Following an outcry from UAE parents regarding the inappropriate nature of markings on some LOL Surprise! Dolls, the distributor for LOL across the MENA region, Toys R Us, has taken the decision to remove the dolls from their shelves.
The LOL Surprise! Dolls, which have been sold since 2015 and are hugely popular across the world with children in their target age range of 4-14, have made headlines recently following a spate of viral videos made by concerned mothers.
In the videos, the shocked parents demonstrate what happens when some unclothed LOL dolls are placed in ice water. On being exposed to the cold water, the dolls’ colour-changing properties reveal new lingerie-like markings and words, which are inappropriate for children and could be used for child grooming, say the parents.
“When you put them into a bucket of ice, you’ll see that they are not made for children,” says Helly O’Brien, a Dubai-based mum of three daughters who shared her own ‘Lol Doll ice experiment’ video on the social media channels of her website, My Little Loves Blog. “Or they are made to manipulate children… They’re not trying to keep our children safe from what we want to keep our children safe from.”
Although the dolls have been on sale for some time, it’s only recently that the nature of their otherwise-hidden markings have come to light, partly because of the very specific conditions required for them to be revealed. “They only appear in ice-cold water, and as soon as the ice melts, they fade away again,” explains Helly in her video.
Jessica Smith is a Dubai-based Australian speaker, author, Paralympian and mother of three who has also been raising awareness of the LOL doll issue on her social media channels. “The issue here is that there’s a major corporation that has created dolls that have hidden, sexualised messaging, targeted at young children,” she told Gulf News. “If we don’t say this is not OK, then it becomes normal, and kids then grow up with this hyperawareness of sexualisation, which I think is already becoming an issue in our younger generations.”
Taking them off the shelves
Following the backlash from parents, UAE distributors Toys R Us told Gulf News that it has taken the decision to remove the dolls from its stores:
“As the number one toy retailer in the world, our focus is providing the biggest selection of fun and educational children and baby toys,” says Jonathan Watts, General Manager, Toys R Us. “The quality control of toys that are available through our stores and online is the responsibility of the distributor and our role is to ensure that the products we buy comply with relevant safety measures.
“The LOL range is a worldwide success which we also see reflected in our market.
“When we were alerted of the issues of this particular product, we were able to react very quickly to remove all products from our store and ecommerce offering to ensure we could protect our customers. “As ever, we remain committed to ensuring all products we sell reflect the Toys R Us brand values.”
Meanwhile the LOL doll toy makers MGA Entertainment said in a statement to Fast Company that it understands the criticism from parents and will be taking corrective measures:
“We work very hard to be a brand that listens and adapts to our fans’ requests. We acknowledge the recent feedback received and thank you for bringing it to our attention. We have implemented comprehensive corrective measures to our design and approval process while ensuring the essence of the brand is kept intact.”
"Parents' voices have been heard"
Jessica Smith says she is happy to see large companies are willing to listen to the voices of concerned parents. “It’s challenging enough to navigate this whole phase of parenting, and when there are products on the market that make it just that little bit more challenging, we need to know that we’ve got the support of bigger companies like Toys R Us to help protect the innocence of children.”
It goes to show what can happen when parents stand up for what they believe to be right, says Jessica: “This is a great example of how larger corporations can come together to help parents. This outcome shows that as parents our voices have been heard and our opinions have been validated.”
Helly O’Brien adds: “There are always going to be people who don’t agree with what you’re saying and what I find acceptable and what others find acceptable are two separate things. But I think it’s wonderful that people are taking it seriously.”