Monday, May 7, 2007

Open source parenting

If you’re a parent, particularly of boys, you need to stop what you’re doing and read the Tribune’s special report on Magnetix. It’s breath-taking, and not in a good way.

I’ve stolen a few hours this evening brainstorming how the tech community might bring its resources to bear on this particular challenge. It’s already proving to be an interesting experiment: if the government is under-staffed and under-funded to help parents avoid harmful toys, then why can’t we help ourselves? I mean, come on: this is how the CPSC chooses to tell us about potential risks. Anyone think that’s a particularly useful/effective way of getting the word out?

I’m thinking equal parts Digg, Snopes and a wiki thrown in for good measure. Give thousands of parents the tools to easily identify harmful products, leverage the community’s ability to provide visibility to legitimate threats while minimizing less serious risks, and quickly disseminate information that could be instrumental in avoiding a serious accident.

This is a non-partisan thing, but if successful would have ramifications in the political realm. Most importantly, it might very well save a few kids. So… if you’re interested in participating in this experiment, drop me a line. Right now I’m particularly interested in folks who can assist in thinking through the architecture of such a thing… then we can start reaching out to those who can lend particular talents and/or resources to build it. Evangelizing the end product will be easy; we all know a few people who’d love to help spread the word if successful.


  1. Count me in. While I am definitely not an authority on the topic of safe toys for kids, considering my son puts dog treats and banjo picks in his mouth, I'm all for it!

  2. [...] with this kind of thing in response to the Magnetix toy recall incident. He calls it “Open source parenting” and observes that bottom-up community-driven politics is likely to be more successful than [...]

  3. [...] I am not buying any more Rose Art® crayons or MegaBloks. Neither are my friends and acquaintances. Next time, listen and act when one of your customers tells you that your toys kill. [via Rick Klau] [...]

  4. I'm sorry, but I'm tired of the "wrap your kids in bubble wrap" mentality to prevent bad parenting. Why was a toddler getting hold of these anyway? Why were preschoolers playing with broken toys?

    Yes, there are some serious safety issues with toys and childrens' equipment sometimes. But when it comes down to using something as it's NOT INTENDED, why is that the company's fault?

    I have four kids. If my 20-month-old eats one of the 7-year-old's Polly Pocket toys, is that Mattel's fault? Or mine? Or should we only let kids play with baby toys so that they can't possibly get hurt?

    We had JARTS as kids. JARTS. Now, a kid eats a magnet (and why on EARTH are preschoolers eating toys anyway) and we are all supposed to PANIC. RECALL IT! A KID ATE SOMETHING HE WASN'T supposed to. Going by that mentality, we should also recall all U.S. coins, marbles, and crayons.

  5. Wow. Did you read the Chicago Tribune article? About the parent who kept the magnets away from the youngest child, had rules about putting them away when the older kids were done playing with them? About the defective construction that led to the small, powerful magnets falling out? Or how they got lost in the thick pile carpet, so that the parents couldn't see the magnets, but the toddler, closer to the ground, found them and ate them? And that the magnets, when several were digested, bound together, cut off the circulation in their intestines and killed them?

    These parents did nothing wrong. The other "harms" you cite - coins, marbles, crayons - may cause indigestion, but won't cause the equivalent of an untreated bullet wound (which the magnets did). A child died as a result of inattention to several credible warnings from other parents and physicians - warnings which were delivered to both the manufacturer and the government (CSPC). All I'm looking to do is help parents spread the word - something the government, which is supposed to facilitate in precisely these cases, did not.

    And if you're certain you're doing everything right, more power to you. I'm not trying to change anyone else's behavior, just trying to find a way for motivated parents to chip in and maybe save a life.

  6. Any toy can break at any time. That's rule number one. My older kids know that if a toy breaks (i.e. magnets fall out) they let me know, because any small piece can be dangerous. If said magnet had fallen out in a thick pile carpet, that's when I'd drag out the vacuum, which has also had the honor of vacuuming up LEGOs, Polly Pocket pieces, Barbie shoes, straight pins from sewing, and any number of things. Any play with any potentially small/dangerous/chokeable pieces, no matter how reliable, ought to be followed with vacuuming for exactly that reason, especially if your little one is a human dustbuster.

    I'm not saying I do everything right. But I'm saying it isn't the government's job to force a recall because of a parent mistake. I've had my kids do stuff I wish hadn't happened, like fish a light bulb out of the trash and break it on the floor. Do I demand a recall for the light bulb? The trash can? Or what about my son who split his head open on my rounded-corner end table? What do I demand a recall for there? I'd much rather make sure that the thousands of kids in this country who go to bed hungry or don't have medical insurance at all get help than demand a recall because of a few inappropriate toy uses.

  7. [...] by Rick Klau in categories Family, Friends Several months ago, I wrote about the horror I experienced reading about Magnetix toys in the Chicago Tribune. These toys - dozens of [...]