Given the overwhelming amount of data being produced on children, technology, and contemporary ‘play’ habits, it’s unsurprising that most of us simply don’t have the time to sift through it all. It can often feel like an oversaturated field of research, which makes for a tricky starting point when looking to extrapolate meaningful information. We’re seeing report after report come through to tell us little more than what we already know (Gen Z are more tech and social media savvy than their Millennial predecessors? Who knew?) along with the usual scaremongering articles reminding us that screen time is melting our brains. And for every nicely produced infographic, there are hundreds of academic journals hidden behind paywalls and obfuscated by scientific jargon.
Below, we’ve curated a handful of research reports from the last twelve months that provide a useful and accessible insight into select aspects of the kids’ tech and entertainment arena. From online safety to tech in the classroom, these findings are worth taking note of – whether you’re a parent, work in the industry, or have any interest in what lies ahead for future generations.
For their 2018 Play Well Report, Lego (via Edelman Intelligence) surveyed around 13,000 parents and children across 9 countries in Feb/March 2018. Their research was grounded in four key areas:
The report is expectedly optimistic (this is a toy brand, after all) as to the value of play in learning, development, and family happiness. We’re more interested in the findings on distractions and ‘busy’ culture, with one in five children saying they’re too busy for play, over 60% of parents getting distracted during play time, and over 80% of kids saying they wish their parents would play with them more.
Last September we attended Ukie’s Digital Schoolhouse launch, where the findings of their Online Safety: A Pupil’s Perspective study were presented. You can read our thoughts on supporting online safety for kids in this post, but the report as a whole is definitely worth a look. With over 2,300 respondents (mostly aged 12/13) across 31 different schools, the survey examines online safety both at school and home, considering uses of the internet and online spaces in education and entertainment.
Their findings show that students are more clued up than we might realise about the importance and practicalities of online safety. However, the study indicates that the focus of school curriculums may be too narrow, with 30% of students believing that what their school covers has little to no relevance to their use of technology. Their conclusions also provide some distinct areas for improvement for both the education and video games industry.
While this study focuses on the similarities and differences between millennials (24-40) and Gen Z (14-23), it offers a really interesting perspective on how learning preferences are changing around technology – and not always in the ways we’d expect. While, for example, Gen Z are more likely to value YouTube content as a method for learning, Millennials are much more likely to consider online courses.
The shift from Millennial to Gen Z attitudes around technology is particularly significant, with the study suggesting that “technology is no longer a transformative phenomena … but rather a normal, integral part of life”. The move towards a more balanced approach between traditional and digital learning experiences is especially useful to consider when making projections for the – tentatively named – Generation Alpha.
This survey from Common Sense Media takes a look at perceptions of Virtual Reality from parents of children aged 8-17. While you’ll need to sign up to access the full report, the infographic communicates a number of the survey’s major findings, including parents’ primary concerns, preconceptions and misconceptions around VR, as well as the reasons they might choose not to purchase a VR device. For example, 43% of parents think VR is for older kids (13+), the most common reason for non-purchase is a lack of interest, and the primary concern around children using VR is potential exposure to inappropriate content.
It’s a handy reference for anyone involved in VR design and production, but especially those looking to create new digital experiences for younger children.
In partnership with YouGov, Microsoft Education surveyed parents in the US to better understand their thoughts on the impact of technology in the classroom. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a majority of parents see tech skills as the most beneficial to their kids’ future employability, above foreign language skills and handwriting. However, while the study found a general agreement on tech as useful to classroom learning, an overwhelming 76% of parents responded that big tech companies needed to be more involved in helping schools build kids’ digital skills.
What’s interesting about this survey is that it reveals a general uncertainty as to how tech will affect employment opportunities: although 23% of parents surveyed believe tech will create jobs for their children, 37% think it will lead to fewer jobs. These concerns are important for us to keep in mind when thinking about the way that we engage children with tech, the value of tech literacy, and the impression of the industry that we give off.