A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this dress-up doll site touts itself as the number one online destination for girls ages 6-16, yet much of its content isn't appropriate for elementary school kids -- or even some older tweens. While the staff claims the site was created to foster creativity, many of the dolls that kids can dress up include tired, uncreative female beauty stereotypes: shirts with spilling cleavage and emaciated long legs in stiletto heels, for example. Banner ads flank the pages, and the games, content, and moderated bulletin boards are mediocre quality at best. One cool feature is the music section, where kids can listen to clips and learn more about some of today's hot tween artists.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
Dolls have always been about giving kids choices...these choices make an impact on how kids learn to socialize, the site reads. Launched in 2006, CartoonDollEmporium.com reportedly registers one billion hits a month. Creators say their site's philosophy of enlivening kids' creativity was inspired by Walt Disney. Some of the 650 doll images include a busty Paris Hilton, a "cute" Playboy bunny, a mean fight club gal, and a Britney/Kevin doll pair, along with a handful of dress-up images of famous, successful women outside of Hollywood, like Oprah, Rosie, and Hillary.
Is it any good?
The site is monitored 24/7, and it seems free from a lot of the problematic potty talk and scathing language found on other tween and teen sites. Yet the overarching stereotypical messages of women as busty, sexualized playthings doesn't move Barbie forward, and perhaps even a step back. While it's true Barbie has her heels and minis, the majority of dress-up outfits shown on this site are more appropriate for X-rated movies than Barbie, and many parents may find they don't want their girls influenced by these fashion choices. Clearly, dress-up dolls are still popular with young girls, whether in paper or cyber form. How that will impact their view of women's roles in the world is another question.
The commercial aspects of CartoonDollEmporium.com include multiple ads, both overt and hidden. Users must pay $6.99 a month to belong to the CDE fan club to get special benefits (access to special dolls, 100 CDE points a month). Better games, chats, and contests can be found elsewhere -- minus the stereotypes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why most of the dolls for girls on this site have similar physical features. Is this how most women really look, or just how the media tells them they're "supposed" to look? What differences are present in the male dolls and the outfits you can choose for them, like Tiger Woods (whose wife's doll is listed under "accessories" along with Woods' golf bag)?