So, the holidays are well behind us. Did your Hatchimal hatch? Did your Barbie Hello Dreamhouse talk? How about your drone; did it get liftoff? I thought so...It all comes and goes with a lot of hype. Good for businesses. How about the kids? Did they enjoy those technology enhanced toys? They certainly wanted them. But did they deliver on their promise? I've heard from many people and read that there are mixed results at best.
The fact is, technology has its place in play; some work more than others. It depends how they use it; especially young children. Technology shouldn't replace human interaction. It should enhance it.
As long as I'm talking about human interaction, there is a lot of discussion and press about an old but important subject: empathy. With today's country and world at odds with one another; it's no wonder children seem to lack empathy towards others. It trickles past by what they hear and watch at home. As much as the best parenting tries to isolate the daily drama, a child picks up bits of tension from conversations amongst family or overhearing phone calls. Walking by screen with news on; or for that matter broadcast programs talking or showing violence, disasters, or bickering disagreements, abound. Those images, words, and moments stick with a child certainly out of context, when you're not even aware they are watching and listening. What should they feel? If the caregiver themselves aren't working hard at teaching empathy. a young child lacks those skills as they get older. Not what we want for sure.
Can toys and entertainment help promote empathy with or without technology? There certainly has been a few recently such as Doc McStuffins and for that matter a basic child's medical kit helps. Furby and Tamagotchi tried to get you to care, and with electronics. But, without an engaged parent a young child may not get the most out of the experience. Sesame Street has always tried talk about empathy in the past and is re-engaging in the promotion. Here is an episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_1Rt1R4xbM
Most recently Mattel launched a series of Barbie ads that show Dad and daughter playing together. https://youtu.be/PGPbKS8XUMY Wonderfully presented, it demonstrates that interaction with your child is so important on all levels and the idea of playing; mom or dad, helps instill ideas that stay with them. Imagine using "together time" for teaching empathy with meaningful interaction.
I do believe we will start hearing about more attempts to create toys and entertainment empathy. I am off in a few weeks to the Kidscreen Summit, a gathering of writers, creators, production houses, and broadcasters from around the world. They will all be there looking for unique content for children. the keynote speaker is talking about....empathy! So I'm sure we will be seeing a lot of attention given to the topic in the near future. It's certainly needed.
Will products for children be right behind? I hope so!