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USA Today – “Mattel gives Barbie online dream house

Excerpt:

Toy company Mattel is revamping the online presence for its popular brands — including the iconic Barbie and, for boys, Hot Wheels — with expanded playable, customization and networking features on the new Mattel Digital Network.

[…]

And the upgrade will help Mattel keep pace with its competition online. Other brands such as Disney, LEGO and Hasbro have added features that aim to keep children connected with their sites — and products.

“There is a battle is for kids’ eyes on the computer,” says Warren Buckleitner, editor of Children’s Technology Review (childrenssoftware.com). These days, companies need “a smart strategy behind their toys that does things like keep track of a child’s age and recommend or suggest (products), whether obviously or subliminally.

Parents should know that such sites merge content and advertising, Buckleitner says. “I don’t think these things are necessarily bad, and a lot of learning can go on. But we have to be smart so we can tell the difference between manipulation and play.”

There’s an eager, youthful clientele on the Web. Three-fourths of children 2 to 14 use a computer, according to The NPD Group’s report Kids & Digital Content III, which found that computers are the most widely used consumer electronic device among children. Cellphones, MP3 players and game systems are next.

Oh boy.

Full article here.