Archive for the 'Child Age/Grade/Term' Category

Understanding the AAP’s updated screen guidelines

Friday, October 28th, 2016

[The following is a feature article I wrote for the online magazine Kidscreen, October 21, 2016.]

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has a long history of providing recommendations to parents on how best to raise healthy children. Nearly two decades ago, the AAP began outlining stipulations regarding appropriate media usage for kids. In earlier days, that meant mostly television. Today, as we are well aware, kids’ media consumption extends to mobile devices—and oftentimes begins at the tender age of six months.

So, it’s safe to say change is in the air. Last fall, the AAP revised its media guidelines to be more in sync with family life, effectively letting go of the once-held belief that kids under the age of two should completely abstain from screens. Which brings us to today.

Of the three policy statements released at the AAP National Conference in San Francisco this morning, the association’s latest recommendations for parents with young children include:

  • No media use at all for children under 18 months. The only exception to this recommendation is if families use Skype or FaceTime to stay connected with one another, as long as parental support is included as part of this screen time activity.

  • Parent co-viewing and shared media use is vitally important among 1.5- to two-year-olds. Research has still yet to demonstrate the benefits of media use for children under the age of two, but there appears to be learning benefits, as long as a parent is actively engaged in the co-viewing experience.

  • Limit media use to no more than one hour per day for children ages two to five. During this time, parents should be encouraging high-quality educational and pro-social media content, and should continue to participate in the media experience with their child as they grow to help them understand what he or she is seeing.

  • Make sure media use does not replace non-media activities like outdoor play, social time with friends and family, and reading together. Parents are urged to take time away from screened media to do other things with their child.

  • No media use one hour before bedtime. Studies show children sleep better when they are not engaged in media before bedtime.

Given the rapid advancement of digital media businesses and services, the AAP has been challenged to offer timely research-based guidance to parents and pediatricians. In looking through the list of 191 referenced articles and research reports mentioned across the three AAP policy statements, you see a lot of new research, with almost 30% of referenced research released since 2015. For a list of all referenced research, and links to download free and paid research, click here.

As a developer, I’m inclined to call out some missing and important parts of kids’ digital media usage: Are interactive screens any better or worse for young children than passive screens? Is passive television viewing worse for a child than a mobile learning game, or connecting with a family member on a tablet using Skype? The answers, as of today, continue to be elusive.

The reality is that screens are everywhere, not all screens are created equal, and most people use them heavily throughout their day.

One 2015 study (Kabali et al) referenced in the AAP documents showed most two year olds in the US use a mobile device on a daily basis, and most one year olds (92%) have used a mobile device. Collectively, 96% of all children ages zero to four have used mobile devices. This data is striking, but especially noteworthy when compared to a 2013 Common Sense Media report (Rideout et al). During the two years between when these studies were conducted, television screen time dropped and mobile screen time quadrupled for this age group. Would you call this a media tipping point? And what recommendations does the AAP have for media creators?

To that end:

  • The AAP asks developers to avoid making any apps for children under 18 months of age.

  • When creating new products, work with a developmental psychologist and an educator to help advise age-appropriate content and digital engagement.

  • Design media products for a dual audience, so parents and children can enjoy a shared media experience together.

  • Provide appropriate, responsive and authentic feedback to the child through your product.

  • Do not include any advertisements. Children of this age group can’t tell the difference between content meant for them or an ad.

  • Formally test your product for educational value before promoting educational claims.

  • Consider adding parent dashboards or preference areas where a parent can find helpful feedback on their child’s use of the product and/or customize the experience to monitor and limit overall time being used.

The amount of research and information reviewed by the AAP and synthesized across the three policy documents is impressive, and a helpful benchmark for parents, pediatricians and media creators alike. As this ever-evolving conversation continues in the months and years ahead, there will always be a great need for more research that looks at content as well as the latest distribution methods.

Scott Traylor is the founder of 360KID and a consultant to many children’s interactive businesses and products (none of which are referenced in this article). He’s also a former computer science teacher and currently lives in Silicon Valley, searching for the next big opportunity in the children’s industry. Scott can be reached at Scott@360KID.com.

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Links to full list of AAP referenced research

Friday, October 21st, 2016

On Friday October 21, 2016 the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) released three policy statements regarding health recommendations on media use by children. A review of these policy statements shows the AAP has referenced 190 different research papers and articles to support their position. Almost 30% of the papers were made available in 2015 and 2016, and generally reference a large body of helpful information regarding screen use by American youth. Over 75% of the referenced research can be downloaded for free. In an effort to help advance the interests of researchers, educators, and industry here is a collection of all of the AAP referenced research in an Excel spreadsheet with links to easily access and download all of the material.

A collection links to the AAP referenced research on children and screens

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Buyer Beware – New Kids Search Engine Kiddle not from Google

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

Photo of the Kiddle search page on a mobile device. Notice it says 'powered by editors and Google search'

Many of us who work in the kids tech industry have been interested in the new kids search engine called Kiddle (http://www.kiddle.co/). Trying any simple search through Kiddle provides some satisfying, child friendly results. It’s not a perfect service as some keywords provide mixed search results, but it’s a start. It’s Google-like design feels comforting to most adults, and the service appears to be a great Google search companion for the youngest Internet users. But here’s the thing, it’s not Google.

What the Kiddle service does do is tap into the Google SafeSearch capabilities, which is a digital extension of Google suite of search tools. Any business can add such a search feature to their own website if they wish. The thing that makes Kiddle unique is its claim of employing editors to screen search results in addition to Google’s SafeSearch. This combination provides an added layer of scrutiny to help ensure results are child appropriate. Sounds great. Who couldn’t get behind that idea? A great one-two punch, right?

The problem is the Kiddle site provides no information about who they are. There is a complete lack of transparency on the part of this business. Transparency is king in the children’s digital world. Without it, beware of company motives and interest in doing right by the child. While on the surface the Kiddle search engine appears to be a great service to parents and children, we should all hold off from recommending it to others until the company behind it steps out into the light and reveals itself, how it’s funded, and share other important aspects of its business like how it goes about hiring editors for its service.

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Toy Fair 2015: Brand Mashups, Smart Toys and Indie Innovation

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

The following is an article I wrote for the February 20, 2015 issue of the iKids weekly online magazine.

Mattel's Hello Barbie was among the top tech toys talked about at the 2015 NY Toy Fair

Creative play pushed the envelope once again at this year’s International Toy Fair, held earlier this week in New York City. Organizers of the event reported over 7,000 new toy products were unveiled for the first time at the show. For those who follow tech toys you may be asking yourself, “Were there any new playful app announcements at Toy Fair?” Yes, but fewer breakthrough announcements compared to last year. “How about new robots?” Yes, too many dinosaur robots. Again nothing really noteworthy. “Indie startups?” Yes, a handful to keep an eye on. “Tech toy innovation?” Yes indeed, with clever business collaborations, brand mashups, and new player innovation that pushes the industry forward.

Before jumping into notable tech, there were a few non-tech announcements worth sharing:

ThinkFun Maker kits, one of three different kits available

Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls celebrated their 100th anniversary. (Note: Toy Fair celebrated its 112th year.) Funko’s Pop! Vinyl cube-like head collectible figures made a PR splash. Silly String now glows in the dark. ThinkFun debuted a great set of maker kits that are bound to fly off the shelves (pictured left). And those tiny green plastic army guys had a makeover, re-introduced as Yoga Joes (pictured below), where military clad figures strike various yoga poses. Clever idea indeed!

Green army guys reinvented as Yoga Joes

Tech announcements fell into one of a few different groupings. Some tech toys relied on creative business alliances. Others relied on the strength of a brand tie-in for its inspiration. Others took something old and made it new again. Indies provided the freshest tech toy ideas.

Mattel's update to the View Master with a little help from Google VR

View Master – One of the biggest announcements dangled before the start of Toy Fair was the Mattel/Google partnership to bring the classic View-Master into the 21st century (pictured above). Last year Google released an innovative and inexpensive virtual reality headset kit made out of cardboard. The VR screen is powered by an Android phone dropped into the back of the cardboard box. The update to View-Master relies on similar thinking, though the body that holds your phone to has been neatly designed. While Google Cardboard is the lowest price VR experience you may find anywhere (with some assembly required,) the View-Master update is a slick design and only cost just a bit more.

CogniToys by Elemental Path

Hello Barbie – Another big tech product announcement by Mattel, Hello Barbie (pictured at top of article), might easily be referred to as Hello Siri. Hello Barbie is a WiFi-enabled plaything that can engage in a conversation with you. Ask Barbie a question and she will intelligently respond back to you. Mattel partnered with technology company ToyTalk, this tech toy has a similar feel to last year’s WikiBear announcement. Talking toys are nothing new, but natural and fluid two way conversation through a toy is. Late in the week another similar announcement was made by Elemental Path with a product called CogniToys (pictured right), which is a collaboration with IBM’s Watson technology. Fluid toy communication is destined to be an active product area in the years ahead.

Hasbro's latest Furby creation, with a Star Wars twist: Furbacca

Furbacca – Hasbro has had great success over the last two years thinking up clever new extensions to the Ferby brand. This year the Star War’s themed Furbacca is the latest, complete with free app. Furbacca moves in place and hums different Star Wars songs.

The DynaPod, wearable kidtech with a built in programming twist

DynaPods – Last year we saw a few wearable tech toys make it to market, but most didn’t really have a purpose. It was wearable tech for tech’s sake. DynePods from newcomer Dynepic ties together programming concepts with a wearable display. The DynePod 5×5 LED “screen” (pictured above) communicates with an app through Bluetooth, empowering kids to make small if/then programming routines. These routines are then shared back to the screen, which can detect motion, light up, buzz, and vibrate depending on the programmed request. The display is also Lego compatible so it can be combined to create new interactive experiences.

The Moff Band is a wearable device that communicates with your smart device as you move

Moff Band is a clever motion-based wrist band that interacts with your smartphone or tablet to produce sound effects in real-time. With Moff everyday objects become new pretend play experiences. A broom can become a golf club. A spatula a magic wand. Any physical item can now include a magical sound effect when taped, touched, or moved. Everything around you becomes a plaything. Moff is sure to be the big tech toy hit of the year.

While it was a good year at Toy Fair for tech, it was easy to be left with a feeling of wanting more. More toy tech innovation will indeed come. Watching this play category you will definitely notice the wind through your hair. New product announcements are coming faster through independents rather than through long established traditional toy selling cycles. Stay tuned for many more tech toy announcements to come!

Scott Traylor is the founder of 360KID and an advisor to a number of children’s interactive businesses and products (none of which are referenced in this article.) He’s also a former computer science teacher and currently lives in Silicon Valley, seeking out the next cool kidtech business. Scott can be reached at Scott (at) 360KID (dot) com.

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Top-Performing Tech Toy Videos of 2014

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

The following is an article I wrote for the January 8, 2015 issue of the iKids weekly online magazine.

The Spin Master Dino robotic toy was among the top viewed toy videos in December, 2014.

In early 2014, I wrote an article about the hottest tech trends found at the annual International Toy Fair in New York, an industry Mecca for the biggest toy announcements of the year. At that time, I recorded 50 videos of some of the largest toy presentations. Most of the videos I captured featured technology toys, remote-control robots and tablet-based playthings, though a few action figure-centric videos were captured here and there due to the strength of their IPs.

Looking back on the year in kidtech products, I wondered what I could learn by going through my YouTube collection of toy videos and checking out which clips garnered the most views for the month leading up to the Christmas holiday. Here for your consideration are my Top 10 YouTube toy videos, based on number of views in December 2014.


Company Product Views
Hasbro Furreal Friends – Get Up and Go Go & Pom Pom My Baby Panda 11,971
Mattel Hot Wheels Super Loop 3,413
Spin Master DigiBirds 3,244
Tomy Pokémon Battle Arena 2,408
Spin Master Zoomer Dino 745
Jakks, Lego, Hasbro Star Wars Rebels/Star Wars Command collection 655
Hasbro My Monopoly 603
Spin Master Zuppies 540
Hasbro Nerf Attacknid 534
Hasbro Simon Swipe 522

If YouTube views translate into purchasing interest, then both Hasbro and Spin Master had a good holiday selling season with a few key product lines, primarily those that include robotics or animatronic toys like Furreal Friends or the DigiBirds, Zoomer and Zuppies products. One big surprise was that while the toy industry made great strides in the app and tablet space in the last year, only one of the app-based toys I recorded attracted a large number of views on YouTube. What might this mean? (Note: the number-one item in this Top 10 list included an app that worked with the tech toy. No other toy in this list had a companion app, even though I covered many app-based products at Toy Fair last year.)

A couple of additional surprises: While I was impressed with the technical achievements of robotic toys like Ozobot and Moss, their view results for the month were small. Also included in my collection were video clips of toy products from the smash hit movie Guardians of the Galaxy. The movie was a box office success, but it appears the property did not drive interest in its related toy line ‒ at least according to my view tally. One product I referenced in my earlier article that impressed me was Osmo (formerly called Tangible Play). I had the opportunity to review the product multiple times in 2014, but was asked by the founders not to record or post any video of the app/toy. If I had, I believe it would have placed in my Top 10 viewing list.

Another striking observation from my collection of videos recorded at Toy Fair over the years ‒ in 2006 Hasbro released a giant novelty animatronic pony called Butterscotch, which cost almost $300 at the time. While the clip is now eight years old, it still drove a sizable amount of views in December 2014. Also in 2006, the then popular preschool show Teletubbies had a remote-control Noo-Noo robot used for promotional fun in the hallways of the show. Noo-Noo was not for sale, but the video continues to grab interest. The device was never turned into a toy product for kids, but my stats tell me that if it were, it would be a hit.


Company Product Views
Hasbro Butterscotch Pony (2006) 2,686
Ragdoll Noo-Noo RC Robot (2006) 2,735

Looking at 2015, I’m already seeing some amazing tech innovation in the arena of play. Some are combined physical/digital products, some are pure app plays, and some will tap into the maker movement and 3D printer space. Based on the groundwork of 2014, there will continue to be more innovation coming to kids in the app world, but will that innovation be enough to drive sales and create sustainable products from a business perspective? Of the scores of robots lined up to debut this year, which ones will include “must have” features and contain a level of novelty to help guarantee financial success? Stay tuned for the flurry of announcements sure to come in the next few weeks!

Scott Traylor is the founder of 360KID and an advisor to a number of children’s interactive businesses and products (none of which are referenced in this article.) He’s also a former computer science teacher and currently lives in Silicon Valley, seeking out the next cool kidtech business. Scott can be reached at Scott (at) 360KID (dot) com..

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