When Heather Watson and her 6-year-old daughter, Tinslee, started to play the JoJo Siwa-themed board game called JoJo's Juice that Tinslee got for Christmas, Watson didn't expect what happened next.
The game, labeled for kids ages 6 and up, uses cards to encourage players to answer questions about themselves and perform other activities. The mother of four told TODAY she was expecting the game to include things like, "Have you ever picked your nose? Silly kid questions," but the subject matter was actually much more serious.
In a now-viral TikTok video that Watson, 34, posted over the weekend, she shows some of the cards in the game, which prompted more concerned reactions from parents. The cards included statements such as, "Have you ever been arrested?" and "Have you ever gone outside without underwear (a bathing suit doesn't count)?" Watson's video has received over 600,000 views and more than 1,500 comments.
"It's a JoJo product that is targeted at young children not teenagers this is not OK," one TikTok user commented on Watson's post.
"Nope. That game would be in the trash fast," wrote another.
Siwa, a 17-year-old dancer, singer and YouTube personality, addressed the backlash to the game on social media Monday.
"It has been brought to my attention by my fans and followers on TikTok that my name and my image have been used to promote this board game that has some really inappropriate content," the "Dance Moms" alum explained. "When companies make these games, they don't run every aspect by me, and so I had no idea of the types of questions that were on these playing cards.
"When I first saw this, I was really, really, really upset at how gross these questions were, and so I brought it to Nickelodeon's attention immediately, and since then, they have been working to get this game stopped being made and also pulled from all shelves wherever it's being sold."
"I hope you all know that I would've never, ever, ever approved or agreed to be associated with this game if I would've seen these cards before they started selling it," she added. "Thank you for bringing this to my attention so that way I put could a stop to it, and I could get it fixed immediately."
Since Watson aired her concerns, Nickelodeon, which has a contract with Siwa, and the maker of the game, Spin Master, have pulled JoJo's Juice from stores and online. It's no longer available to purchase on Amazon.com or Walmart's website.
Nickelodeon told TODAY in a joint statement with Spin Master: "We respect and value the relationship JoJo Siwa has with her fans and take the concerns raised regarding the game 'JoJo's Juice' very seriously. This game is no longer being manufactured and we have requested that retailers pull any remaining product from their shelves."
Watson, a real estate agent in Lynchburg, Virginia, told TODAY that her concern around that game was not only that the questions were not age-appropriate but also that they seemingly came from Siwa, whom many young children look up to.
"If a game was asking kids that question, a game that they think JoJo made, they're probably thinking, 'I haven't been arrested, but should I have been since JoJo's asking me that?'" Watson explained.
She added that when she saw the line about bathing suits, she thought that made the game "even more inappropriate, and I just couldn't believe it."
"I went and told my husband and ... (he) didn't even believe me," Watson recalled. "I showed it to him, and we felt like we had to physically pick our jaws up off the floor."
Watson, who said she has experience with child psychology from her 11 years as a teacher, also worried that the game could have a negative emotional impact on kids.
"I'm well aware of how triggering some of those questions could be for some kids who have suffered trauma in their life," she said.
But Watson is pleased with the way that Siwa, whom Tinslee loves, has responded to the controversy — and the video that the star posted in particular.
"That was kind of what I had hoped would happen but didn't actually think would happen," Watson said. "I was actually really impressed. ... My daughter was really happy because she thinks it's like a personal message to her."
And while she's aware that social media can be used for "horrible" things, Watson thinks it made all the difference in this case.
"We all took a stand together," she said. "I posted it, but if other people didn't share it, other people didn't get mad about it and comment and tag JoJo and ... Nickelodeon, it would have never gotten to that point. It's just really good to see social media be used to make a change."