Somehow somebody put a link to a pornographic chat site on a Barbie.com page used to promote Barbie Video Girl, a version of the iconic doll that comes with an embedded video camera.
Sandra McDermott reported the problem to her local TV news station Tuesday after clicking on the link while trying to upload video on the Barbie.com Web site with her 10-year-old daughter. Her daughter was uploading the video for a Barbie Video Girl movie contest, where kids enter videos they've shot using the toy.
When it looked like the computer might have frozen, McDermott clicked on a navigation link that should have taken her to www.barbie.com/videogirl/. Instead, she was taken to the very not-safe-for-work Camlive.com Web site, which offers "Live Sex Chat - Amateur Cams and Pornstars." The link was live for about two and a half hours after McDermott discovered it at 3 in the afternoon on Tuesday, she said.
"I pushed my daughter out of the way and said, 'Oh my gosh, did you see that?'" she said in an interview Wednesday.
Mattel apologized for the incident in an e-mail, saying, "we understand the importance of child safety -- online and offline -- it is our number-one priority."
"The page was created by a third-party vendor who is managing the promotion for us," Mattel said. "We had the page immediately taken offline and we are now investigating what happened.
McDermott said that Mattel contacted her after her story ran on Sacramento's KCRA television station.. "They called to say 'somebody screwed up,'" she said. Mattel told her that the people who set up the video contest Web site "typed in the wrong thing when they set it up," she said.
It's the latest flare-up for what's turned out to be a controversial product for Mattel. Earlier this month, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a warning about Barbie Video Girl, calling it "a possible child pornography production method."
Despite her bad experience with Mattel's Web site, McDermott thinks that idea is silly. "I think the product is actually a lot of fun," she said. "For the older girls, they're rediscovering their Barbies."
The more important lesson is that parents should be wary, no matter where their kids are on the Internet. "Make sure your parental controls are on if your kid is on that computer," McDermott said.