Social Science Research

Researching and Exploring Kids’ Media Futures

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

-Carl Sagan

Researching Kids’ Media FuturesThe kidsmediacentre borrows its inspiration from visionaries and big thinkers like Carl Sagan. Like Carl, we believe there is much to be discovered, much to learn in our connected world. At the forefront of this connectivity are children, who often see, explore and share the world through media and the interactive space. Much of this generation’s education and world view has not come from schools or even their parents. It has come from a convergence of clicks, cables and digital screens that offer raw, often unfiltered access to a world of information, media and entertainment. We’d like to explore that world to better understand the affect of these connections and messaging on children.

Research Projects Underway

The kidsmediacentre will explore a variety of issues around children’s use and interaction with media and technology. Using a combination of innovative research methods and collective creativity, we work on behalf of children’s creative industries to generate knowledge and applied opportunities for those connected to the children’s space. We think the exposure to and impact of media on children’s lives is an oft-overlooked opportunity and responsibility. It is one that goes hand-in-hand with our commitment to educate the next generation of media producers.

  • Screenplay: what would Piaget say? Infants and toddlers have thrown away rattles and teethers and are opting for baby apps instead. While parents are divided on giving tykes smart phones and tablets as toys, there’s no denying touch technology has unleashed a whole new digital sense (and cents).
    Do iPhones pacify toddlers? Undoubtedly. Do they entertain? No question. Do they educate? Hmm. Baby Einstein was deemed a bust. Are interactive screens any different? It’s clear, the current slate of screen apps for wee ones demands a certain level of cognitive processing, dexterity and coordination that challenges traditional early child development theories. But what if those decades-old theories no longer hold true? Does tactile digital play improve a child’s ability to learn? Is screen-play in the infant and toddler years developmentally appropriate? Is there a downside to presenting technology as a toy? How much functionality does a ten-month-old baby need?
  • Techno-smarter or techno-whelmed? Is the rapid-fire and relatively shallow nature of communication technology – Twitter, wallposts – having an impact on our kids’ ability to write, reflect and analyze in a deep meaningful way? Youth are definitely exposed to considerably more information with a world of knowledge (read:Google) at their fingertips, but is it making them smarter?
  • Do they get it? How do children interpret humour in a world increasingly defined by irony, sarcasm and satire? From an early age, children are immersed in a menu of pop culture programming rich in folly and cultural commentary…think: Sponge Bob, Family Guy, The Simpsons, etc. Do kids become more savvy world citizens when they’re exposed to higher-level humour? Are ironic messages and characters the best role-models for kids? Is there a humour template that kidpro’s should follow based on tried and true child development theories or are those models passé?
  • Exploring Kids’ Media FuturesGame changing “toys” and the future of play – The digital world is the new toybox and it’s changing the nature of children’s play. Poptropica, Stardolls, Club Penguin, Adventure Quest offer immersive digital environments that often trump the allure of a toy. With so much play happening online, what are, and what aren’t, kids learning? Is virtual play more/less fun? Who is making the web and online experience more fun for kids? How do these “toys” challenge children’s imaginations? How are they changing the concept of play?
  • Monetizing kids: Increasingly, monetization and revenue generation are de rigueur for virtual worlds, web-controlled toys, digital trading cards and connected play. How do children feel about these “pay to play” and “buy to try” business models? Does the direct marketing of virtual goods to kids, embedded in their play, undermine parenting or “prey” on childhood innocence? Are there new skills that schools must teach kids to better equip them for the realities of the digital marketplace? How can developers optimize MMO’s and virtual worlds to optimize play and learning? @storyartscentre