New data has revealed the extreme extent of mobile devices in young children’s lives. Advertisers looking to make a profit from child-friendly downloadable apps are welcoming this new ‘digital generation’, but others are left wondering if the world’s increasingly overwhelming obsession with digital devices is getting just a little out of hand.
The report, conducted by family advocacy organisation Common Sense Media, discovered that in the past two years, the number of children under the age of 2 who have used a mobile device to play games, watch videos or for a similar media-related purpose has grown exponentially, from 10% in 2011 to 38% in 2013.
By the ripe old age of 8, the study shows that 72% of children will have used a smartphone, tablet or similar device.
“This is the true sign that the digital generation has arrived,” commented Common Sense Media’s founder and CEO Jim Steyer to Mashable, “We’re seeing a fundamental change in the way kids consume media. Kids that can’t even talk will walk up to a TV screen and try to swipe it like an iPad or an iPhone.”
Many trying to persuade parents of the beneficial elements of children under 2 using the devices point to the educational value that some games can serve, with Steyer explaining that many companies looking to appeal to parents of children with new apps should work to create “ethical and valuable” programmes that do not encourage addiction: ‘”We need to make screen time learning time. Technology used wisely is an essential element to education.”
Despite this, the new figures are alarming, and remind one heavily of the final chapter from Jennifer Egan’s ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’, entitled ‘Pure Language’. For those of you not aware of the chapter, it describes a world of humans in the not-so-distant future physically connected to their communication devices, such is their reliance on technology, where the language of ‘T’ing’ -whr evry1 tlks lyk dis – has overtaken language as we know it. The year is only 2024, and bares stark similarities to our own, as “Everybody sounds stoned, because they’re e-mailing people the whole time they’re talking to you.”
In the frightening dystopian chapter, the author focuses on the selling powers of music industry, which has a hold over the thoughts of children who cannot yet speak, selling them apps, songs and everything they can possibly consume due to their connection to these mobile devices. Communication, enjoyment and childhoods are all made into packaged digital products to such an extremes that society as we know it has become a world of digital zombies.
As an industry that champions all thing technology, it is important that digital marketers follow Steyer’s guidelines and warnings, ensuring that don’t take such advantage of young children to the extreme that they aid them in becoming the fictional tech-addict babies so realistically described by Egan.