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Should kids use digital devices or not?

As parents and teachers we often wounder about Screen Time and how it affects all of us. That got me looking into topics and came across a great article by  Carlota Quintero Sicre on uxdesign.cc. Have a read, we are interested in your thoughts.

Should kids use digital devices or not?

Have you ever wonder why do kids use their parents’ cellphones? Two weeks ago I was starting a personal project, and here’s everything I had learned about parents using smartphones to entertain their kids.

The thing is that I didn’t know anything about how kids act nowadays. The first question I asked myself was, how do children behave nowadays? I needed to do a deep research and take the user focus to the next level.

Research time

I did a quick review on the internet. What were the feelings about this particular topic? Firstly, I could discover there was general unrest about the relation between kids and ‘digital stuff’. Tons of articles were saying how badly that could affect the youngsters.

I wasn’t minding my own business.

Let’s ask

If digital devices were doing wrong to the kids, who better to solve all my doubts than their parents? I threw a questionnaire searching for answers, but I was really worried about parents didn’t been honest. As I said, it is a sensitive issue because digital is seen as a creator of bad behavior on kids, so parents could have gotten defensive. To solve this, every question had similar aims but was written in different ways. They couldn’t get away from telling the truth.

Firstly, I asked What devices their kids use? and most of them respond ‘None’. Then, some questions ahead, parents had to asnwer What do their kids use their parents’ cellphone for? and just 2% answered, they don’t use it at all.

Another valuable information was that parents wanted their children to use devices for education. That’s what everyone was expecting, am I right? From where I stand, that’s not normal at all. From the answers I got, parents were angry because kids weren’t using iPhones to learn something (whatever they mean with that) but how are kids supposed to be in control of that?

I was already getting so many interesting findings that could be used on my futurable product, but it was important to deepen a little bit more, so I scheduled an interview.

It was made to a father of a 1 year and a half boy. I was very meticulous in preparing it. Every section was decided with each particular goal.

Interview structure

The amount of information collected was impressive. The truth is that I didn’t know how to use it or even organize it, so I decided to set the most relevant insights and facts in four sections; what do parents want? / what do kids like?/ to be considered / context of the problem.

In short, parents use smartphones to distract their children quickly and effectively. Also, there’s the factor of avoiding scolding them in public. The context is almost always in crowded places, either with known or unknown people. At the same time, kids want parents to pay attention to them. Or even just to be given feedback about whatever they are doing, someone saying how good they do something, clapping around when they’re done with a task…

Should I design a product that kids could interact with while parents are ‘busy’? I was struggling with an ethic issue. It didn’t feel okay to produce an idea that will make parents ignore their kids and their education. Something was missing.

Where’s the spotlight?

Doing a user persona and his journey helped me to get into the users’ skin. The common characteristics drawn from the research were synthesized in one person, and the pain moments they had along the journey.

Helena (our kid-persona) is bored as long as she doesn’t have anything to do. Carlos (our dad-persona) don’t know how to take care of Helena while he’s cooking, and try to mollycoddle her. Carlos is worried about his kid using the phone (he’s the one that gave it to her)

Something was clear, nowadays parents are trying to raise their children like they were raised, but that’s not possible, because the context is different. They don’t know how to make their children use technology without influencing their education.

Right now, this problem is approached by using parental control, timetables, restrictions or even avoiding using digital devices at home. But that’s not fixing anything. Not trying to sound paranoid, but screens are everywhere, is not like that’s something someone could take control of.

Was there anything to do about it?

Dealing the two sides

I say yes

First things first, let’s answer this post’s title. Yes, kids should use digital devices, why not? They are growing in a world where almost everything is digitalized, they will need to use it. Even schools’ books are not on paper anymore, do parents want their little boys and girls to be below the standards? The main problem is the possible addiction they can generate, but that could be prevented.

Finally, here’s my proposal divided into two parts. It will be a space for families, where parents learn how to promote the good use of technologies while their children learn the proper use of digital devices. Such space will have a website where the user could get the needed information.

Since it was a complicated idea, the approach was gonna be simplified. First of all, I did a benchmarking. I search for spaces where the user has to interact with the proper objects in there. The most interesting ones where: Matadero’s exhibition (Madrid), Fundación Telefónica’s exhibition (Madrid) and La ciudad de las artes y las ciencias (Valencia).

La ciudad de las artes y las ciencias / Matadero / Fundación Telefónica

How was the area gonna look? — Sketches and characteristics

Procedure

This part meant a huge challenge for me, so I apologize to every professional working on interior design, architecture or similar out there. I’m gonna be very blunt. The place had to be wide, kids-friendly and attractive. The next sketches aim to achieve those characteristics.

The proposal has separate rooms. Each room is meant to develop activities that encourage the good use of digital devices in different ways. Families will follow some steps so the experience is more pleasant for them.

The educative space

Finally, I worked on 3D software to properly demonstrate the idea’s potential. It felt different as long as the furniture was filling the space. Taking care of what does the rooms express to the public through the furniture choices was the true goal of doing this. At this point, I was so into the project that choices didn’t stop coming. Anyway, I got in mind all I had learned about kids in my research so I could apply it. It must be ‘soft’, or at least it should feel it that way.

Area’s render

Website — Paper and pen

Wireframing this time was kind of special. The website would bring the concept of interacting with the environment to the screen. Users’ flow would consist of discovering the information step by step. Anyway, there would be two options (tickets and space) to skip the intro. The idea of the proposal is to adapt ourselves to the world we are living in, so the visual part will be constantly adapting to the texts, images, etc.

Notebook’s sketches

Quickly guide styling

The guide style had to be done in a blink of an eye. I didn’t have enough time to work on it, so I handle it the best that I could. Anyway, I don’t want to sound pretentious, but I manage it really well.

The website needed to combine two different themes, tech and digital but being family-friendly at the same time. How to do that? My solution was using three main colors, dark blue(tech/digital), pink and skin color (kids and naivety). Then, the headers’ font (Cairo) would suggest the digital theme as well, while the paragraphs’ would be written with a neutral one (Hind Madurai).

Prototype

Conclusion

The outcome wasn’t what I expected, but I’m not saying that in a bad way. Since it was a personal project, I was engaged with it. Each goal was covered and the problem is solved. Every little detail I found was analyzed in order to find the right solution.