IPads Over LEGOs: Are Kids Replacing Toys With Tech Gadgets?


More Touch Screens, Less Dolls

If you thought the consumer market couldn't get any more digital, think again. More and more children are reaching for iPads and smart gadgets instead of board games and super soakers, market researchers say. Consumer research firm, The Intelligence Group, found that more than two-thirds of kids between the ages of seven and 13 years old would rather have a tech gadget than a toy. To what extent can the fickle preferences of children affect the consumer market at-large? Our guess: significantly, considering that "Generation Z" accounts for 46 million of the population—not to mention the fact that they are "the main drivers behind parental purchases,"according to Allison Arling-Giorgi, senior director of strategic innovation at the Intelligence Group. A recent survey conducted by PBS Kids confirmed this, discovering that out of 1,000 parents, more than half planned to buy a tech item for their children this past Christmas.

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How Parents Are Encouraging Digital Play

The pervasiveness of digital products may be one reason kids are saying goodbye to Barbies and hello to iPhones. Tech gadgets are no longer just niche devices, they infiltrate every aspect of daily life. Lost in an unfamiliar city? Follow your GPS app. Can't miss an important deadline next week? Set up a reminder on your phone. Need a short-term babysitter? ...Turn on your iPad? That's what New York Times writer David Pogue did. In a NYT blog called 'A Parent's Struggle With A Child's iPad Addiction,' Pogue wrote, "The iPad is a magic electronic babysitter that creates instant peace in the household," explaining the irresistible urge parents wrestle with to shove tech gadgets into their children's hands at such early ages.

The concept of treating electronics as a makeshift baby whisperer is looking more like a reoccurring trend than a quirky parenting style. More than 60 percent of parents with kids 12 years old and under say that theirchildren play on touch screens "often." Peek into toddler strollers in malls and restaurants around the nation and you'll see this statistic come to life.

This kind of early exposure to tech gadgets may have resulted in what Eric Rossi, director of Vivid Europe, calls "age compression," the phenomenon of children feeling older at a younger age. "The last toy purchase for a child is around age nine [...] whereas 20 years ago, it was age 11," Rossi told Business Insider.

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Tech Gadget Backlash

In some cases, however, the onslaught of tech gadgets as toys has workedin the favor of traditional toy manufacturers. "I think there's a mind-set in a lot of young moms that a physical toy is a good thing, it's almost a backlash to the popularity of the app," M. Eric Johnson, dean of Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University told the New York Times. The continued success of Mattel's Monster High dolls and Hasbro's Beyblade spinning tops, both released in 2011, may be evidence that traditional toys aren't going anywhere any time soon.

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