Interaction design, and educational tech for tots

15 Dec 2005 - 11:58am
10 years ago
2 replies
396 reads
Ian Chan

Heya folks, I just posted on this in my blog but it occurred to me that many
of you probably have some pretty interesting thoughts on the matter. There
was an article in today's NYT about screentime babies are getting with
interactive technologies. I'm without child so I can't speak to this with
authority, but personally, I'd prefer a kid's first two years to go without
electric face and for interactions to be reinforced with the real thing, f2f

What do interaction designers think about kids and interactive technologies?


17 Dec 2005 - 11:11am
Chris McLay

> Well Adrian I am a web designer/screenwriter/media type and I can
> tell you
> that my baby is not getting anywhere near a TV or computer for the
> first
> three years.

I had similar feelings and don't entirely disagree. We have a very
smart four year old and he has had a select television experience -
made easy here in Australia by having a well programmed and targeted
free to air television station which is ad free. He also has a
selection of DVD's, computer products and web sites he can use if he
want's to. He is almost never allowed to watch commercial television.

Our experience is that well made children's television and media is
as good as, if not better than books and interactive play. For
example, there is no way I can get my son to up and dance and sing
along like the Wiggles can, and his love of the Wiggles has lead to
other music from our collection - David Bowie and the White Stripes
are popular.

Another interesting example is drawing and painting. He often got
frustrated with real paint and crayons etc because of their inbuilt
limitations and would on draw for very short periods of time before
moving on to something else. But when he drew in Photoshop using a
Wacom, he was engaged for much longer, because he could easily use
the eraser to change his mind. As his motor skills have improved he
is happier with "real media". It turns out this was an early sign of
an experimental streak where he likes to be able to revise and change
his mind (we see this with lego and train track playing), as well as
a perfectionist steak where he likes to get things right.

I think programmes that properly target children at the right age are
still relatively rare, but they do exist and they are as good as more
traditional media, and better in some ways. The same for children's
web sites and computer games. Like good interaction design, it
requires actively and properly engaging your audience (users) without
aiming for the advertising dollar.

Don't write it off because it's television, radio, computer based or
whatever. Do the research and make an informed choice about what is
available. For us things like Baby Einstein, Baby Mozart,
Teletubbies, Boobah, The Wiggles, Play School, Sesame Street are all
actively engaging and beneficial. Thomas the Tank Engine, Bob the
Builder, Postman Pat, Construction Site etc. have good characters and
simple stories which have been great for imaginative play.

Having said all that, one on one play, group play with other
children, going to the park / zoo / beach, music classes, dance
classes, soccer classes, day care, socialising are great and should
be encouraged too. All things in moderation...

Chris McLay …// designer

Mobile 041 123 9190
Email chris at
iChat & AIM chrismclay at

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