March 17, 2009

Voodoo Pencil Case For Schoolkids Shaped Like A Body:

A VOODOO pencil case could be pulled from the shelves after child advocates claimed it encouraged bullying.
The controversial canvas Smiggle voodoo pencil case includes a space to put a small photo, but critics say it is simply encouraging children to hex their friends.

On nearby shelves are black and red heart-shaped pins ready to stick into the body-shaped case.

Kids Free 2B Kids director Julie Gale said the voodoo pencil product was typical of companies who produced inappropriate products without thinking about the consequences.

But Smiggle says it will reconsider its Voodoo pencil case after concerns it might encourage children to bully.

Ms Gale had spoken to various childhood experts who were horrified by the product, which they thought could encourage bullying.

“It’s basically a voodoo doll, and it’s potentially a very powerful tool for bullies,” she said.

“I think it’s typical lack of awareness from retailers … just thinking it’s a cute idea not really thinking it through,” she said. “It’s just not appropriate.”

But the organization was prompted to act after being alerted by customers who had seen the product.

In a letter to the company, Ms Gale claims the pencil case “could be seen as a tool for nastiness, vindictiveness and bullying”.

“Given that a large proportion of your customers are primary and early secondary aged girls - selling products like this could be seen as a social/public condoning of such behaviours,” she said.

And she has also raised concern about another product in the Smiggle range encouraging children to 'Hug a Stranger'.

“Whilst it might seem innocuous, it goes against the messages our children are taught for their well being and safety,” she said.

Jason Murray, CEO of the Just Group which owns Smiggle, said this afternoon he had not been aware of any complaints about the $9.95 cloth case until today.

Mr Murray said Smiggle was a positive brand and would never intentionally encourage bad behaviour.

He said the company would contact Kids Free 2B Kids, which raised concerns about the potential bullying factor, before making a decision about the product.

“Obviously we take any concerns seriously,” he said. “It’s a very positive brand. There’s obviously no intent in this.”

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