Guest Post: The Bucky Balls Ban

Hi Readers! The Buckyballs ban is getting a lot of press. Here’s a piece in today’s NY Times, which references this oped by Michelle Malkin, And here is the official Consumer Product Safety Commission’s complaint. It notes that since 2009, there have been two dozen reports of magnet-induced injuries to children, including “at least one dozen involving Buckyballs. Surgery was required in many of incidents.” (It doesn’t say how many.)

In press coverage of the issue, generally someone whose child was hurt gets interviewed. Here’s a reader whose child was affected another way.  – L

Dear Free-Range Kids: Did you see the news about BuckyBalls being banned? BuckyBalls are little metal balls that look like bb pellets, only they’re magnets. It’s a desktop “toy” meant for adults… which it clearly states on the packaging, the website, their twitter feed… I heard a rumor that the company CEO has it tattooed across his forehead. http://www.wired.com/geekmom/2012/07/buckyballs-banned/

So why does the goverment want them banned? Well, in the past 4 years, and after MILLIONS of sales of these little magnetic balls of joy, 20 kids managed to swallow the magnets, which is a dangerous thing to do. The balls are magnetic and can wreak havoc on a digestive system, especially if they were unfortunate enough to swallow more than one.

This is a bad thing, but I’d like to point out, AGAIN, that it states on the packaging that it is definitely, totally, and 100% not meant for little kids. They even went so far as to give it an age cut off at 13 and up! THIRTEEN! These are magnets! The size of bb’s! I personally find it a little overboard. I mean, hopefully by the time the kid is 12, his parents have broken him of the habit of sticking strange metal objects into his mouth.

So why is the government suing the company that makes BuckyBalls? I mean it’s a U.S. based company that employs lots of people, you’d think that shutting them down would not be in our best interest. But no, the government’s complaint is that the 13+ age limit is not enough. They insist that the the packaging should read 14+. Because, you know, there’s a huge difference between 13 and 14, I guess. [Lenore interjects: I actually think they want them to not be sold to anyone of any age.] And also the government believes that 13 year olds are idiots and can’t be trusted around shiny things.

Disclaimer: I have several packages of these BuckyBalls. AND I have a 13 year old. We bought the BuckyBalls for my husband as a neat thing to fiddle with on his desk at work. But my son was fascinated with them from the get-go. Of course we reminded him that shiny things are not necessarily edible things (for which he stared at us like we had grown two extra heads. I mean, DUH, guys. Parents are so weird.) We also stressed the importance of being careful not to lose the balls as we do have pets, and although neither my dog nor my cats have ever tried to swallow anything that wasn’t made of fish and/ or whatever is in those brown kibble things doggies eat, I didn’t want to take the chance as none of my pets have learned English yet and I was unable to give them the shiny-things-are-not-food talk. Well, I mean, I did give them the talk, but I don’t know if it really sunk in. They just kind of looked at me. Then my cat started to lick herself and my dog got distracted by the squirrels in our front yard.

As I was saying. My 13-year-old son became fascinated with the BuckyBalls and was allowed to play with them in my husband’s office. We noticed that he was going in there to play with them almost daily, making all kinds of intricate shapes with them, picking up paperclips with them, modeling things… all that jazz. We ended up purchasing a larger set of magnets and he’s been constructing and experimenting with them as well. (These new magnets are the size of marbles, and although they’re still not a good thing to swallow, the package for these magnets says they are only made for children over the age of 3. I have no idea why there’s a difference, except that perhaps the BuckyBall magnets are stronger.)

And Caleb’s fascination with magnets hasn’t ended there. It sparked an interest in geology in general, which has recently morphed into an interest in archeology. This week he’s hanging out with his grandfather at the beach where Caleb is taking his new metal detector out for a spin! (A metal detector with an electro-magnetic coil in the head, he tells me. MAGNETS. They are AWESOME, Mom.)

So you might understand why I’d be so baffled about the government deciding that BuckyBalls, or any small magnet, I assume, was too dangerous for kids to experiment with. I thought you might be interested to know about this development as well. I remember that a few years ago you talked about the Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs that Canadian children get to partake in, but U.S. children can only read about online. I have a feeling that if the government has its way, BuckyBalls will go the way of the Kinder Egg. Sorry this was so long! Cheers, Julie

116 Responses

  1. The ‘ban’ is only for retailers and resellers. You can still buy them from the company itself with no problems, and receive them within a week or so. I got mine about a week and a half ago.

  2. I do think we need more education about how dangerous it is to swallow these magnet toys (button batteries too) and keep them away from little kids.

    BUT. I can’t believe there is a lawsuit over whether the cutoff age is 13 vs. 14. A 13yo can get pregnant and have a baby. At some point we have a right to expect a child to be able to think.

    The US government should not be allowed to sue over stuff like this. Recently I heard of a company going out of business becasue the government didn’t like the “educational” baby videos they were selling to full-grown adult parents. We can make our own decisions, even though sometimes that means making mistakes.

  3. We have some Buckyballs. They are a ton of fun, and my six-year-old plays with them. She DID put them in her mouth the first time she played with them (she had made a necklace and absent-mindedly put it in her mouth) and I said, “Hey, don’t put them in your mouth. If you swallow them by accident it could make you sick.” And she took them out of her mouth and hasn’t put them back despite hours and hours of playing with them. Turns out some kids can listen and apply logic when they are playing, even when they are six.

  4. Okay, I guess we’d better ban the little round split shot sinkers that fishermen use. I mean, think of the kids that must have been horribly lead poisoned since these were invented oh, about 100 years ago…

  5. We put our set of Buckyballs away in a closet shortly before our daughter was born, to prevent the inevitable trip to the emergency room, but someone suggested we get rid of them entirely so that she didn’t find them one day…I gave her a funny look and said that if she hadn’t figured out not to stick non-edible things in her mouth by the time she was tall enough to reach them, we’ve failed as parents. (Of course, this was the same person who asked if we were getting rid of our cat, because the cat would suck the life out of the baby, so most of her parenting advice goes unheeded anyway…)

  6. Terry, you’d have to ingest quite some lead before it gets really poisonous. Magnets – especially strong magnets – are another thing, though. Swallowing two of them will place them in the digestive system. Strong magnets in different parts of the tract can lock. The resulting blockage is life threatening at best and deadly at worst. Ruptured innards are not a nur thing.

    Banning them is stupid, yes, but they are one of the cases where the danger is not obvious, but rather subtle.

  7. i believe a lot of fishing sinkers are lead-free nowadays, following bans in many states and national parks, because of the lead contamination to the waterways in which they are lost. Also, i would think that if someone ate a sinker, it would probably pass through. The problem with magnets is that they can link up within the body, potentially from opposite sides of thin intestinal walls, ripping holes and generally making a mess. And surgery is needed to remove them and repair damage. Which is why there are warnings to tell dumb people not to ingest them.
    There will always be people that do dumb stuff that they’ve been warned against. I don’t see how it is the government’s or a toy manufacturer’s responsibility to fix this.

  8. Having had to recently screetch at 3 thirteen year old girls about exactly how someone can die from intestinal perforation after swallowing 2 magnets (in re: Buckyballs)– and these were girls who had all seen the packaging and one of them even knew someone who had to have surgery to remove a Buckyball from her throat when she tried to use them as a fake tongue piercing and swallowed– I’m not sympathetic to the idea that there’s no real problem at all.

    We have a set of buckyballs in the house– they are much smaller than marbles, and much more powerful than the many other magnet toys available, of which we also have a number. “Harmful or fatal if swallowed- risk of intestinal perforation if swallowed” was NOT listed as a risk on the packaging, leading both teen and father to laugh off the 13+ warning. Tween girls, in particular, are very attracted to using them to make ‘jewelry,’ and my experience of tween girls suggests that tween jewelry goes absentmindedly into the mouth All.The.Time.

    It may be what is really needed is a more concentrated safety campaign about powerful magnets aimed at the age 6-14 crowd. But as long as most kids think that swallowing a buckyball is no more dangerous than swallowing something else of that size, there is a situation that seems to need addressing somehow. If there’s a Free Range issue here, it’s more that the wide range of ‘risks’ we warn about in our society dims our understanding of things that might actually be a risk to avoid.

  9. Dang, sounds like they banned one before I even heard of it–what’s a Kinder Egg?

  10. My sister is a pediatric nurse and she’s seen several of her patients with problems from these. One little boy didn’t tell his parents what he’d eaten and got an MRI after having severe stomach pains. He nearly died when the MRI tore them out of his little body. And she’s had at least one teenager who was using them to fake a tongue piercing and swallowed both ends by mistake.
    I don’t really see how this is a Free Range issue. I love your blog, but I guess that I think that some things actually are a bad idea to sell, even if common sense would tell you otherwise.

  11. To all the parents out there that think this ban is okay, because they are worried about them being swallowed.

    Give your heads a shake. When my daughters were born, 8 years apart, we baby proofed the house. Which meant twice. The oldest that could have things down low before, now had to help keep things out of reach, of her baby sister.

    It is common sense. If your child, no matter what the age, cannot be trusted to not swallow them, put them out of reach.

    I am sorry if this sounds cold, but I am tired of society in general paying the price, for parents that cannot identify and take measures to prevent these kinds of incidents.

    I am sorry the teenage girl suffered because of this. On the other hand, kids will be kids, and that means doing stupid things. Kids touch stove elements despite being warned, kids stick their heads in railings despite being warned, kids run out into the street after toys despite being warned and so on.
    By stupid I don’t mean to imply the child is dumb, the act itself is.

    So if after every stupid act, we banned the offending article we would be SOL. No stoves, fridges, freezers, toasters, kettles, stairs, cars, toys, and so on.

    Here is a novel idea, instead of holding a company responsible for the actions of a child, teen or adult………..how bout we hold the individual responsible for their own actions. I know, it has never been done before, but could we atleast try it.

  12. IMO babyproofing a house is a bad idea. When they go to the houses of OTHER people that may not have babyproofed they will encounter dangerous things. If you don’t babyproof, you can watch them and when they encounter dangerous things that will be in the average household you can tell them how to use them safely or to avoid them. But if you babyproof YOUR house, you have to hover over them whenever you go to another house.

    I can see a toddler thinking these are shiny m&ms if they aren’t educated about them. And even if they are put out of reach one my fall or be forgotten. How many times has everyone with Lego in the house stepped on a forgotten one? And how many times has a toddler climbed higher than thought possible to grab some forbidden item? So if older siblings/relatives/friends have these things, I think the best thing to do is show them to the toddler and teach them to not put them in their mouths. Kids and teens should LONG know not to put them in their mouths, not even to pretend they have a tongue ring.

    The packaging thing is rather stupid, but I don’t really care what packaging says. It’s not the law and I regularly ignore age limits on packaging. It’s usually helpful for people that don’t have kids but need to buy a gift for kids, and don’t really know what to get – just go to the toy isle and get something with the recommended age matching the child (this results in a LOT of returned gifts given to my kids, but I think for most people it works).

    What I do is I look at the actual product and decide if it is appropriate for my children. I find the banning to be offensive to all parents, as if they are saying we are too stupid/lazy look at a product and decide if it is appropriate for our household. Put “recommended for 14+” and WHY on there, but don’t ban them.

  13. Playing some as we speak…well type anyhow. My 5 and 6 year old boys love them and I caught my youngest tying to stick two of them together on his lower lip. A quick reminder of all the bad things that could happen if he swallowed them and if he really wanted to experience that and out they came. That was the only time that has happened. Give your kids an honest and complete explanation of what can happen if they misuse them. That one thing has worked for all types of things that they can use. Bows, power drills, pellet guns, slingshots and my hatchet.

  14. A friend mentioned this to me last week in dismay. He didn’t understand why the warnings slathered all over the product weren’t good enough. We basically came to the conclusion that this product’s withdrawal is the end result of warning labels being too ubiquitous, and on everything, even when the risk is nearly non-existent. Or as he phrased it.

    “How do you say: Harmful or fatal if swallowed. No, seriously, we actually mean it with this one.”

  15. Amanda,
    I agree on educating you child, but untill they are able to understand and not acting out of instinct and curiousity certain precautions need to be taken.
    For example, my work boots come into contact with oil, grease and other chemicals, in the tire business. Now that they are older, I do not need to make sure they are out on the landing. When they were first starting to crawl, I made sure they stayed outside.

    When I say baby proofing, I wasn’t talking about gates, and padding and the like. I just meant removing potentially harmful, yet everyday items out of the range of curious minds and hands.

  16. Yeah…warnings are idiot markers. My favorite is the one on the Papa John’s pizza box warning that the contents may be hot. Well, hell yeah, the contents had BETTER be hot or I’m returning the pizza!

  17. Maybe part of the problem is that with the number of asinine warnings on EVERYTHING no one is paying attention to ones that matter anymore.

  18. At what point do we baby proof the whole world? I don’t think there has ever been a fatality due to these. Some serious complications, but the number of cases is minimal. It’s one of those “it could happen” things, where everyone knows someone who’s cousin did something or other…..

    You can’t make the world so safe that no one will ever get hurt. The new “safe” playgrounds have a higher rate of injury than the old, unsafe playgrounds – because they’re so boring that kids take unnecessary risks to challenge themselves.

    I saw an interesting chart at the Doctor’s office yesterday. The death rate from heart diseases is 1 in 5. It went down from there; the death rate from these sorts of things would not even make a blip on the radar. Yet we’re banning the sale of these.

    Kids are far more likely to get shot, killed in car crashes, die of lightning strikes, drownings, etc than swallowing these magnets. Why are we wasting our time with this sort of stuff?

  19. I had to look this up. Here’s why it’s ridiculous. The CPSC has flat out said that they’re not waiting until they get a fatality to ban this product. So let’s ban:

    dogs
    skateboards
    bicycles
    tennis
    all household cleaning products

    and I could go on. All of these are statistically far, far, far more dangerous than buckyballs.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eliyahu-federman/banning-buckyball-magnets_b_1711110.html

  20. I don’t think banning them are necessary. However any parent that buys them for their kid is not making a great parenting decision. Originally they were marketed for ADHD kids and that is even worse. I would never buy this. I can hating of a million better things to fiddle with.

  21. I think we’re all in agreement that these Buckyballs can be dangerous. I think we’re all in agreement that children (and some adults) are silly enough to swallow them and do themselves damage. But the inherent danger of an item is not a reason to ban it. Are knives inherently safe? Or guns? Or over-the-counter medicines? Heck no! A kid who will put Buckyballs in his or her mouth when you’re not looking will also try to chug your shampoo; that doesn’t mean we ban hygiene. A teen that will pretend a Buckyball is a tongue piercing will be pulling wheelies on their bike without a helmet in the middle of the street (both are, ostensibly, ‘cool’). That doesn’t mean we ban bikes.

    People of all ages will do stupid things and get hurt. People of all ages will ignore warnings and get hurt. Even people who are fully aware of all potential dangers of an item will fall into the trick of saying “that could never happen to me”. That’s not a ‘can’ or a ‘may; it’s a ‘will’. And it’s not going to change anytime soon. Removing every possible item that could potentially hurt somebody isn’t going to help matters.

  22. Think! Not sure why autocorrect put hating.

  23. In the spring I went to pick up my 11 year old son from school. I met him in the library where one of his friends had shared his Buckyballs with the group. Many of the kids had them on their lips pretending to have piercings. One even had it on his tongue. Another pretended he was swallowing one. The box with the warning was no where to be found. I agree that we can’t protect our children from everything, but the buckyballs are very harmless looking. A child doesn’t immediately think that if they swallow it they will have internal damage. I was amazed when I searched online what happened when you swallowed them.

  24. It occurs to me that maybe if we weren’t constantly inundating kids with dire warnings about relatively harmless things, maybe they’d listen when we warned them about a genuine danger. I have a 13yo son who constantly puts things in his mouth, and he drives me crazy with it. I wouldn’t want him playing with Buckyballs without having the danger explained, no. But I know that if I explained it to him, he could be trusted because a) he’s intelligent and responsible enough to avoid legitimate danger; and b) he trusts me to tell him the truth and not exaggerate or succumb to hysteria.

  25. @Amanda Matthews If the TV fall onto my kid after it try to climb furniture it is on, the kid will not be wiser. It will be badly hurt or dead. I like to go to toilet without kid and have the said in the living room in the meantime. Or without the kid killing itself in the meantime. Baby proofing is simply very practical.

  26. I had seen those balls before and played with them, but I had no idea that swallowing them is more dangerous than swallowing any other metal item.

    I do not recall whether I read warning on them or not, but it would not make a difference. Do not swallow is written on everything small, so I would not think much about it.

    This will sound ugly, but 20 kids in 4 years sounds like something quite rate. Better warning, something like “dangerous to swallow, this time for real” would be a nice improvement, banning the product is too much.

    Just a quick question: do you really read and follow all safety warnings on products? They rarely contain something non trivial and often contain ridiculous things, so I use common sense anyway and ignore what seems to be too much (age restrictions).

  27. I prefer to house proof my baby than the other way around, but of course there are limits.

    It’s not a new concept to keep small things out of the reach of the young and foolish. However, I wonder if, with all the safety products and laws doing our thinking for us, we’ve forgotten to actually think before we act.

    (I do have someone living in my house who regularly left her glass glass of water on the low tables where my babies played. It’s probably only by the grace of God that the kids never went after and broke one of those glasses. I warned both the kids and the adult. Only the kids listened.)

  28. I love magnets…all kinds! I am a kid who once fell on a chainsaw while playing ping-pong on roller skates yet still made it to **gasp** 40. You cannot necessarily protect your child from every stupid decision that they will make either consciously or accidentally. It was foreseeable that I would fall on the roller skates while playing ping pong…not foreseeable that I would skate through my father’s workshop after my sister hit the ball through it and I would fall on of all things the chainsaw. Still have the tiny scar on my wrist…4 stitches. You can warn them and take necessary precautions based on their decision making capability and maturity but you cannot prevent every accident. I completely agree that any person, child or pet should be WARNED about the danger of swallowing magnets or any assortment of metal things that can be sucked out of your body by an MRI, create blockages, infections or otherwise endanger. Bucky Balls definitely should be kept out of reach of toddlers or those that cannot understand the implications. I DO NOT agree with banning such products. It’s a ridiculous waste of time and taxpayer dollars for the government to bother with banning, discussing or otherwise engage in protecting the public from decisions they should make for themselves. This is a parenting and personal decision issue, not one for any government.
    @Yan Seiner…you forgot trees and cars.😉

  29. Honestly, I’m pretty smart and I would not have thought of grave danger in swallowing magnets (especially one single magnet) without someone mentioning it to me. Not that I go around swallowing things, or leaving things around for wee tots to swallow.

    I do think there is justification for something more than the usual swallow/choke hazard, because little kids old enough to play with small toys still won’t read the labels or necessarily understand why a magnet is more dangerous to swallow than a pea. I would like to see the warning look different so it would draw attention. The standard non-tot-friendly warning is not read because everyone already knows what it says. Of course, the warning does no good once the product is out of the box, so people do have to use their brains. But as far as that goes, I agree with the people saying you can’t ban everything that stupid people might use/store improperly.

    Furthermore, even if we ban this item, we still have dangers out there from magnets. Doesn’t it make more sense to make sure everyone knows the dangers of ingesting magnets?

  30. Jenne-the package has 4 warnings on it. How many more are sufficient for an adolescent child and an adult to heed?

  31. (Disclaimer: I have not actually looked at the package, so I don’t know if the warnings are sufficient or not. Just saying they need to be more than the usual not-tot-friendly ones.

  32. I call for the banning of all the corporate lawyers that come up with these warnings, that treat the human race like we all have a collective IQ of 4. Their mind numbing crap is hazzardous to my mental health and well being.

    Continuous exposure to their rantings and ravings can possibly, in some extreme case, cause depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, stroke, seizures, bi-polar disorders, emotional outburst and in the rarest most remote situations could cause a person to climb a clock tower and begin shooting innocent bystanders. If you show signs of any of these conditions consult your local firearms dealer immediately.

    All these warnings about do not swallow, come from lawyers that expect us to swallow their crap. Go figure.

  33. I think that the root of a lot of these bans is based in the fact that some parents are simply not paying enough attention to their young kids. Now, I am NOT advocating for helicopter parenting, but you can pay attention to your kids and get to know them well enough without helicoptering. Take the common-sense precautions: keep things like this out of their reach, and know what the limits of their reach are! Do you know how high they can climb? Do you know if they like to put things in their mouths? Parents should know these things about their kids.

    Bumbo seats for babies are now required to be retro-fitted with latching seat belts. Apparently there have been too many incidents of injuries, including skull fractures, when babies have been sitting in them, according to the CPSC. This is despite the fact that there were already warnings all over the product about not putting it on an elevated surface. The point of a Bumbo is to help a baby too young to sit up on his/her own sit up. It is not a restraint of any kind. If people put a baby who is too old/able-bodied in one, they might wriggle out. Um, do you know what your baby is capable of physically? Don’t put them in one if they can get out! Yes, I know that babies develop new skills all the time, but that just means they require some attention. You can’t dump your baby in a Bumbo and take off for eight hours.

    As with many things, if people would just use common sense rather than just not giving a crap until something happens, we could all avoid a lot of unnecessary bans and things of that nature. Many free-range parents, though they aren’t hovering, do pay enough attention to be able to take precautions (and responsibility) on their own.

  34. I don’t understand ‘bubble wrap’ children movement.

    They are very careful not to give the child a complex. That’s why every youth in a competition gets an award even if they come in last. We don’t want them to feel bad.

    On the other hand, they tell the children daily that:
    Kids are fragile and not smart enough to take care of themselves. Even a 13 year old child isn’t smart enough to know that magnets aren’t candy.

    Why do we insist on insulting the youth? Why are we so amazed that kids today have much less confidence in life skills?

  35. The caption under the picture states “Buckyballs are aimed at adults, but regulators say such magnets are hazardous to curious children, who swallow them.”

    By that logic, anything that is (a) hazardous and (b) swallowable size should be banned. Not just locked safely away in a child-proof cupboard. So, no more cleaning products, no more sewing needles, no more thumbtacks… Where do we stop?!

  36. I don’t think it’s the lawyers so much as the insurers. I can only imagine how much it would cost to do major abdominal surgery and I would hate to be the one paying out for that. I’m sure the insurers like it even less.

    As far as protecting our children from everything that could potentially cause them harm, whether physical or emotional, well I can think of a few more things we ought to ban besides chocolate candy and (super)magnetic balls.

  37. Ingested magnets can cause physical harm. Since 2009 there have been two dozen cases of this.
    Bottom line- this causes physical damage.

    We are also insulting millions and millions of children worldwide by telling them that they don’t have the brain power to look after themselves.
    Bottom line- this causes physiological damage.

    What’s more harmful? 24 with physical damage or millions and millions of children that have been told that they’re stupid?

    Do the math. There certainly is a lack of brain power but it isn’t with the children

  38. @Sarah– if I understand the Bumbo seat recall, the safety restraint is not as much because the babies tumble out while on an elevated surface, but rather because some babies will lever or throw themselves out (by arching their backs, for example) and fling themselves out of the seat even when on the floor… and I guess this helps.

    Over on another site (a snarky humorous one) there was a post of a mother who took a picture of her baby in a Bumbo on a table top and basically bragged that she was ignoring the warning labels slapped all over the Bumbo. I think this exemplifies part of the problem– parents decided to override the cautions or warnings, and then NOT being able to accept that their choice was the cause of any resulting tragedy.

    I gave my son Hot Wheels cars at 18 months old. I knew that he was already unlikely to put them in his mouth and gnaw off any wheels, so I ignored the 3+ recommendation. If I had been wrong, it woudn’t have been Mattel’s fault for making the car– or for not making the warning bigger– nor would it have been the local Meijer store’s fault for selling the product to me. Yet, there are parents who operate exactly opposite of this– it’s someone else’s fault for not stopping them from being stupid.

    Now, it would be nice if it could be made clearer that these magnets are more harmful than the average swallowed item, but it’s hard to get safety information out there, in spite all the avenues. And plenty of people do disregard things because they think they know better– like the people who honestly claim that they didn’t know that eating McDs everyday would make them fat. (And I really do believe that some of them shut out any information to the contrary and had themselves convinced that their meals were small enough or healthier or something, thus making them immune from the warnings.)

  39. This reminds me of how some lawmakers and groups want to ban violent video games for everyone because children sometimes play them.

    You’ll take away my Call of Duty when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

    For the Bucky Balls…at some point don’t we just have to accept that some children will do dumb things (note…I am NOT calling the child dumb, just the action.) And sometimes those dumb actions will have serious, even fatal consequences. If you have a child that regularly ignores instructions or warnings, it should be on you as the parent to withhold toys like Buckyballs. If you see your child playing with them in an inappropriate way…well, they can have them back when they prove they are responsible enough. But banning them for everyone? Sheer, insulting madness.

  40. Didn’t see if anyone post this…this is the warning on the package

    “KEEP AWAY FROM CHILDREN
    Do not put in nose or mouth
    Swallowed magnets can stick to intestines causing serious injury or death
    Seek immediate medical attention if magnets are swallowed or inhaled”

  41. SKL – “Recently I heard of a company going out of business becasue the government didn’t like the “educational” baby videos they were selling to full-grown adult parents. We can make our own decisions, even though sometimes that means making mistakes.”

    This decision is due to the very hard work of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood: http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/ Here in the US we have something called truth in advertising, and if you are selling a product predicated on making your baby smarter, getting a bigger chest or junk, or whatever, and this claim turns out to be false, you will be taken off the market. When the AMA comes out against screen time for babies under two (with evidential studies), you sort of want to consider that they know what they’re talking about.

    In some ways FRK is a throw back type of movement; the same way I feel about eating (mostly) real food minimally tainted with chemicals (like in the olden days!), and not watching tons of TV and playing videogames all day long (instead of playing outside).

    But I’m afraid that I agree with MrsMas that “some things actually are a bad idea to sell”. Other examples could be Bratz dolls (and others) that sexualize children, thongs for preteens that do the same, etc. Natural, down to earth parenting (and I’m no shunning-wordly-evils type) gets harder all the time. FRK generally helps.

  42. Maybe it’s just me but I would have thought it self evident that swallowing magnets would be far more dangerous than any other small object.

    Kids of course don’t think of consequences so it’s the parents’ role to teach their kids. I mean, who’s to say your 10 year old won’t come across them when at a friend’s house or something? You can’t childproof the world.

  43. I plan to babyproof the hell out of my home when this baby arrives, and I don’t see that as anti-FRK. In part it will be for me: I want to be able to pee for a few minutes without worrying my kid is trapped under something heavy. You can tell the smartest kid in the world something a hundred times, but toddlers and pre-schoolers don’t have strong reasoning skills.

    The other part is for my kid. I would like him or her to be able to explore the things in our home that are safe to explore without me constantly hovering and saying “don’t touch that!”

  44. And don’t forget that the Earth itself is a magnet. And that it is changing its tune every day. Talk about something to TALK about. Pffft. GrannyDeb

  45. this was the same person who asked if we were getting rid of our cat, because the cat would suck the life out of the baby

    Huwha!? Never heard this one before…

    Hooray for the Internet!

  46. Peter: Cats like to curl up next to warm things, so some cats will curl up near napping babies or in cribs. They may even sniff around the face if the baby smells intriguingly milky. Somehow this behavior spawned an urban legend that cats will suck out the baby’s breath. This belief has been around since the 1700s, believe it or not.

    I like to show people who parrot this belief Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye. There’s a segment in the movie where a little girl adopts a cat. The cat gets blamed for trying to ‘suck out her breath’ when the real villain is a breath sucking troll. The cat bravely rescues the girl and kills the troll via fan blades. If they insist it’s just a movie and doesn’t prove anything, my response is that it makes JUST as much sense as a cat literally sucking out a baby’s breath.

    Still, better safe than sorry. The solution is obvious…ban all cats. And trolls. We can mix them in a big pile with the bucky balls and watch the carnage.

  47. The danger in swallowing these is real. If you swallow two, and they happen to get stuck together with an intensine between them bad things can happen. Then again, if you swallow thumbtacks, jax, antifreeze, and so on bad things will happen too and none of these are banned. It just doesn’t make sense.

  48. I don’t think they should be banned & I wish the gov’t would do something constructive & stop wasting out tax dollars. I don’t think the issue is with older children swallowing them, but with younger children & they can be very dangerous. Small children are know to swallow all sorts of things & we don’t consider banning them. I hear of kids swallowing pennies all the time.

  49. Betsy, if the government has a role in something like baby education videos, it should be to provide countering information (e.g., government studies contradict this company’s claims). Not to take away parents’ right to choose. There is no way I trust the government’s research to be responsible and unbiased, and also, so-called “science” changes its mind as often as I change my underwear. Some parents say their baby learned to read using “teach your baby to read,” so who am I to say otherwise? How exactly do you prove that no 6mo baby can remember a symbol he saw yeserday? If someone wants to spend $200 on a program that is probably ineffective but not patently harmful, how is that the government’s issue? How is it a legal issue at all?

    If we got rid of every product/service that was advertised with unproveable claims, that wouldn’t leave us with many consumer products.

    Consumers have the responsibility to filter the claims that they hear. I mean, how do we allow political commercials if we need to protect American adults from BS? How do we allow politicians’ speeches to be televised? What about religious programs? And how can we trust parents to do the important things like know how to feed their kids, if they are too stupid to figure out which educational products are bogus?

    Why is my tax money paying for this nonsense? Do we have such a huge government surplus that we can afford to censor baby videos? Wouldn’t that money be better spent helping to remediate those kids who aren’t learning to read early enough?

  50. Whatever happened to teaching kids not to put things in their mouth’s. This is something they should know by the age of 3. I am astounded that they are arguing about changing the age to 14 on these.

  51. I worked in sales. There’s all kinds of regulations about what claims are legal and sometimes the dividing line can be very thin. My job was to listen to sales calls and make sure our people didn’t cross that line.

    I looked at the your baby can read marketing and it’s pretty clear where they went wrong. With these types of products you simply can’t say they WILL do anything. You can say they will HELP. They also made claims about a study that didn’t prove what they stated it did…or, as you say, there was no way to prove if it did or it didn’t.

    I would have fired an agent who made those kinds of claims and I’m amazed their legal team passed that marketing. Oddly, they probably would have been fine if they had mentioned the study without stating what the study showed. You can say a product had a ‘double blind study performed, the most rigorous of scientific testing…” even if the study proved the product didn’t work.

    A more typical ad for that kind of product is something like “The Your Baby Can Read system will help set your child on the path to reading…” It’s vague enough to sound good while really promising nothing at all.

    I actually wish we had more regulation in advertising just because I know exactly how shady some companies can be (I have no experience with that company and so can’t judge them.) Especially when it comes to autoship programs or ‘free to try’ programs. There are so many ways to get around the current regulations with the right kind of wording

  52. “There are so many ways to get around the current regulations with the right kind of wording” – right, so that means the regulations do nothing but give naive consumers a false sense of “I can believe whatever I hear.”

    I read that the “teach your baby to read” company was a small business, so maybe they didn’t have a legal team reviewing every word of their promotional materials. Should they really have to? Does this actually protect consumers?

  53. @SKL They can sell baby videos, they can not claim that those videos make babies smarter. You can not sell sugary pills claiming that they will make you thin and you can not claim that sell car claiming it has mp3 player if it does not. It is the same thing.

    The advertisement should not lie and I’m fine with checks and agencies that stop outright lies. I can not make independent study for every claim on the packaging so I prefer general requirement of them being true.

  54. @mrandmrsvi – a Kinder Egg is a small, hollow chocolate egg with a small toy inside that kids can put together themselves. They are banned in the US because kids could choke on the small parts. Here in Canada, Kinder Eggs make an awesome two-part treat and as far as I know, no one has choked on the toys yet – ’cause we don’t give them to babies! They were recently in the news here in BC because a couple of Americans tried to take some home with them and they were detained by US Customs as a result. I couldn’t believe it myself – I don’t understand why the US government doesn’t ban grapes, small coins, and marbles – kids could choke on those too!

  55. Well, if they want to survive yeah, they really do need a legal team. Or they at least need to read over the FTC regulations governing this stuff themselves. To really toe the line takes a legal team, but to stay well to the side of it just takes some quick research.

    I actually do understand the point that people should be smart enough not to believe silly claims. I can agree with that for a thirty year old woman who purchases the newest fat-burning supplement. But what about the eighty year old who purchases a supplement for memory loss on autoship? There are plenty of products that are targeted toward very vulnerable demographics.

    And do we really want to tell companies it’s okay to make any claim they want? The regulations aren’t perfect and there are ways to fudge it, but that’s why I’d rather see them tightened up as opposed to being done away with all together. Right now a company can state “free to try”, “risk free trial”, or “call now for your free bottle”…all of those offers are different and NONE of them mean you’re getting free product. But of course people call in all day long to get their freebie and get talked into buying something. And it’s legal to market that way before none of those phrases are actually saying you’re getting something without paying. It is the person’s fault if they pull out their credit card…but shady, no? And if a company is shady enough to market this way or make claims they can’t back up, they’re usually being shady in other ways as well (like not honoring refunds or switching company names to avoid the BBB rankings)

    To be back on topic, it looks to me like Bucky Balls is very clear in their marketing on every angle that they aren’t for kids. So I think it is very unfortunate that a company that really has taken care to be both ethical and legal could still end up being punished.

  56. I have to agree with the ban on this one. Maybe a warning label that says, “Pretending to wear this as a tongue piercing can result in pooping in a plastic bag for the rest of your life!” would wake the teenagers up? Or just making the warning very, very clear that these are, indeed, dangerous and potentially fatal if swallowed. I can see how it can happen even without negligent parenting-they spill and a few stray Bucky balls get left behind. A niece, nephew or neighbor’s toddler visits and swallows them and no one knows. I just shudder at the thought. We are talking about ripped open intestines. Are fun magnets really worth that?

  57. so i shouldn’t be allowed to own products of my choosing that might be dangerous to children that aren’t even my own? did you know pennies w/ zinc can cause zinc toxicity if swallowed and it can kill? are pennies really worth it? just walk around and look at how the things in your house that could be dangerous to kids and think how many are really something you need. should you throw them all away so visiting kids will be safe? i mean you can if you want but any kid coming into my house will just have to risk the pennies

  58. its interesting that my little kids (9 and 5) understand not to put them anywhere near their mouths and have played with a family members buckyballs under adult supervision several times yet my grown brother still did the ‘fake piercing thing’ in front of the kids… I’d almost hazard that they are safer for young children and not for teens (and silly adults😉 who like to experiement and push boundries…so I understand the warnings… sometimes people do silly things even if they know better… but a ban when millions have sold and only a few injuries … might be over the top

  59. When it comes down to it, this is just another case of the rest of society being made responsible for the few that have no common sense.

  60. I had never heard of Bucky Balls, but now I want some!

    And I only recently heard about Kinder Surprise being banned in the US. Which is definitely ridiculous.

  61. My 6 year old daughter loves playing with these and makes the most intricate designs. I’ve told her not to put them in her mouth, and she hasn’t. She does make bracelets with them, and my 3 year old also loves playing with them. Although I do try to supervise the youngest while she plays with them because she has a tendency to swing them around and inevitably lose some. They are tricky little buggers to find once one or two go missing.

    Why do all the cool toys get banned? Bring back the proper chemistry sets. None of these dumbed down experiments that you find these days…. snore. How boring.

    One day all these protected children are going to find themselves in the real world and be totally unprepared to handle any situation that involves logic and sensible decision making.

    I let my 6 year old light the BBQ with matches and I am teaching her how to use a sharp knife properly. These are some of the basic skills that kids are more than capable of learning from an early age.

  62. Speaking of cool things banned. Years ago there was a TV commercial that was banned.
    Forget what car it was for, but it went like this.

    A couple walking hand in hand down the street, as they pass a new car parked at the curb, a tall leggy woman walks by.

    The man turns to look at the car, his girlfriend assumes he was looking at the woman, and gives him a slap.

    I thought it was hilarious. It got banned for promoting domestic violence.

    Funny thing, as a male, I do not feel any safer than when the commercial was on the air.

  63. One of my main pet peeves is the banning of things not meant for kids because kids happen to be around & curiosity gets the better of them even when they’ve been warned to leave well enough alone and they’re old enough to understand.. Gasoline cans from before (I believe) 2009 or so come to mind. They started making them have all these safety concoctions after kids got into one and hurt themselves. Now, we have to put up with aggravations getting in the way and, frankly, the new design may well be less safe anyway.

    Regardless, I HATE the gasoline cans we have now, and in fact I do find some of the original kinds at yard sales–and when I do, I scoop ’em up. I have a stash of probably a dozen “classic” style gasoline cans in my shed, with nary a safety do-dad getting in my way. Relatives of mine know this & even ask to borrow them (or get them one if I see one at a garage sale) because they hate the new design as well. My kids are curious, but they’ve been told to leave them the heck alone, and I expect them to, I accept no excuses. (More on that in a bit.) Besides, they’ve got plenty left they’re still allowed to explore.

    Where did we get the idea that kids are so important–and I have 2 of my own, ages 3½ and 5–that everything on the planet has to revolve around their particulars even if it goofs with the desires, pursuits, comforts and so forth regarding adults? Was there some form I signed when I turned 18 acknowledging that my needs and so forth are now less important since I’m not a child anymore?

    How was it that, 30 odd years ago, my mother had a 22 rifle and a 12 gauge shotgun in her bedroom closet, NOT locked, LOADED, merely stashed behind her clothes, with a stern warning “don’t touch that, period” and with the further warning that if I so much as poked my nose into her bedroom nosing around in HER stuff, that my butt would be tanned red–and that was fine? What’s more, if I did get into that or something else I wasn’t supposed to and got hurt, the adults would get all over me “serves you right, your momma told you to stay out of that but you didn’t listen. It’s all your fault.” Not a WORD was uttered against my mother about how “you know kids are curious, what did you expect to happen” with her getting the blame for anything that went wrong.

    Call me an old man having flashbacks to the “good ol’ days” if you want, but if you ask me, the old way of thinking was the right way of thinking.

    LRH

  64. What’s intriguing to me is that I used to have a toy very similar to this as a 12-13 year old. I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I got it, I just remember it being awesome, and this story kind of makes me wish I still had it. It had a red plastic base with a magnet inside, and these tiny thin magnetic hearts you left on the base and could sort of sculpt with. They were tiny enough to be a choking hazard, actually. I don’t recall how it was marketed — as an “executive toy” or for kids, but the heart shape points to it having some kid appeal. This was probably the late 80s or early 90s that I got this thing. They weren’t these ultra-powerful magnets, certainly, but the same exact principle as these Buckyballs. Another example of how much things have changed, I guess.

  65. Pretty soon they’ll ban parents. After all, parents put kids in cars, buy stuff that “endangers” kids, and sometimes kill them intentionally! Forget Buckyballs, parents need to go.

  66. Could small magnets be manufactured to taste horrible? Metal itself may be flavorless, but how about a coating?

  67. If they were going to ban something based on medical issues and deaths, you think it would be alcohol. Oh, wait, they already tried that.

  68. Huh. Never thought about the hazard of “fake mouth piercing” with the Bucky Balls, but it’s a very predictable thing to try, and then to have go wrong.

    I guess what would make sense to me is a clear warning (maybe with graphic photo, like they do on cigarette packaging here in Canada) about the hazard of swallowing and delineating that “fake mouth piercings” in particular are a particularly hazardous use of the balls.

    I was in a toy store in Canada and Bucky Balls of various sizes and finishes were available… I came *this close* to buying some, then backed off because of the price. Now I might hurry on out to get some, they sound like a LOT of fun! And I LOVE magnets!

    Also, the image of a child who swallowed Bucky Balls and then had an MRI is something I wish I could get out of my mind.

  69. “But I’m afraid that I agree with MrsMas that “some things actually are a bad idea to sell”. Other examples could be Bratz dolls (and others) that sexualize children, thongs for preteens that do the same, etc. Natural, down to earth parenting (and I’m no shunning-wordly-evils type) gets harder all the time. ”

    Why should corporations stop selling things – and others be forced to stop enjoying things – because you can’t simply tell your child “no” if you don’t want him/her to have something? Nobody is forcing you to go out and buy these products.

    If you want to go back to natural, down-to-earth parenting, it involves telling your children “no” and not expecting the world to cater to your parenting ideals. I remember there being several things that my friends had as a child that I wanted but couldn’t have. Sometimes it was for financial reasons. Sometimes my mother just didn’t want me to have the thing for some reason or another. It just was not that devastating.

    I will not buy my child bucky balls because my child has an oral fixation and puts everything she touches in her mouth so she can’t be trusted with them. That does not mean that I think bucky balls should not exist or that kids who can be trusted to not put things in their mouth can’t have them. I will also never buy my child thongs (she can wait to wear thongs until she is old enough to buy them herself with her own money). I may even roll my eyes at their existence, but c’est la vie. I have no problem saying “no” and explaining the reason why I am saying “no.” Seems to me to be a better learning experience than simply having things banned.

  70. Every year less than a handful of children choke to death on french fries. Children can drown in an inch of water. No one seems to be ready to ban foods, but I’m sure disclaimers will pop up all the more often. Nor does it seem likely to have child pools banned. With or without adult supervision accidents happen. It’s tragic but no ones fault. A parent can turn their back for a minute, or seconds, and nothing can reverse what happens.

  71. The funny thing is they ban (or drive out of business) stuff that isn’t actually hurting anyone, yet things that everyone knows are harmful are supported in myriad ways. Rather than ban tobacco, the government has bought a stake in the industry by taxing its consumers. The government subsidizes all kinds of stuff that is worse than a “baby can read” video. And I’m supposed to believe they care more about me and my kids than I do?

    If the government really wants to get into what learning materials work and don’t work, maybe they should focus on the lousy ineffective curricula they use in the schools.

    Meanwhile, I see no reason for them to butt into my free-market transactions.

  72. I think the fact that there were so many fights against the “Your Baby Can Read” videos is disgraceful. I received those videos when I was pregnant with my first baby and used them once a day while I took a shower. She loved them, so I put it on to entertain her for 20 minutes. Guess what? She was reading at 18 months pretty much any picture book she would pick up. We did no flash cards or anything. Just those videos once a day. For my next 3 kids I did the same, since I was so impressed with the results. They were all reading well before 2. Was it necessary for them to learn as babies? No. But it was easy and low key and fun for them. What was the harm? They are all now voracious readers who love learning. I don’t get the claim of false advertising. This product obviously works for many children. So what if it didn’t work for your baby? Are we going to start suing other reading programs such as Hooked on Phonics because it doesn’t work for EVERY kid?

  73. The false advertising is because they did claim it would work for every kid. The marketing looks like it was just flat stating things like the program would teach 3 months old to read. There’s no way they can back that claim up. They also quoted studies that didn’t show what they claimed they did. They also claimed it would prevent dyslexia.

    Whether you think companies should be able to or not, you just can’t legally make claims like that. It’s like the health supplements I used to monitor. Let’s say the product is called Mega Sugar Out and it is supposed to help lower blood sugar.

    You can make the claim that Mega Sugar Out will HELP stabilize blood sugar levels, which are often elevated in people with diabetes. You can’t say Mega Sugar Out will help diabetes itself…you can make claims about symptoms but not diseases. You certainly can’t say that Mega Sugar Out will cure or prevent diabetes- that’s asking to get sued.

    So they might have gotten away with saying something like the program will help increase reading comprehension in children with dyslexia. Put preventing it? That’s a huge legal issue and I’m not at all surprised they got shut down for it. That’s the kind of claim I warn my agents could have them reporting to work to find the front door locked.

    It really has nothing to do with if the product worked or not. I’m sure some children did benefit. But in marketing you have to be very careful what you say. Mega Sugar Out could actually be the diabetic cure we’ve all been waiting for, but the company better not make that claim if they want to keep selling it.

  74. “It really has nothing to do with if the product worked or not. I’m sure some children did benefit.”

    And this does not seem wrong to you? A company that makes a product that does help some people should be shut down because they weren’t savvy enough about how they described it? Why not just advise the company to change their advertising? Why not just let the folks who bought the product demand a refund or even sue if they think they’ve been harmed? If it’s really that bad, enough people will sue and spread the negative word, and the company will be out of business without the government’s meddling. When the government interferes, it puts one party at an unfair disadvantage. We don’t need that! We’re not talking about some poisonous “food” product or a machine that blows up in people’s faces.

    Government policies like this do not make me feel safer!

  75. Sorry, you can brag all you want on an anonymous internet board, but I will never believe that 4 children in one family were all reading “well before” the age of 2.

  76. Buffy, these things do run in families. There are some kids who are wired that way. It is hard to believe until you meet them.

    It’s funny in a way that a big reason many parents try to teach their kids to read early is because we don’t trust the schools (government) to handle this task properly. Yet we let the government decide details of how we teach our tots.

  77. The FTC is the agency that sets the regulations on claims like this. Those regulations are in place because companies often do make claims their products can’t support.

    Part of the reason for the existence of the FTC is that certain categories of products are not subjected to vigorous testing. Health supplements, for example, aren’t required to show any proof that they work at all to be on the market…they just have to be not harmful.

    So you kind of have two choices. You can regulate these products so that they have to PROVE they work, just like drugs are subjected to trials to prove they work. That means smaller companies can’t afford the testing. It also means a few big companies are the only ones who can afford it and corner the market.

    Or you can regulate what claims the companies can make so they at least aren’t outright lying to customers about their products. The fact is, most of these products either don’t work, only work randomly, or no one has any idea how well they work at all.

    To be clear as well, the government didn’t shut the company down. Customers filed a class action lawsuit alleging false claims. The cost of the legal battle and probably the resulting FTC fines for false claims caused the company to go bankrupt. The FTC rarely fully shuts a company down…usually they get a big fine and have to correct their marketing, including often clarifying their false claims in a separate commercial. I think people are getting mixed up with a government agency against childhood obesity considering the bankruptcy a victory…they did file a complaint for the same false claims as the customers, but they didn’t directly shut the company down.

    Again, this would have been easy to avoid if they had simply read the FTC regulations. It would be like a restaurant opening where the owner had never looked into food safety regulations or what permits would be required.

  78. Really, if you believe that (a) an infant should read; (b) there is any benefit to an infant reading; and (c) a video can get you there, I’m not overly sympathetic when you feel taken advantage of when it doesn’t work.

    There have always been charlatans selling snake oil to people willing to buy it. It is your obligation as a consumer to use your own brain to figure out if what you are being promised is too good to be true.

    There should be some limits on advertising. You shouldn’t be able to advertise something as perfectly safe when it is actually dangerous. But gross exaggeration of the benefits of a product is what advertising is about.

  79. No, I fail to see how a baby video is in any way comparable to food safety.

    Surely they don’t subject all kid vids/entertainment to the same standards? If Dora says in her screechy voice “we’re gonna have fun” and your kid doesn’t have fun, will the government use tax-funded budgets to attack Nikelodeon (or whoever advertises Dora)? If a book review on Amazon says “your kids will love ___” and my kids say “meh,” what’s the FTC going to do about that? Why, just the other day I saw a review that said “this book really teaches fractions.” My kids read the book and they still can’t do math with fractions. Should the tax coffers fund my grievance? I don’t think so.

  80. The FTC is not responsible for reviews. As a customer I can write any review I wish, from glowing to “this product sucked and did nothing.” The FTC is responsible for marketing, particularly telemarketing. And there is a difference between a false claim and an exaggerated one. Saying a product will prevent dyslexia is a pretty bad false claim…it would be like if our memory supplement said it would prevent Alzheimer’s. Which I actually did fire an agent for saying.

    I actually agree with you Donna that customers really need to be smart enough not to fall for things like this, or to buy it with a very healthy dose of skepticism.. But something like “Our system is amazing, works great, and kids love it!” is an exaggerated legally allowed claim. “Our system prevents dyslexia and has been scientifically proven to teach children to read at 3 months!” is just a plain lie.

    And I’m not saying it is the same as food safety regulations…no child will die or get sick from watching those DVDs. The comparison is to an owner not knowing the regulations that controls his businesses. I can understand that some people don’t feel marketing should have regulations, that the regulations we do have aren’t enough, or that the regulations simply need to be different. But those ARE the regulations we have right now and just like you don’t have sympathy for the customer, I don’t have sympathy for the business owner who made false claims of that magnitude and is then surprised when a lawsuit gets filed

  81. I think they should be subject to lawsuits from private citizens who have bought their products and feel cheated. What I don’t agree with is the government getting involved with its big guns.

    There is also the side matter that the government can’t actually prove that a baby does NOT remember the word he saw on the screen yesterday. The government gets to decide what “proof” is when it comes to something you can’t actually prove one way or the other. Not fair and not helpful. Any idiot would know that a claim that a nonverbal infant can read is subjective at best. Anyone too stupid to know that should not be trusted with a credit card or checkbook in the first place.

  82. But they were subjected to a lawsuit from private citizens. That’s what a class action lawsuit is. Lawsuits about marketing are handled by the FTC, but they receive their complaints from customers. A government agency did file a complaint as well, but it was the same complaint the class action lawsuit was based on. So what you think should happen is exactly what did happen.

  83. No, I think the government agency should not have spent one penny of my tax dollars on this matter, or any other similar matter. I think there is more than enough false advertising in the government itself to keep the FTC busy 24/7, if it’s that important.

  84. Different agency. 🙂 Political ads are mostly covered by the FCC because they are considered noncommercial (not directly selling a product)

    It sounds like you’d rather the FTC didn’t exist at all, which is fair enough. But right now the only way for customers to sue a company for false claims is through the FTC (which frankly is so overwhelmed by complaints that it takes something pretty bad to get anything done…you may have a point that the added weight of the government agency filing their own complaint got this company shut down faster, though it would have happened eventually anyway)

  85. How exactly do you know that the system does not prevent dyslexia? I’m sure that a very small number of babies who watched the videos did develop dyslexia, but nothing is 100% and the vast majority did not. Can you definitively say that, of the non-dyslexia video watchers, none would have developed dyslexia without watching the videos? I think it is a good guess but short of inventing a time machine, going back in time and raising each baby without videos, you can’t be certain that dyslexia would not occurred.

    Same with reading. How do you know if a 3 month old cannot read? I think it is insane to believe that a 3 month old is reading but who knows. We don’t really know what is going on in their little minds.

    I really don’t doubt that the claims about dyslexia and 3 month old babies reading are complete lies. But I don’t think the government should intervene unless the product, as advertised, is drastically different from what you receive – you buy a product advertised as a boat and get a car. But here the product you receive – videos – is exactly what was advertised and as advertised. I bet they are even videos that babies enjoy. It is the consumer expectations that are enhanced by the advertisements but the consumer expectations are completely unrealistic. If consumers fall for snake oil salesmen; they fall for snake oil salesmen.

  86. Well, I don’t know our memory loss supplement didn’t cure or prevent Alzheimer’s. But I came down like a ton of bricks on agents who made any kind of claim like that not just because it was illegal…it was extremely unethical to prey on a vulnerable population.

    Different situation, obviously. But marketing at its heart is about preying on people’s fears. That goes from anything from make-up to baby DVDs. Fear makes people vulnerable.

    I’ll tell you the truth, I had very little sympathy for middle aged people who bought a 250 dollar case of product they’d never tried before or signed up for an autoship program. I had a great deal more sympathy for the older callers, callers with clear mental handicaps, and callers who were afraid. Afraid because they had tried other things and nothing was working, but maybe…just maybe…this product would finally fix their pain/restore their memory/help their depression/make them feel good about themselves again.

    So I end up torn. It goes back to the central discussion about the Bucky Balls really. How far do we go to protect people from making bad decisions? There are magnetic bracelets sold that claim to help people have more energy and better balance. Would it be acceptable to sell those bracelets with the claim that they cure cancer?

    But discussing just what claims companies should or should not be allowed to make it is another, much longer discussion. My original intention was just to explain how the system works and why that particular company ended up bankrupt. Again, you can argue that the regulations shouldn’t exist and there are good points on both sides. But the fact is that they do and the company went far across the legal line Just like you can argue customers have to deal with the consequences of risky buying behavior, that company had to deal with the consequences of risky marketing behavior.

  87. Sorry, I don’t find parents who want their 3 month old to read a “vulnerable population.” And no harm comes to a baby from watching the videos – that baby achieves exactly what every other 3 month old baby achieves which doesn’t include reading. The parents are not refraining for sending their babies to a viable schools in favor of meaningless videos since 3 month old babies don’t go to school. In fact, this is exactly the situation of bracelets claiming to give energy or balance. It is highly unlikely to do what it claims but there is no harm caused by trying. If a reading 3 month old is what you want, you might as well try this product since nothing else is likely to work as 3 month old babies don’t read.

    If the product was found to harm babies – i.e bracelets claiming to cure cancer so that you stop medical care – that is a different story. I am sure that there are products out there that are marketed in such a way as to cause injury to people. Maybe we should focus our limited government resources on THOSE products and stop worrying about things that give idiot claims and ultimately harm nothing other than the pocketbooks of people dumb enough to fall for them.

  88. Lying about product you are selling is a fraud, basically. So, if you lie to sell the thing and your businesses has problems because of that, you have only yourself to blame.

    Maybe it is because “everything governmental is bad” kind of thinking is not that standard where I live, but I see no problem with state agency checking on these kind of things. I prefer system based on regulations over the one based on lawsuits. Following the regulation is easier than guessing how the lawsuit would turn out and whether I can pay it.

  89. Haven’t read all the comments, but the dyslexia claim did stand out. Can’t see that watching a tiny amount of TV will harm a baby, but the ‘curing dyslexia’ claim is definitely so much snake oil. Some kids are dyslexic – TV will not cure this.

    And LRH – your mum kept a loaded shotgun in a wardrobe? Sorry, absolutely nuts….What was she expecting? A bear in her bedroom in the middle of the night? Some kind of deer flying past the window? We do live in different parts of the world, but I truly cannot understand this seeming obsession among some Americans with their right to blow other human beings away . Was your neighbourhood really that bad?

    Most Kiwis – and there aren’t that many – who have guns do so only for hunting animals. My dad kept a gun for that purpose, and the ammo was locked away well away from the house. And forget about kids getting hold of the gun – what about such basics as fire? Ammo is kept locked away in garages or sheds apart from the main house so that if your house burns down, your ammo won’t blow those trying to fight the fire all to hell. My dad was part of our local volunteer fire brigade, and they once had to watch a house burn down because the fellow who owned it had all his ammo in the kitchen…..

    Never, never, never keep a gun loaded. This is nothing to do with free ranging, and everything to do with common sense.

  90. (Just to clear up a couple of gun safety misconceptions… Way off topic but I can’t help myself)

    Hineata: An unloaded gun is simply an expensive and ineffective club. You’re right, I suppose, in that keeping a loaded gun out in the open in a house with curious and untrained children isn’t a good idea, but there are other options rather than making yourself completely defenseless. (And yes, I, like many Americans, live in an urban area where home invasions are not completely unheard of). A wide variety of easy-access “safes” exist on the market to fill JUST that role.

    Personally, my wife and I don’t have kids, so I have no problem keeping several guns loaded and in easily accessible places around the house. When children are in the house any gun that is not on my person is kept securely, but this is largely unnecessary because my friend’s children all get firearms training. Training is how you keep people safe with firearms. There are 12 year olds that I would trust with any of my guns, and quite a few adults that I wouldn’t trust with a cheese grater.

    About ammunition in fires: What you’re describing is largely a myth. Cartridges need a barrel to propel a bullet down… otherwise they simply rupture, the powder burns, and the bullet goes nowhere. Chances are there are a hundred items around your house that would cause more damage in a house fire than the most massive collection of ammunition. Spraypaint, hairspray, gasoline, solvents, oils, etc, etc…

    Speaking only for myself, I’m a gun owner because I enjoy hunting and target shooting, but also because I want to take an active role in my own defense. The police aren’t going to come and protect me if (small, but not insignificant chance) I need protection from bad people. It’s not even their job, being primarily a reactive response to crime. They’re not going to patrol around my house just because there have been some robberies nearby.

    Quite frankly I’m baffled by other cultures loathing and fear of firearms. Do you prefer to be always at the mercy of anyone bigger or more numerous than you?

    -Randy

  91. Whoa – you can’t sue a company for false advertising leading to harm, unless you go thru the FTC? If that is true, that law needs to be overturned. People should deal with each other as directly as possible. If that doesn’t work, that’s what the civil courts are for.

    As for the government’s false advertising, I wasn’t just talking about political ads, though obviously that’s a glaring example. What about

    public schools that claim to provide excellence in education? Or social programs that claim to improve health and wellness but the research shows they just exacerbate problems? What about “Head Start” which has proven to provide zero educational advantage whatsoever? What about rehabs that don’t rehab, care centers that don’t care, help lines that don’t help? What about child “protective” services that are directly or indirectly responsible for all sorts of harms to kids including death?

  92. Much of what you mention is subject to debate so not false advertising.

  93. Donna, the same can be said of the products discussed upthread. Apparently the government is not subject to its own rules. Which might be why some of us do not think “more is better” when it comes to government regulation.

  94. I know this thread has completely gone in another direction, but back to Bucky Balls. I just watched their “Save our Balls” video, describing their policies… one of which is that they “don’t sell to retailers who carry only products for children.”

    Huh. Really? Well, maybe here in Canada it’s different, because the only places I’ve seen Bucky Balls are here in Victoria at a couple of different boutique-style toy stores that most definitely only sell products for children, and in a mega-toystore in Quebec City in an area of the store that also had components for building robots (small motors, model kids, etc).

    Like I say, I would have bought these things if it weren’t for the steep price, but I wouldn’t have thought twice about handing them over to my young kids, especially my girls, ages 6 and 8. I know that they would have immediately used them for jewelery, on their ears, wrists, and easily could have tried a pretend tongue piercing, not realizing it was potentially lethal.

    I have to say I would have blithely ignored the warnings on the packaging because I would have assumed that it was one of those “not for kids under age 3” type warnings about anything smaller than a grapefruit. I’ve learned to absolutely tune those out, so the whole “yes, but it’s a powerful magnet, and they can wreak havoc on the internal organs” part of it was not something I had imagined, or would have strongly advised my kids about.

    I’m actually grateful for this discussion, so I can be aware of the bigger picture around these cool toys. But ban them? Um, no.

  95. Hi Randy – interesting. In the particular case I was referring to, bullets were definitely whizzing around. And as for defending oneself, heard of baseball bats? More effective than a gun at close range, and less likely to result in accidental death. I doubt that, seeing our colonising populations came from similar areas, that Americans are any less genetically capable of hefting a baseball bat than your average Kiwi man or woman. And if that fails, there’s always knives. Totally unlikely to go off randomly in someone’s face.

    My dad’s personal weapon of choice was a hockey stick, and he taught us all to use one effectively. A dual purpose weapon, in that one could actually use them to play a fun game as well. Win-win all round.

  96. SKL, there is a huge difference between saying that Head Start provides an academic advantage and claiming that something prevents dyslexia with absolutely no studies whatsoever to say that it does. It has been proven by every study done that Head Start provides substantial gains in IQ and skills in early education and that those gains dwindle as children age. You can choose to believe that this means that Head Start is worthless. Or you can choose to believe that Head Start is a great program but throwing something at a bunch of underprivileged children at 4 and then letting them live in their dysfunctional, academic wasteland homes for the next 13 years with no additional help whatsoever is simply a recipe for failure and more intervention needs to be provided at older ages to maintain the gains achieved by Head Start. Your political ideology is going to determine which stance you take but the issue is clearly not black and white. It is pretty black and white that Baby Can Read is just speaking out of their asses when they claim that their product prevents dyslexia.

    I agree that the baby reading program should have been left alone. If you buy it believing that your infant will actually read, you have more money than sense and I have no problem separating money from senseless people. But combating studies and ideological beliefs is different than shooting off your mouth with no basis whatsoever.

  97. […] Post: The Bucky Balls Ban” [Free-Range Kids, […]

  98. @MrsMas

    “got an MRI after having severe stomach pains. He nearly died when the MRI tore them out of his little body”

    You mean that the hospital didn’t do an Xray…like what is always done before every MRI…just to stop this happening. Wow.

  99. What’s really messed up is that the govt wants to ban BuckyBalls but green-lights artificial colors and flavors and high fructose corn syrup, which are designed for kids to ingest. That stuff really will kill you yet the very same govt (USDA) pushes it -and puts it in school lunches!

    And how about household cleansers, which are incredibly toxic? Cosmetic additives that are not even regulated? (self-regulated – ha!) Pesticides and herbicides that are routinely sprayed on our food and lawns? These things really can kill you – it even says so on the labels – but decades of fighting to ban them have been unsuccessful.

    Magnets on the other hand have to go. Sheesh!

  100. Well, thank goodness our government wants to protect our children from these lethal magnets, yet has no qualms about letting any doofus with a driver’s license and a few hundred bucks walk the streets with a concealed handgun. Yet, a little ball lodge in the intestines is certainly far worse than have a bullet blow your entire spleen out.

    Just consider this: If we can’t trust parents to keep BuckyBalls out of the hands of their children, what hope do we have that they’ll be responsible gun owners and keep their firearms appropriately secured? We have far more to fear from our law-abiding, handgun-owning neighbors than we do criminals.

  101. Derailing the thread for just a sec, @peter, I’m not a medical professional, but I had an MRI this year on my leg (torn hamstring), and wasn’t x-rayed first – at a renowned medical center. Is an x-ray really required before all MRIs?

  102. I am given a full body x-ray any time I have an MRI mainly because I work around machine shops and may have slivers of metal in my body that I don’t know about. I would thing that it would be standard procedure to x-ray a small child before a MRI because you have no idea what that child might have gotten into. Wait my bad.

    Isn’t there an entire movement to ban x-rays on children because the radiation is supposed to be bad for you?

    I bought my set of Buckeyballs because I have the start of arthritis in my hands and I read that magnets MIGHT help relieve some of the pain. I don’t know if it is the magnets or the exercise my hands get when I play with my Buckeyballs ,but, messing around with them does make my hands feel better.

    The CPSC is another Government agency that has run amok with it’s regulatory authority and needs to be reigned in and have it’s authority reduced. Just go on the Overlawyered websire and read what they have done to the craft toy industry.

    By the way, since Lead occurs naturally in Nature, how does banning lead sinkers and shot help anything? I keep hearing how ducks and fish swallow them, but, I’ve been fishing for over 40 years and have yet to find any in the thousands of fish that I have cleaned. This BS is just something created by the animal rights people to try to ban hunting and fishing.

  103. The nice people at U.S. Customs detailed 2 American men as they attempted to bring **GASP** Kinder Eggs from Canada (where they are legal) to the US (where they are not) in July 2012:

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/offbeat/story/2012/07/18/kinder-eggs-illegal-candy-canada-border.html

    I don’t know about you, but I sure feel safer knowing that U.S. Customs spent TWO HOURS detaining folks in possession of Kinder Eggs. I mean, who wants U.S. Customs to focus on say, stopping drugs or criminals or weapons from crossing the border?? Kinder Eggs are obviously SOOOO much more dangerous than, say, cocaine or felons on the run.

  104. Donna, you said:

    ” If you buy it believing that your infant will actually read, you have more money than sense and I have no problem separating money from senseless people.”

    However I have testified that all 4 of my kids learned to read as babies on the program and I’m not the only one. Do a youtube search. Thousands of babies have learned to read using this program. Will EVERY baby learn to read? I don’t know. Do we know the parents showed them the videos consistently twice a day while eliminating all other television? Did they make large words and play with them with the babies like the program suggests. (I did not do all this – just showed the video once a day, but it was enough for my babies. Dr. Titzer doesn’t believe it is necessarily enough for all babies, as he recommends doing the other things. Of course we provided them with a stimulating environment including reading a lot to them, pointing out words in their environment, talking to them a lot, playing games with them, etc.) I guess unless they have done a study where parents were monitored and proven that they followed Dr. Titzer’s advice to the tee and STILL their children did not learn how to read, they would have something to stand on. To my knowledge this has NOT been done. They are only taking the word of parents who “claim” they did everything. We do not know if they did or not unless they were monitored. Besides, I don’t think I have ever heard any claims that Dr. Titzer said “Your baby WILL learn to read using this program.” I believe the program name is it’s testimony – “Your baby CAN read.” And yes, many babies CAN read after using this program. And as long as it’s a non stressful, playful environment, why NOT teach them? As for the dyslexia claim, if you actually read what Dr. Titzer actually said, you’ll see he never said this system would prevent dyslexia. He said, “This could potentially help to prevent some learning problems like dyslexia.” POTENTIALLY is the keyword here. My husband is dyslexic. His biggest trouble is sounding out words. He has a very poor sense of phonetics. When he reads he looks at the word as a whole. He has worked hard his whole life and can read well now. But it’s basically by memorizing words that he reads. While you are reading this, you have done the same thing. You are not sounding out each word quickly. You simply have memorized words and patterns of sounds to make reading automatic. Basically teaching babies is simply eliminating the “sounding out part” and letting them make their own inferences about phonics like they do while learning to talk. So I could see that if you have a baby prone to dyslexia, (actually all of my kids had a higher than normal risk of having it since my husband does), and you showed them whole words while their brain was still developing consistently and played lots of word games with them, it COULD help prevent them from having reading problems later. Maybe that’s why none of mine have reading problems. Who knows, really? Either way, it can’t hurt and government has no place in stopping a program that HAS helped so many.

  105. Debra, the government keeps telling us that it is wrong to view reading as a skill a pre-school child can attain. I’m not sure what the government’s interest is in scaring parents away from even exploring the idea. Maybe that is how they hope to keep incoming school kids more uniform or something. I mean, what other reason could they have? Is there some government-funded program out there that incurs costs due to kids being exposed to reading materials as babies? I mean, other than gifted programs?

    I never bought or tried this program. I saw the commercials and thought, “I could do the same thing with the books I already have.” My youngest was an early reader – not a baby, though (as far as I know). Eldest had too many issues. But the point is, I made my choices as a parent, and I think other parents should be entitled to do the same.

  106. Bucky Balls are really interesting to play with and good science materials. I am not generally fearful of products, just use them wisely. However, I am actually worried about bringing these into our home. I would feel the need to control them like medicine. Kids – not all but many – are notoriously not great about details like finding every little ball and making sure it goes back in the right place. It would be very easy for cats or dogs to be seriously injured, not to mention visiting toddlers even if you don’t have your own. I don’t mind them getting stuck to the underside of the sofa, but I do worry about them falling into the wrong paws or hands. I think that very obvious labeling should be sufficient, and I would not sell them in most toy stores – keep them in hobby and educational shops and such.

  107. We used to play with a bottle of mercury in my Dad’s dental office. We would spill it onto the carpet and into our hands, make really cool little balls of it and watch how they moved, do tricks with them. My Dad might have called out “that stuff is dangerous” and “don’t get it in your mouth” a few times from the other room, but he didn’t take it away. He should have!

  108. SKL, I have had more than one teacher tell me – and other parents I know – that they do prefer kids not enter Kindergarten already reading because it does put such a huge gap between students and it’s difficult for the teacher to keep up with everyone. I honestly believe it’s possible that reading is being pushed in Kindergarten today – when it used to be unheard of – because more parents are discovering that babies and toddlers and preschoolers can be taught to read and they are having more kids enter reading. Personally I don’t think it matters when a child learns to read as long as they do, it’s fun, and they learn to love it. My best friend was homeschooled as a child and her mother took a very play based learning approach and didn’t push academics at all when she was young. She waited for her to want to learn to read. She was 9 1/2 years old when she decided she’d like to learn and her mother taught her and because she was mature and really self motivated she was reading on grade level within 6 months and had far surpassed grade level within a year. She’s one of the most intelligent people I know today.

  109. I give bucky balls as Bar Mitzvah gifts.

  110. Yeah, Debra, I can see how it’s inconvenient to have those pesky parents wanting their kids to start school before they have a full set of adult teeth. What’s this world coming to when kids can read the instructions and do homework on their own? Terrible. Next thing you know they’ll be wanting library privileges.

  111. @SKL and Debra – late into the discussion, but haven’t these teachers heard about grouping, for heaven’s sake? Have had kids with reading ability from virtually none to eleven – to -twelve in the same class. Different kids obviously learn at different rates, and it’s kind of our job to try and teach them all, hopefully successfully!

    Off, off topic, but am bored right at the moment🙂

  112. I agree with everythin you said. Do us 13 year olds look that stupid to the gov.? Why are these things the only small things that are banned? There are tons of other small things out there that are dangerous if swallowed. Like Legos; they have sharp edges that can cut your internal organs and you can choke on them, but why aren’t they banned? I just don’t understand.

  113. I am very cautious about what I do.
    For instance, if my friends want me to bike down a steep hill then I would probably say no. Also I went to a shooting range and they had nothing against me going in and shooting guns ( and I’m 13).

  114. @shari. Dont worry about your dads advice about not putting mercury into your mouth. you dont get mercury into your body by ingesting it, only by inhaling it, and even then it has to be either really concentrated or over a really long period of time to cause you to be in any danger

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