You hear stories like this every week: Kids Foaming At The Mouth For An iPad This Christmas -- The iPhone Is So Awesome, Infants Become Geniuses By Holding One. What these articles never dive into is the question, are iPhones, iPads, Android tablets, and the like actually good for children?
The children's mobile technology space is an area that I have worked in and followed for over two years, as part of my duties at Kiddix. Personally I find mobile devices can be an engaging experience for children, and we will continue to see a market explosion for such devices for years to come. Putting technology into children's hands is a Good Thing, and most of these devices have countless apps and content geared for kids.
The problem with devices like the iPad is the same problem with the PC. They aren't designed for children, which can lead to usage issues. I'm not suggesting that children can't use an iPad or have fun with it -- they can, and they will -- but parents need to be aware that they are putting into their children's hands a portal of unmonitored and unfiltered content, housed in an expensive device that won't survive a drop down the stairs.
This lesson came at a surprise to a handful of parents who purchased a Smurf iPad game, and noticed their wallets a little lighter due to in-app purchases. I'm sure there are some parents who understand that they can replace the payment mechanism in iTunes to be something like a gift card, prepaid credit card, or PayPal account, but that's not the point. This article is a good example on what happens when children use adult technology.
What should a children's solution offer? In my opinion it comes down to 1) Ruggedness of the hardware design, 2) Access to children's media and content, 3) Parental control and monitoring, 4) A user experience designed for children, 5) Allow access to all the good things out there on the web.
For the record, there is no product on the market today with this specific mix of features, but I'd like to talk to any manufacturer interested in bringing it to market!
Credit for the article's title is to my dad, who originally forwarded the Smurf article to me with that title -- and who is also happy that our family's Apple II didn't hook into his credit card while I was growing up.
EDIT: My father read the article and suggested that I give proper credit to Brainy Smurf, for the article title.
Posted: Dec 17, 2010
Keyword tags: iPadiPhoneandroidkidsUXparental controlstablets