The period of 1998-2012 is part of a larger shift in the experience of childhood itself over the past few decades. Looking back at the three eras of LEGO® MINDSTORMS (the platform’s first launch in 1998, its update in 2006, and its recently announced re-invention in 2013), there have been significant changes in the context for play.
Children today generally have less free time and spend less time outdoors while spending more time on screens, they engage with technology at a younger age, and with the increasing access to mobile devices, they are connected everywhere.
Technology and the online world it enables has created a new playground for children beginning as young as three years old. Children can now operate a smart phone or tablet before they can tell time, swim independently or make their own breakfast.
These dymanics change the expectations that children have for their play experiences.
The infographic above synthesizes seven key changes that have taken place over the past 15 years, as compiled by the Institute for the Future. Not only are these trends changing the way children play, they have changed the expectations that children place on any new experience and are setting the tone for what’s to come.
Seven Transformative Changes for Young People at Play Source List:
Less free time per week: Sandra L. Hofferth, “Changes in American children’s time – 1997 to 2003”, Electron Int J Time Use Res. 2009 January 1; 6(1): 26–47. (“In 1981 children aged 6 to 12 enjoyed about 57 discretionary hours per week. In 1997, children aged 6 to 12 enjoyed about 50 discretionary hours per week. By 2003, discretionary time had declined two hours to about 48 hours.”) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2939468/
20% less time outdoors: 2011 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report, Outdoor Foundation http://www.outdoorfoundation.org/research.participation.2011.html
Since 2006 the time kids spend online has more than doubled. Always Connected: The New Digital Media Habits of Young Children, Aviva Luca Gutnick, et al., The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, 2011
Teens in chat rooms: Teens and Social Media, Amanda Lenhart et al., Pew Internet and American Life Project, 2007 http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media/Files/Reports/2007/PIP_Teens_Social_Media_Final.pdf.pdf
“New Demographic Info and Activities Data,” Mary Madden, Pew Internet and American Life Project, 2005 http://www.pewinternet.org/Commentary/2005/May/New-Demographic-Info-and-Activities-Data.aspx
Average number of apps on the mobile device that kids use: Kids and Apps: A New Era of Play NPD Group, 5/22/2012: https://www.npd.com/wps/portal/npd/us/news/pressreleases/pr_120522#.UAndN_kq4Yo
YouTube is top search term: “Kids Top Searches Include Porn,” BBC News, August 12 2009 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8197143.stm
Nine month olds watching DVDs: Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America, Common Sense Media, Fall 2011 http://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/research/zerotoeightfinal2011.pdf
One-third 3-5 year olds operate smart phone or tablet app: AVG Digital Diaries, 2010:
50% kids age 5 access internet everyday: Always Connected: The New Digital Media Habits of Young Children, Aviva Luca Gutnick, et al., The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, 2011:
Children ages 8-18 media use: Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year Olds, Victoria J. Rideout et al., Kaiser Family Foundation, January 2010
Global mobile penetration stats: World Telecommunication Development Report, International Telecommunication Union, October 1999 http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/publications/wtdr_99/material/wtdr99s.pdf
ITU Statshot, Issue 7, International Telecommunication Union, August 2011