Toys “R” Us And A Changing Landscape

Growing up I vividly remember my first time in a Toys “R” Us, with its shelves packed to the brim with toys; each time I walked through its sliding doors was an adventure. What would I find? Fifteen years later and now my nephew experiences the same mystery that I once had. However, this experience may soon fade for many of our nation’s youth. This week Toys “R” Us, the largest toy retailer in the United States has filed for bankruptcy protection. Once I heard the news, I couldn’t help but wonder how this could happen? The answer is simple, the entrancing effect of video entertainment on children and the growth of online shopping.

With the increased availability of television, cell phones, and tablets, more kids are turning to video screens for their entertainment and as such toy retailers like Toys “R” Us are floundering due to their reliance on the purchase of physical items rather than complex hardware or software. Children now have a seemingly endless ways of entertainment themselves via the internet and an ever-growing number of apps and games found on modern tablets and phones. So, it is unsurprising that children are losing interest in physical toys when they seemingly have an unlimited number sitting in the palms of their hands. Current research has even shown that children ages 8-18 spend nearly eight hours a day using video entertainment media. Similarly, children are spending less time outside, so bigger ticket outdoor items like bikes and skateboards are not nearly as enticing as they once were. Aside from the uphill battle Toys “R” Us faces in regards to current child consumer trends, it must also tussle with the societal growth of online buying. For instance, according to Forbes magazine, about 51% of current purchases occur online, which causes physical retailers to suffer due to a drop in foot traffic which causes problems in maintaining a freestanding facility.

As a response to its recent troubles, the retailer stated that it will be hiring seasonal staff and shifting to smaller stores to adapt to the changing consumer market. I don’t know how Toys “R” Us will fare in the near future with the cards stacked against it, but what I do know is I’ll always have my fond memories of my adventures in Toys “R” Us’s aisles on the quest for my next treasure. From a ten-year-old me to Toys “R” Us, thanks for the memories and “good luck.”


A Few Weeks After Harvey Reflection

It has been about two weeks since southeast Texas, including my hometown of Houston, has been hit by hurricane Harvey. Like most people here in Houston, Harvey gave me an opportunity to stop everything and just reflect on a lot. On one hand I am ashamed at myself because it took devastation to do this, but on the other hand, I can understand why so much perspective is lost in a world where we are just going, going, going.

One of my immediate thoughts, as the storm just lazily stayed over Houston for so long, was, “I sure am glad I can ride the storm out with family and loved ones.” I did not really realize till the waters started rising right before my eyes that this has more significance than I could really ever give it. There were thousands of people who had to be evacuated with boats. There were thousands who had lost everything they have ever had. Oddly enough though, my brain went from fear to guilt, to a mixed emotion that I cannot quite put into words.

Now, a few weeks later, I wonder what happened to kids who are living at the mercy of the foster system during the storm. I know I was feeling some major cabin fever and, like I said before, I was with the ones I love most. I cannot begin to imagine what children, especially those already in seemingly unstable environments, felt. It concerns me even more because the media never really talked about any places evacuating or any updates about any group homes or even foster families. Most of the stories I saw on mainstream news outlets were about neighborhoods or pets being brought to safety. I know pets are important, and believe me I could not live without my furry friends, but why did I hear so much about the rescue of animals but nothing about the rescue of children who are the responsibility of the state?

It turns out that there were hundreds of kids who did have to evacuate to safer locations during the storm. (I had to do a little bit of digging outside of mainstream news to find that out.) Even though it is not news that the child welfare system needs a little rejuvenation, there are some reports that CPS was actually able to make a timely checkup on the majority of kids after the storm. Most likely, these were not conventional visitations but at least the children were accounted for. In Houston, the CPS workers, like most other occupations, were not able to report to work right away because of the flooding and road closures. Even a few weeks after the storm, the city is not at 100% functionality. I think that although I would never wish a Harvey on anyone ever again, this city learned a lot of lessons about what we need to deem important and the things that are simply secondary.

To anyone who is still displaced because of Harvey, I wish you well. The Center for Children Law and Policy at the University of Houston is more than happy to help in any way we can!

To anyone who fared well in the storm, I challenge you to make an extra trip to a neighbor today and every day (disaster or not) to ask them if they need anything. Let us not forget the lessons we learned during Harvey and lend a helping hand to ANYONE in need!


Weekly Roundup

Wilmington’s teen violence statistics draw strong reaction

A year-long investigative project by The News Journal about teen gun violence in Wilmington has provoked elected officials and community members to speak up. The three-day series, which ran in print and online over the weekend, revealed that children ages 12 to 17 are more likely to be shot in Wilmington than any other place in America. It also showed that elected officials have failed to fully implement the prescription provided to the city by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention… Read more here

Congressional Justifications for Mental Healthcare: A Dangerous Stereotype?

Most Americans are aware of the stereotype that people with mental illness are more violent and dangerous than the general population. Everyone has seen or heard of a slasher film where the “slasher” is an escaped or released psychiatric patient on a murder spree. In the last decade, due to multiple high-profile mass shootings, discussions surrounding mental illness and violence have become especially prominent not only in entertainment media, but news media as well. According to a 2014 study, news media frequently blame mass shootings on what they perceive to be the mental illness of the shooter, further stigmatizing people with mental illness as violent and dangerous… Read more here

Let’s make the new youth detention center unnecessary

Opening a new, $30 million youth detention center in Baltimore is certainly no reason to celebrate. No question, the new facility is a big improvement in terms of the educational, psychological and other services that will be offered to alleged juvenile offenders while they wait for trial, and placing them in a dedicated building, away from adult offenders, was necessary to secure their safety and civil rights. But the youth advocates who wish we could have spent that money on programs to keep youth out of trouble rather than on a building to confine them are absolutely right. When a young person winds up behind bars waiting for trial in adult court, that’s a reflection of failure by adults, not the child.. Read more here