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CTR Weekly 4/24/2019
Hot Wheels TechMods, Family Traits and The Water Thief; Brazil sues YouTube for abusing children
"YouTube has become a kind of QVC for toys" Ekaterine Karageorgiadis, from Brasil's Alana Institute.

We have a few more Toy Fair new releases, plus a potentially useful app for helping children understand genetics.

They call 'em YouTube and Instagram child "influencers" and they were all over the place at Toy Fair this year, despite the event being traditionally "adults only." Here's my encounter with Elena and Clara -- the Cupcake Surprise Toys sisters from Ireland during the Fisher-Price media breakfast.

Anyone in the media knows -- PR is a hungry monster that can eat your ethics. Anyone who writes reviews knows about the dance between editors and attention-starved producers. Ad sales, checks, early access, swag, limo rides and promotional contracts can blur the line between selling and informing. I've known many adults who have played this game because they know the boundaries. It's sad to see children pulled into this weird space, when they should be enjoying their minutes of childhood. Not far behind these kids are always adults eager to sell access to their children.

What's getting more attention are children on the receiving end of this content who have no idea that the children in front of the camera are getting paid to spin the messaging about products they are paid to preview, as they make the products look better than they are.

YouTube/Google/Facebook (Instagram) remains numb to the practice, as they profit from their own ad sales on this content. In the Vox article referenced above, YouTube says they "do not allow users under 13 to create or own accounts." Any kid knows -- you don't need an account to use YouTube. When Google (owners of YouTube) was founded, they had a saying along the lines of "don't be evil." I think it's time to apply this simple standard, and figure out a way to properly label the content they sell.

Family Traits
Studio Lassa,, ($1.99 on iPad, iPhone, Android, for ages 6-up.
Four classification games effectively introduce the concept of hereditary traits, despite a confusing design, no sound and crude graphics. Your job is to construct a family tree by dragging and dropping parents, grandparents or children into the correct spot. If you get ten problems correct, you are shown some balloons. Attributes include color, teeth and noses, making this a pretty simple introduction to the concept. The idea is to help children learn how various traits can be found in families. There are one or two player modes. We spotted no ethnic or gender bias. This app would work well in the classroom with an introduction.
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Hot Wheels TechMods
Mattel, Inc., , ($call), for ages 8-up.
These fast, light cars double as game controllers. After you download the app (for Android or iOS) you sync the cars to your mobile device. You can then drive the cars using tank controls (and they are rather zippy) or use cars as motion sensitive controllers. The cars must first be synced to your device using bluetooth. They are easy to snap together. Learn more at
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Water Thief, The: A Child’s Interactive Book of Fun & Learning
nVizn Ideas LLC,, ($12, for ages 6-up.
This is a 38 page printed book about water conservation, with QR codes to help you find the water thief. Content covers evaporation and other properties of water. In the story a young boy named Marcus is confronted with “missing water” from his Grandfather. Is it the cows? The goats? Or the sneaky chickens? Children can use a phone or tablet to scan the QR Codes for additional content. Written in English only by Brent Ford and Lucy McCullough Hazlehurst; illustrated by Seokwon Kim.

Hexbug finally figured out that their button-cell powered hexbugs are excellent pet toys. Here's a first look at their complete lineup of cat specific products released at this year's Toy Fair