Fisher-Price "drool-proof" iPad seat and CTA iPad potty stand draw sharp criticism from some

It may sound like an April Fool's joke or a fake news story from The Onion, but with children using tablets at younger ages, toymaker CTA Digital has offered up a unique and controversial new accessory for Apple, Inc. (AAPL) fans -- a toddler toilet that allows the youngster to use their iPad while potty-training.

I. iPotty -- Abusive?

The product is real and is dubbed the "The Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat".  It's made in China, stands a foot high, weighs 2.6 lb, and features garish orange and green plastic accents.  It doubles as an "activity seat" (although that might be a ticket to stinky city).  It can fit all but the first generation iPad into its holding bracket.  It has a MSRP of $39.99 USD, but retails for as little as $31.99 USD on, Inc. (AMZN). And it's drawing both attention and controversy.

First shown off at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), this "iPotty" didn't receive much attention until the holiday season.  But in an example of why there's no such thing as bad publicity, it's now a hot topic, thanks to it scoring the advocacy group Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood's (CCFC) "TOADY (Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young children) Award for the Worst Toy of the Year."
CTA iPotty

The director of the parent advocacy group CCFC, Dr. Susan Linn, attacks the accessory, stating:

Throughout history, kids have mastered toilet training without touch screens.  The iPotty is a perfect example of marketers trying to create a need where none exists. In fact, the last thing children need is a screen for every single occasion.
CTA iPotty
She adds, "Once again, the TOADY voting reflects the growing resistance to the toy industry’s cynical and self-interested promotion of screen-based products for infants and toddlers."
II. Fisher-Price Offers up a "Drool-Proof" iPad Seat
CTA isn't alone, though, in peddling product for the world's most popular tablet.  Other companies are pushing iPad-toting tot product of their own.
Mattel, Inc. (MAT) is offering a Fisher-Price branded "Fisher-Price iPad Apptivity Seat, Newborn-to-Toddler".  That seat drops the toilet "app", serving as more a high-tech toddler chair.  It's much more expensive, at an MSRP of $79.99 (Amazon price: $75 USD) and weighs more (12.5 lb) than the CTA "iPotty", but it does offer some safety features like a 3-point restraint.  It also "locks your iPad device securely inside case to protect from dribbles and drool" and is adjustable as the child matures.
Fischer Price iPad Seat 2/2
Fisher-Price's website states that the company's philosophy is:

We believe in the potential of children and in the importance of a supportive environment in which they can grow, learn, and get the best possible start in life.

But the director of the parent advocacy group CCFC, Dr. Susan Linn, questions that commitment.  No fan of the iPad seat, she tells The Washington Post:

[The Apptivity Seat is the] ultimate electronic babysitter, whose very existence suggests that it’s fine to leave babies as young as newborns all alone and with an iPad inches from their face.  Fischer-Price should stay true to its mission to foster learning and development by creating products for infants that promote, rather than undermine, interaction with caregivers.

University of New Mexico School of Medicine professor Victor Strasburger, MD, admonishes both products, declaring, "Does anyone out there think that kids need more screen time?  There is no need to hurry to expose kids to new technology, certainly not babies — or newborns!"

Fischer Price iPad Seat

Fisher-Price has yet to comment on the controversy, but CTA's marketing associate Lois Eiler told The Washington Post:

Most families have technology in the home, and the reality is that kids are exposed already, and parents are trying to find the best ways to adapt into their lives the technology in a way that is safe and thoughtful.

Not all parents are convinced.  The CTA seat has an average rating of 3/5 stars on Amazon, owing to a number of low reviews.  The Fisher-Price iPad seat is faring even worse, at 2/5 stars.

CTA and Fischer Price iPad products

One angry parent writes in an Amazon review of the Fisher-Price seat:

If you want to damage your child’s development, buy this chair. Children of a very young age are genetically programmed to respond positively to interacting with PEOPLE. Even if they are just watching the world go by. This is a horrible gadget.

But the products appear to be selling; the Fisher-Price seat is ranked 15th in its category on Amazon, while the CTA "iPotty" is ranked 26th in children's training toilet products.  One potential defense of these products: neglect concerns aside, the iPad is seeing growing adoption in the public school system.  So these companies could spin it that their products are simply preparing the child for their future education.

Sources: CTA The Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat on Amazon, Fisher-Price Ipad Apptivity Seat, Newborn-to-Toddler on Amazon, CCFC, The Washington Post

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