meant to keep our children on the “cutting edge” of progress, connect them electronically to the abundance of resources available online, and prepare them for a boundless future.

There is, unfortunately, a fundamental flaw in this theory.  Children need connection with live human beings.  Not only is technology retarding their social development, and alienating them from one another.  It is making them increasingly vulnerable to predators [1].

As an illustration, Gator 2 smartwatches provide parents with the GPS location of their offspring.  Meant as a safety measure, this feature becomes a liability when the watches are hacked. Patterns of activity can be identified, e.g. dismissal time from school or ballet class, and private messages between parents and child easily accessed and subverted.

The “Internet of Things” Teddy Bear, an internet-connected teddy bear by Spiral Toys, left more than two million such private recordings, and 800,000 customer credentials exposed online [2].  The teddy bears, themselves, could, also, be hacked [3].

One cybersecurity firm hacked Barbie to demonstrate that access to the doll’s microphone could allow a stranger to record whatever was said in the doll’s presence, not to mention providing access to a home’s wi-fi network.  Shades of “Chucky” come to mind [4].

The FBI cautions parents to think carefully before bringing toys with microphones, cameras, sensors, data storage capacity, and capabilities like GPS or speech recognition into the home.

First and foremost, children need the time and attention of adults who love them.

“Children are a gift from the Lord…” (Ps. 127: 3 NLT).

[1]  Quartz Media, Not Kidding, “Tech meant to keep kids safe is actually making the more vulnerable” by David Gershgorn, 10/18/17, https://qz.com/1105628/gator-2-smartwatch-tech-meant-to-keep-kids-safe-is-actually-making-them-more-vulnerable/.

[2]  Motherboard, “Internet of Things Teddy Bear Leaked 2 Million Parent and Kids Message Recordings” by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, 2/27/17, https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/pgwean/internet-of-things-teddy-bear-leaked-2-million-parent-and-kids-message-recordings.

[3]  Motherboard, “How This Internet of Things Stuffed Animal Can Be Remotely Turned into a Spy Device” by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, 2/28/17, https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/qkm48b/how-this-internet-of-things-teddy-bear-can-be-remotely-turned-into-a-spy-device.

[4]  “Chucky” is a maniacal doll that comes to life in the Child’s Play series of horror films.  The “Chucky” character was created by Tom Holland.



Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

17 responses to “Hacking Barbie

  1. To me this only proves how much the Millennial generation is wrapped up in themselves. Each individual is so concerned with their own desires that they isolate their own children. Pretty soon everyone will live as though they’re in their own bubble.

    • I didn’t intend to target a particular generation for blame. Our whole society tends to confuse technology with intimacy. In point of fact, the first has gone a long way toward eliminating the second.

  2. Great post Anna. This cult like obsession with technology is yet one more obstacle between man and God. Hand held devices connect us to the far side of the planet where like minded virtual explorers combine forces to wage war against imaginary kingdoms and worlds that do not exist.

    Technology is a tremendous gift, however it ceases to be a gift when it consumes us to the exclusion of relationships with others, especially God. For many, I’m afraid it’s too late to sound the alarm that we must be careful not to allow technology to enslave us.

    And to think there was a time in our nation’s not too distant past when pastors warned their congregations of the dangers of a then new technology: the TV!

  3. This was out of box thing…hadn’t really thought about these kid friendly technologies this way

  4. Excellent points so well said…. I not only appreciate what you have to share, but I really enjoy the way you express yourself and pass on information. Your writing style is wonderful. To your point, it would seem that, given our instant gratification society, we make decisions/jump on the bandwagon without taking time for critical thinking, research, and a look at the longer view. And, I agree with you…technology is alienating when it becomes the predominant framework for communication, socializing, entertainment, and future professional aspirations. It steers children into a technological stream/focus that overwhelms organic ways of growing and moving through the real world…virtual worlds are a poor substitute for face-to-face engagements. Wonderful post as ever….thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. Very nice post, Anna! Human connection, in my opinion, is critical to our continued evolution.
    All the best to you 🙂

  6. Important post! It’s also sad to see how much time young children spend on screens.

    minor typo: “identified, e.g.[,]”

    • Thank you, Chris — both for commenting and catching the typo. I’m usually a stickler for such things. Guess I’ll have to live with this one, as I cannot seem to locate it. I hope you had a Happy Turkey Day! Left-overs are part of the reason Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday (LOL).

      • It’s in paragraph four. When you use “e.g.” there has to be a comma before and after the “e.g.” In Canada, Thanksgiving is in early October.

      • Yes, I know that Thanksgiving falls earlier in the year in Canada. I’m sorry, but I had forgotten you are Canadian. Is turkey part of the tradition there, as well? 🙂

        By the way, style guides differ among themselves on use of the second comma. Unfortunately, in striving to convey nuance, I tend to overuse my commas. But an overly fussy writing style can distract from the message. So I pare back before going to print. Thanks again!

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