Remember Tickle Me Elmo?
It may have been a bit past your time, as it was mine; it came out in 1996 when I was seven years old and, guaranteed, self-identifying as “way too cool” to play with any toy that required hugging it to incite a reaction. I do, however, remember its popularity, as I’m sure anyone does. Parents literally scrapping in stores. Stuffed, red gigglers going for over a grand on Ebay. Exciting stuff.
I hadn’t thought about Tickle Me Elmo in ages until recently when I saw a commercial for the newest version of the good ol’ furry friend.
And it is called, I kid you not, “LOL Elmo.”
This bothered me for two reasons. One: Accompanying the commercial for the social media-savvy Elmo is an insanely catchy tune—L-O-L, you make me laugh out loud!—that my brain can’t seem to shake regardless of my attempts to erase it from my memory by listening to other music (currently: “Hey Jude”).
And Two: Why in the world are we naming children’s toys based on social media acronyms?
The toy is targeted toward children 18 months to four years old. My question, then, is why would any child in that age range be aware of the increasingly annoying and, even more increasingly, inaccurate and overused acronym?
Shouldn’t they be learning, oh I don’t know, complete phrases? Or, if that’s too much to ask, whole words at least?
Now, I won’t ignore the obvious here. I understand the idea that Hasbro is actually targeting the parents of these children (rather than the children themselves) as the adults are the ones with the purchasing power. So, you may say, LOL is an acronym that resonates with Facebook-friendly parents. I, however, may say that the child is still the one interacting with the toy.
Parents can purchase LOL luggage and BTW briefcases and LMAO laptops all they want. But why introduce a child, at such a young age, to a phrase that is absolutely meaningless in their world of sippy cups and soggy Cheerios? A phrase tailored specifically for the digital domain? A phrase that has no place in actual, physical, face-to-face conversation?
That’s the thing: I’m not sure that I’m necessarily against this toy or angry with Hasbro for producing it. It just doesn’t make much sense to me. At all.
A child has its entire life to learn about LMFAO! and BRB (although, to be fair, I’m pretty sure BRB died right alongside AOL’s instant messaging). But seriously, they have eight awkward years of teenage life to conjure up just the right privacy settings to make themselves look innocent to their parents but really, really cool to their peers.
They’ve got years and years worth of an undeveloped frontal lobe and the social media mistakes that consequently ensue including, but not limited to: posting underage drinking photos and/or posting illegal drug use photos and/or posting photos in outfits that would make their grandmother cry and their creepy uncle ask: When does she turn 18?
The point is: I just don’t see the point. I simply do not get introducing social media sayings to children who are still learning how to speak.
Kids pick up on everything around them: As a two-year-old, my little sister watched the movie “The Rock” with us while my brothers and I babysat her. For months after, she dropped the F-Bomb in her every response. Syd, what do you want for dinner? Fucking macaroni and cheese.
So, yes, they’ll pick up on LOL and begin to understand its meaning, or, if they’re smart, its lack thereof. (Thankfully, Hasbro held back and didn’t go with a LMFAO Elmo.) And the thought that children may begin to learn digital acronyms before actual words is FF (*fucking frightening).