Technology

Tablet: Tool or Toy?

Written by Ivy Kolpon
Edited by Sam Eisen

As the market for tablets heats up, everyone wants to get involved. The most recent company to announce their plans for a tablet includes Toys ‘R’ Us.  The company plans to unveil its Tabeo tablet designed for children in October.  But is making a tablet designed for children really a good idea?  Reactions have been very mixed when it comes to creating a tablet specifically for children.  The question remains: is a tablet viewed as a learning tool, or simply a distraction?  A recent study revealed that in households owning a tablet computer and with children under 12, 70% of children use the tablet.  Seventy seven percent of these children use the tablet for games, while 57% used the tablet for educational purposes.  Others used the tablet to watch TV and movies or to occupy themselves at a restaurant.

While sometimes used as an educational tool, the tablet can still have some negative consequences for children. Children already spend significant amounts of time in front of the television, playing video games, or surfing the web.  The additional time spent using a tablet may negatively impact the child.  Spending too much time in front of a digital screen can cause children to neglect exercise or face-to-face social interaction.  Toys ‘R’ Us answered some of these concerns by developing features that allow parents to control what websites their children visit and how much time they spend playing with the tablet.
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Aside from these disadvantages, the child-designed tablet can help spark creativity and innovation, as well as facilitate communication and collaboration.  Children like the feeling of being in control.  The tablet computer allows interaction and immediate feedback.  It also offers a variety of features, games, and experiences to keep their attention.  Tablets may be easier to use than regular computers due to their simplicity.  The tablet requires consumers to use their sense of touch whereas a computer requires more skill in learning hand-eye coordination between the mouse, the screen, and the keyboard.
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A tablet computer is fun tool for children to use for educational activities.  One parent claims her child is excited to do her homework after school using an application on the tablet.  Tablets can also help children with their nutrition.  A downloadable app can track their daily food intake, making it easier to monitor their diet and eat healthier.  Children today sometimes referred to as Generation Z, have grown up with technology.  It makes sense that they would want to incorporate a tablet into their everyday life style because they have grown up with technology at their fingertips.

Even with these benefits, Toys ‘R’ Us may have entered the tablet market too late to make a sufficient impact.  Toys ‘R’ Us announced the Tabeo will be available in stores starting in October.  They set the price at $149.99 to compete with low-price giants Target and Wal-Mart.  However, Toys ‘R’ Us is not the creator of the child-designed tablet.  Quite a few tablets designed especially for children were released shortly after the introduction of the iPad.  The Kurio 7, Meep and Lexibook all lowered their prices to match the price of the Tabeo even though it is not yet in stores. Toys ‘R’ Us also faces competition from online retailers selling tablets for less.  By offering the Tabeo exclusively in brick-and-mortar stores, Toys ‘R’ Us hopes to avoid direct competition with online retailers.  However, Amazon recently introduced their new Kindle Fire, while Apple introduced their latest iPads.  Many parents that buy a new tablet may give their old one to their child, creating unavoidable competition for Toys ‘R’ Us.

Aside from the marketing of well-established tablets, Toy ‘R’ Us may face a bigger problem.  As of recently, Toys ‘R’ Us is being sued by Fuhu, the makers of the Nabi tablet sold exclusively at Toys ‘R’ us.  Fuhu claims that the toy chain store copied its design, user-experience and online services with its own Tabeo tablet.  Fuhu also claims that Toys ‘R’ Us did little to promote the product.  If this is the case, Toys ‘R’ Us needs to re-evaluate their business strategy.  The introduction of the Tabeo may not be their best move at this point in time.  The negative effects tablets have on children, along with their fierce competition and an impending law suit means that Toys ‘R’ Us may want to reconsider the release of the Tabeo.

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**Due to technical difficulties we recently had to switch domains and transfer all of our website content.  Please keep in mind that while we have been publishing articles for two years, the published dates shown may not reflect the initial publish date.

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Fidgeon, Tim. “Why Children Love Tablet PCs.” Spotless Interactive. N.p., 07 Nov. 2011. Web. 29 Sept. 2012.

 

Mlot, Stephanie. “Toys R Us Sued Over Tabeo Children’s Tablet.” PCMAG. N.p., 25 Sept. 2012. Web. 29 Sept. 2012.

 

Zimmerman, Ann. “Toys ‘R’ Us Rolls Out Its Own Tablet.” Wall Street Journal 10 Sept. 2012, Marketplace sec.: B1+. Print.

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