Tattoo Barbie: Whatever happened to the simple joys of Tiny Tears?
After over 50 years on toy shop shelves, she's now turned rock chick sporting a pink bob, heels and tattoos. Forget boyfriend Ken, this time round she's been given a green cactus covered companion called 'Bastardino' (!). Barbie as a vet or nurse seems touchingly innocent in comparison.
Barbie maker Mattel claim this is a collector's doll but when the age on the box for most Barbie dolls is '3+', is it a step too far producing dolls like this which are pretty much guaranteed to appeal to young girls?
Like most children of a certain generation I had a much treasured 'Tiny Tears' doll. She drank her milk on demand, and rewarded you with a 'wee' just a few seconds later. But a generation on and we've now had 'pregnant' Barbie, complete with a small removable 'baby' in her tummy, and more recently a 'breast feeding' doll complete with 'sucking noises' which caused much controversy when it was launched in the States.
Every parent I've spoken to with 'Barbie' age children is horrified at the thought of Barbie sporting tattoos. One Mum Viki, who has two children including one daughter says: 'While I don't mind tattoos at all, (and actually quite envy some of my friends who have very pretty ones), I wouldn't buy a doll like this for my daughter Carys, who's six, for the simple reason that she's so heavily influenced by Barbie dolls and the message they give out about what's considered pretty and trendy'. Viki says her daughter is already, 'asking to dye her dark brown hair blonde, as she feels brown hair is 'ugly'.
Another Mum Helen with a four-year-old daughter says: 'Children are small for such a short time, so why can't they just make girly dolls for them rather than those ones sporting funky make up or tattoos? You don't let your three-year-old have a tattoo or wear thick make up so why give them a doll dressed that way?'
And online chat forums on the subject are heaving with comments with one claiming, 'encouraging children that tattoos are cool is wrong, why not put a cigarette and beer bottle in her hand while you're at it!'
So rather than being harmless play things, can some toys harm our kids' emotional wellbeing or encourage them to grow up too fast? Edinburgh based psychologist Ben Williams, a member of the British Psychological Society, says it's parents who have the problem here. 'There's no harm in kids emulating adults and dressing up and that's exactly the kind of thing that happens with Barbie. If we were talking about tattoos on 'baby dolls' or those aimed at toddlers then that's different but Barbie is clearly 'late teenager' in style'.'
When it comes to toys like pregnant Barbie and breast feeding dolls Ben Williams believes: 'Some toys are a way of teaching your children about reproduction; kids aren't shocked by these or worried about showing off body parts but it's their parents who are inhibited and feel awkward about it'.
Maybe this is further proof of the huge success of toys like the cuddly 'Pee' and 'Poo' range, designed in both colour and shape to look like, (let's be blunt), a drop of wee and a pile of poo! First produced in Sweden they're marketed as both cuddly toys and a potty training inspiration.
Kind of reassuring then for some parents, to find none of this little lot are on this year's 'must have' toy prediction list just released by the Toy Retailers' Association. And if you're wondering what's on it, it's Lego, Fireman Sam and an interactive cuddly rabbit set for stardom and not a Barbie in sight.