Children’s Interactive Media Annual Report for 2017
2017 will go down as the year when VR, AR, HDMI, 4K and Bluetooth LE quietly slipped from novelty to mainstream. Driven by the continual undercurrents of cheaper, faster microprocessors, our tech toys and tablets have also become cheaper and faster, and the result is more power for young hands. Said another way, $40 in a toy store can buy a much better drone than it could last year.
These continual hardware improvements have helped to narrow the quality gap between Apple and th rest (namely Google and Amazon). Consider the $400 Acer Chromebook, with a multi-touch screen that can deliver both Google docs and Toca Boca. We liked Amazon’s $130 eight inch Fire HD Kids Edition as well, and the big leaps this year in AR (Augmented Reality) can be attributed to improved developer tools like Unity and ARKit. So from a hardware point of view, 2017 was a good year.
With power comes responsibility. We watched as profit motivated companies exploited curious children to increase traffic and their revenue. We sat in on an Apple developer event called “how to make great apps for kids” and came to understand that Apple defines “great” as increased revenue.
They know what any supermarket owner understands. Putting candy in the checkout lane increases revenue. Today’s candy is free apps with IAP (In App Purchases) and spicy YouTube videos that serve up page views and ads. As a result, a parent in 2017 has to worry more than ever when their child is alone with a connected screen.
2017 was the year when a popular YouTuber (followed by many children) created a video involving a Japanese suicide victim (see the coverage from Wired, at bitly.com/2lV3aWD). Raul Gutierrez, CEO of Tinybop is the father of two sons. He wrote on the Children and Media Professionals Facebook page, “YouTube knows a huge portion of its audience are kids/teens and they have massive influence over what kids watch via their algorithms, but take little responsibility for effects of pushing millions of kids to algorithmically ranked garbage. The fact that YouTube is designed as an adult site doesn’t remove that responsibility. I believe sites are responsible for their communities and their content even when it’s user-created, and especially so when they have massive audiences.” We agree.
And there’s 2017’s fake news. As Bill Shribman points out in his Dust or Magic talk, we must prepare the next generation to move beyond the “CRAP” test in order to project the basic foundations of democracy. See his talk at https://youtu.be/FDM3F9SgHx4 to learn what the CRAP test is. Some other top line trends:
• 2017 also saw a marked decrease in the number of original, high quality children’s apps, as several key publishers simply gave up in the face of a dime store app store culture that rewards free trials, subscriptions and in app purchases.
• It’s becoming very common for a toy or book to have an accompanying App. That means a child will need a connected smart phone or tablet to play along creating a continued economic divide.
• Coding is hot, as are snap together electronic kits. But as Mitch Resnick warns in is Dust or Magic talk, it is important to know the difference between puzzles and powerful coding experiences. If you haven’t watch his talk “Fulfilling Papert’s Dream” take the time… https://youtu.be/Ofvh3haFp9w
• Toca Boca continues to lead, by creating fun, easy to use touch and explore experiences. The Toca Life series is perhaps the year’s biggest app success story.
• Nintendo Switch was 2017’s biggest hardware winner. It illustrates how user-centered design pays off. Nintendo designers were the first to successfully blur small and big screen experiences. And the device is proof that parents will happily pay $50 for an experience they trust.
The most important observation from the past 12 months is that there are still amazing products to be found. Have a look at the KAPi Award winners or the 2017 CTREX Editor’s Choice products, below.
There’s plenty of amazement for all.
2017 CTREX Editor’s Choice titles (n = 56)
Busy Shapes 2
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Dr. Panda Café
Hop on Pop: Read & Learn Dr. Seuss
Acer C731T Chromebook
ABC Animals Alphabet in Motion
Build With Grandpa!
Dr. Panda Town
Toca Life: Hospital
Fiete Hide and Seek
Virtual Labs: Gram Staining
Animal Fun Park
Puppet Pals Storybooks: The Garden Guardian
Puppet Pals Storybooks: Centaur Quest
Puppet Pals Storybooks: Commander Amazing
Monument Valley 2
Fire HD 8 Kids Edition
Old Man’s Journey
Dr. Panda Train
Grandma’s Beach Fun
Super Mario Odyssey
Teachley: Fractions Boost
Sneetches Read and Play, The
Sago Mini Hat Maker
Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You, Too?
Axel Scheffler’s Flip Flap Ocean
Acer Chromebook Spin 11
StoryTime: Billy Goats Gruff
Creature Garden, The
Dr. Panda Town: Mall
Toca Life: Office
My Very Hungry Caterpillar AR
Kidizoom Smartwatch DX2
SpongeBob Challenge, The (for Amazon Alexa)
Sago Mini Farm
We ARGH Pirates!
Fiete Cats AR
Toca Life: Pets
Puzzle Shapes — Building Blocks