It is universally known that ensuring your child has a balanced and nutritious diet is one of the most important elements in their upbringing. Indeed, our Truth about Wellness study revealed a “balanced diet” was the number one factor when looking after the health needs of your children. On the flip side, the “availability of unhealthy food” was seen to be the single, biggest barrier to a child’s wellness. The pressure to maintain balance in our consumption driven lives is becoming more and more difficult. However, it is not the only excess that parents are now becoming increasingly concerned about. The second barrier to a kid’s wellness was the “increasing time spent with technology,” with half of parents surveyed worried about the impact this had on their children.
Technology has naturally assumed a role in children’s lives especially as it becomes an integral tool of parenting, with uses varying from entertainment to education. So much so that in our Truth about Moms study, parents revealed that they were more likely to treat their children with technology than chocolate these days. The consequential emotional bond that is now encouraged between kids and their tech makes creating a balance of technology usage even more difficult.
But what constitutes as a balanced diet of technology? There is obviously no clear-cut answer, and what is appropriate for one child will invariably be wrong for another. However, there is an opportunity for brands to act responsibly and help parents manage their children’s use of technology. In acting as a parent’s ally, brands can create genuine utility that works in favor of the child and the parent. One great example is Kindle Fire app, which allows a certain amount of time for varying activities such as reading, gaming and browsing on the tablet before shutting a child’s profile down with a cheerful “That’s enough for today.” These predefined limits take the stress away from parents having to manage how children interact with technology. They help a child to learn to use technology mindfully, with purpose and clear guidelines. Crucially, they maintain the distinction between on and offline activities, hopefully maintaining the balance parents so desire.
It is important to note that a balanced diet of technology does not always need to center on denial. A great example is a social experiment in New York city titled “The Million” project that started in 2008. It reversed the typical response of schools to ban cell phones. Instead, it provided kids with a free phones and rewarded good grades with free airtime and text messages. In encouraging hard work and dedicated study, it achieved a balance through incentivizing good behavior as opposed to restricting bad behavior. If brands take this ethos and help incentivize a balanced diet of technology through good behavior, then they will surely reach a sweet spot most parents would be extremely intrigued by.
There are, of course, many ways brands could help parents. For example, if a functionality akin to that of Kindle Fire could be scaled up and utilized across multiple platforms, it would give parents even greater piece of mind. As our world becomes further entrenched with seamless technology, so frictionless that we don’t even notice, perhaps the best thing a brand can do is to give parents the ability to put the tech cookie jar on the top shelf.