DemosNews: Making Money on the Very Young
Making Money on the Very Young
By: sakurachan

A recent New York Times article (Web Playgrounds of the Very Young, 12/31/07) reported the frenzied creation of virtual worlds on line aimed at very young children. Disney, Time Warner, and several major toy manufacturers rank among the big players. There has already been lively discussion among DemosNews members on this site reacting to adult virtual worlds like ‘Second Life’, or to the pros and cons of video games and role playing games in youth that co-opt traditional playthings like chemistry sets, erector sets, blocks, dolls, ball games, the out of doors (see M. Brun’s article ‘On the Communal Aspect of Video Games,’ and the extensive comments following ‘Fondly Recollected Toys and Pastimes’ by Kate Collins.)

But I’m spooked at the blurring of reality and illusion among very young tykes before any age of reason, when young sinews and feelings need to be flexed with the tangible. Disney’s Club Penguin, for $5.95 a month, allows little ones to dress up and buy merchandise for “stuffed animals” flickering on screen. Does that compare to hugging and sleeping with and drawing comfort from a little plush one, much less with the purring, warmth, devotion, and non-verbal communication of a live pet? Does sitting inert in front of a screen, which punishes adults with back problems and long term users with carpal tunnel misery, make sense for a small growing body that should be swinging large muscles, building dexterity and a sense of balance through control of all twenty digits and the gyroscopic dictates of the inner ear, and reacting to real not canned feelings.

One could say that hanging around reading comic books was no better, but then one could do that tucked under the blankets or in a tree house, or go forage through someone else’s vintage stash at their house. And playing cards had a way of segueing into building card houses, or trading cards, or making up games. A yard square of China silk morphed into a dress-up cape or turban or puppet curtain. Imagination was the active player. I worry when the palette narrows to prescribed choices and actions.

The Times feature appeared as lead article of the business section with reason. Its entire content focused on the vast market opportunity very young guys open as the promise of adult virtual worlds has begun to ebb. Never too early to stoke buying habits and imprint lasting brand loyalty. Reading isn’t even necessary; pictures serve just fine as prompts. From the Times article: “Get ready for total inundation, said Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at the research firm eMarketer, who estimates that 20 million children will be members of a virtual world by 2011, up from 8.2 million today.”

Parents take note!

© 2022 sakurachan of DemosNews

January 26, 2008 at 0:56pm
DemosRating: 4.86
Hits: 1639

Genre: Technology (Software)
Type: Critical
Tags: virtual, worlds, kids, business, marketing, software, technology

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