Over half of US families with pre-teen kids now have at least one tablet and, in a growing number of cases, it’s the children, not their parents that are the primary users. Yet don’t panic, because kids are still finding time to read, play games and take part in sports, too.
Over the past 12 months, ownership of tablets within US homes with young families has jumped from 50 percent to 59 percent, according to the NPD Group’s Evolution of Play Report. And, as the devices become more common, so does the fact that children will see them as another toy. In 2013, 38 percent of US 2-12-year-olds were tablet users, but 12 months later nearly half of pre-teens (48%) are playing with them, and, according to nearly half of parents, their child is playing with a tablet more often now than he or she was a year ago.
NPD Group’s latest report is published in the same week that Futuresource Consulting revealed its own findings on the subject. It studied how children in the US, UK, Germany and China are interacting with tablets and other consumer electronics devices and the results show that 2014 is the year that the tablet has overtaken the Nintendo 3DS as the most popular personal device owned by pre-teens — for example in the UK, 44 percent of 3-to-12-year-olds now own a tablet or are its primary user.
And that percentage looks set to climb as, when interviewed, parents indicated that a tablet — be it for the whole family or specifically for their children — was the device they’re most likely to purchase over the next six months. But as the popularity of tablets among pre-teens grows, so do the fears that overexposure to such technology could have a negative effect. However, although parents admit concern, according to NPD Group, two thirds of those interviewed are yet to see extra time spent with tablets detracting from other more traditional forms of play.
“Most households have electronics such as tablets, and in some cases children not only use these devices, they are the primary owners,” said Juli Lennett, president of the Toys division at The NPD Group. “The role of technology in children’s lives cannot be overlooked, and parents recognize that.” Futuresource Consulting found that across all four of the countries it studied, more traditional forms of play are still hugely popular and that in the UK, China, US and Germany, reading is the most frequently undertaken activity — 45 percent of all children in the survey read every day and 76 percent read twice a week. Likewise, 72 percent of children participate in sports twice a week and 37 percent play with traditional toys and board games a minimum of two-to-three times a week.
According to NPD, as children get closer to becoming teenagers, their parents are more likely to notice a perceived impact that new technology may be having — children aged 10-to-12-years-old were the least likely to also be exposed to more traditional, analogue pursuits. They are also the group most likely to also own or have access to smartphones and other devices like games consoles too. “This generation is using technology as their coming-of-age play source, as past generations have done by moving to other items or methods of play as they aged,” added Lennett. “Understanding the evolution within today’s play arena is as important to success in the toy industry as understanding the balance that today’s parents try to strike between the role of technology and traditional toys in their children’s lives.”