So much of today’s conversations center on connectivity. How connected are we? Is it too much for our lives and the lives of our kids? All this chatter about connectivity has me wondering just what it really means to be connected.
When I was growing up, connected meant you had access to things most people didn’t.
For example, I was the first house on our block with a Nintendo (NES) and my friends became the cool kids overnight. They were connected because they had access to the latest and greatest through their connection to me.
Today’s kids are connected in a completely different way. And I don’t mean just on social media. Being connected is now not just for the rich and famous or the kid with the super-cool aunt (that’s who got us the NES). Being connected these days takes on the more pedestrian definition of literally just having a link with a purpose. It’s the purpose that’s interesting. According to Harvard Business Review, being connected facilitates constant learning, synthesizing, evolving, and sharing.
If you search for the top tech toys this year, you are sure to get cars and robots that connect to smartphones, robots that use connectivity to solve logical problems, and my personal favorite upgrade, the Mattel View Master Virtual Reality Starter Pack.
Yep, you read that right. The good old plastic view finder, where we discovered images and scenes right before our eyes, is now connected and brought to life via virtual reality. According to Parents.com, this is a good thing because children are empowered through play and now live in a world of flexibility. The argument can also be made that “screen time” is a thing of the past as we all start to see the benefit (and frankly the massive expansion and therefore unavoidability) of interactive toys.
So, what does it mean for this generation of kids who are growing up fully connected because of their affluence and exposure to everything high end — which now often means high tech.
1. They will find what’s “broken” faster than any generation before them.
Our world is obsessed with Uber and Airbnb not just because they are both phenomenal services and brands, but because they came right at the center of industries that were broken with solutions that were “customer first” and unabashedly bold. A few years ago, at the ripe old age of 2, my youngest son dragged a stool over to our TV and tried to swipe it to get to his beloved Curious George. He quickly learned that our TV is way past its time to be interactive.
2. IoT and security will eventually be treated like we treated the phone book.
Remember, it had our phone numbers and our addresses and often the names of everyone who inhabited the dwelling. Everything we try to hide under passwords and security cameras these days. But our kids are coming of age when information sharing isn’t something to watch out for, it’s just a fact of life. Those who want to be noticed put out more than the rest of us, but very few children will expect any privacy at all. The good news, with so much out there, it’s hard to pinpoint any one embarrassing post or piece of content, almost like looking through a needle in a phone book haystack.
3. Individuality will be at the core, and the next Pokémon, Angry Birds and Star Wars will be harder and harder to create.
Even popular toys now come with a DIY perspective. Because when anything is connected, it puts the user in charge. With a majority of kids toys and entertainment taking some form of “Choose Your Own Adventure” today, mass hits that span geographical, gender and age groups will get harder and harder to come by.
And while some of this may seem obvious as to where we are headed, as a culture we are far from there. We are still judging ourselves as parents, we are still scared of what will happen to this generation of kids. Even our Google searches are judge-y. Searches related to benefit of kids being connected:
It’s time we all accepted our highly connected world not just as something we depend on, but as the world in which our kids are growing up in. The more affluent the family, the likelier that the kids are the earliest of early adopters. And if having the first NES is a sign for times to come, these kids are going to be just fine.