Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Traditional Toys and Digital Devices

©2009 John Crane Ltd (via Pintoys)
A new report from The NPD Group was released this week, relaying findings from a recent study that examines how/if digital games and devices might be displacing traditional toys among different age groups. Here's an excerpt from Kidscreen's iKids News coverage of the study by Jeremy Dickson:

The report, entitled The Evolution of Play, found that 51% of parents felt electronic devices had no impact at all on their child’s play time, while 40% felt their child was spending less time with traditional toys.
Looking at age, as kids get older and more social they become more adept with digital apps and tablets, thus decreasing time spent with traditional toys, whereas younger children who use technology are still more likely to request traditional toys.
While the report in its entirety is only available for purchase, the NPD's press release outlines a number of additional key findings, including:

  • Use of digital devices by younger children is "perceived [by parents] to have little effect on play time with toys.
  • Parents who spend the most on technology products (e.g apps, etc.) are also the heaviest purchasers of traditional toys (i.e. "more likely to shop most toy categories and spend more when they do make a purchase"). (***noteworthy)
  • As well as: "Parents were unequivocal in praising electronic devices for their educational potential and for helping children to build skills. However, they are equally concerned that too much technology could make their kids lazy, foster unhealthy solitary experiences, or lead to “over-connectedness.”" 

This last point is of particular interest to me, as it shows that many parents report the same sort of ambivalence vis-a-vis children and technology (simultaneous, conflicting positive and negative feelings) as found in popular discourses, news coverage, etc. We often present these polarized discourses as coming from opposing camps - but this presents the compelling alternative that both can and do co-exist simultaneously, at the individual level and likely at the organizational level as well. Of course, years of exposure to press coverage and reports from the two "sides" of the debate have likely contributed significantly to this ambivalence. These are arguments that I've explored in some of my previous work on the topic (discourses on children and technology), and am currently re-examining in my upcoming book on kids' digital play. Always nice to have some up-to-date stats to refer to!

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