Blog Feature

By: Jennifer Devitt on February 16th, 2016

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Social technology shows that tech usage doesn't mean we are all zombies.

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Yesterday, we discussed some of the most tech advanced toys showcased so a far at the 2016 Toy Fair.  As the fair continues, I am sure other promising or intriguing new toys will surface or get into the limelight. We covered four toys, 3 were made by Mattel, Inc. one by Thames & Kosmos.

In today's news, I came across the following story "Hasbro doesn't want kids to turn into iPhone Zombies". Interesting title, yes it intrigued me, made me click it and read it. The article points out that at the Hasbro showroom there were few high tech gadgets, stating that Hasbro wants "kids and parents to put their devices down".  Hasbro stated they know kids need to be "digitally savvy" but they are trying to keep them "socially savvy".

To me this way of thinking is outdated. Yes, I understand at times we are all too connected with our faces in our phones. But, that doesn't mean we should say that a toy that is tech based discourages social activities. It is stereotypical that individuals interested tech are typically anti-social, nerdy or geeks. Sure, we can all be guilty of being anti-social because we are focused on a device, but the same can be true of an avid reader who has their nose stuck in a book. Take for example the term "social technology", which is defined as applying the used technology for specific purposes especially social ones.

Let's take a look at some toys or games that encourage social activity by way of the game, shall we?

1. Xbox Live and PSN (Playstation Network). These gaming systems for years have offered add-on yearly subscriptions to their gaming systems that work in conjunction with games on their platforms. They offer the ability to play online via a gaming community that you communicate with as you play. You can choose to have a private community of your closets, trusted pals or play in the open with gamers from around the world. In our house, our son has played with hockey buddies who didn't live in the neighborhood or went to different schools. They all strap on their headsets and connect with one another via the game console and either chat while they play different games or join a game together and work together to complete tasks, pass levels or beat the other in a game of NHL 2015!

2. FaceTime. Again kids are using FaceTime to communicate with friends while they perform other tasks. Perhaps Mom or Dad couldn't drive them to a friends house to hang out. So, what do they do? They FaceTime while they draw, make friendship bracelets, they do homework together or work on group projects, they chat while they paint their nails.

3. Minecraft. In Minecraft, kids can share worlds they work together to build or even destroy one. The work together to build something bigger and better or help each other solve problems. They can share worlds and sometimes I have seen our daughter share a world on Minecraft with a friend via her tablet but be FaceTiming that same friend has they chat about the game, friends, tv shows, etc.

4. Barbie Dreamhouse. We discussed this new wifi enabled smart dollhouse yesterday. Playing Barbies can be highly social, friends or parents take on the persona of the dolls and interact with on another. But adding technology into the functionality of the house doesn't deter social interaction while playing.

5. Disney Infinity. Disney Infinity is a giant scale role playing video game that works with corresponding playsets (sold separately). Games can be played individually or multi-player for up to 2 players. Players can mix and match playsets to create new worlds and stories. The game offers two modes of play, "Playset Mode" and "Toybox Mode". In Playset Mode, you must pay with the characters within the specific Playset, and characters cannot play in other areas, meaning a StarWars character cannot play in ToyStory land. But, in "Toybox Mode" players are free to build their own game, mix and match characters, items etc. By playing together kids can learn from each other, help each other pass levels and move further in the game.

These are just a few examples of how tech-based toys and games do not equate to turning into zombies. Yes, kids today are tech savvy, but it's time to put behind us the notion that being tech savvy means you are socially inept. Technology is the hub of the world today, and it does not have to mean we are all zombies. We can and do use technology to communicate. We do it via FaceTime, Skype, video games and more. Our developers today communicate with clients via video conferencing and varying messaging services. Being able to communicate digitally is just as important as being able to communicate face to face. When projects are in an emergency state or need to be fast-tracked, there may not always be time for a face to face meeting. Being comfortable in digital communication is key. I think it's time to ditch the anti-social stereotypes and find ways to be innovative in technology development that encourages both technology and social behavior, they can go hand in hand.