Is Pokemon Go for Kids?

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Mon, Aug 08, 2016 @ 09:20 AM

It’s rated “E” for Everyone and has taken the world by storm in the few weeks since its launch. Unquestionably, Pokemon GO represents a breakthrough in augmented reality for adults. But, what is this new craze’s value to kids? Beyond the many existing augmented reality apps available, we see that the value it brings is twofold:

  • It is a fun way to bond with parents when the family plays together, and
  • It encourages walking around and getting exercise.

But, along with the fun and exercise comes some concerns for parents.  Many of them do not want their children playing Pokemon GO without adult supervision for several reasons:

  • The app collects a lot of personal information from the device on which it is installed (it asks for geolocation, photos, media, and other files, access to contacts, and the ability to take pictures and record videos).
  • In the United States, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requires verifiable parental permission to collect this kind of personally identifiable information from children under the age of 13 — that’s why to register as a trainer within the game requires a birthdate. Many parents want to keep such information about their children private.
  • The app may suggest to children that they go places that they otherwise would not be allowed by themselves (or at all) in order to ‘catch’ Pokemon.
  • The economic model of the game is based on in-app purchases which parents may not want their children to be able to make.

Our online parent community, ParentSpeak, reports mixed feelings about Pokemon GO.  Here is what some parents say:

  • “It is the hot new game for teens to play at camp. She is 12 and it keeps them after camp and running around.”
  • “My child is not playing. She is 10 years old. Her and her dad did just get into geocaching though.”
  • “My 7-year-old son is excited, though he doesn’t know much about Pokemon.”
  • “My 11-year-old plays it only while in the car driving by Pokemons. Nothing by herself on foot.”
  • “The 10-year-old wanted to play but I didn’t want her wandering off and getting into places she shouldn’t be so she entertains herself with other games.”

So is Pokemon GO for kids?  From our YouthBeat® data, we know that Generation Z is tighter with their parents than Millennials were.  Our POV is that Pokemon GO is a great app for family interaction—so yes, then, in a family context with parental supervision, Pokemon GO is great for kids.

To read more about Pokemon GO, check out the blog on our parent company’s website,, where we blogged about the #GottaCatchEmAll craze and why it was a game changer…in the adult world.

Tags: Gaming, kids, kids tweens teens, kids tweens teens market research, Youth, youth research

Mario’s Magic

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Jan 17, 2014 @ 01:12 PM

MarioWith the immense popularity of Nintendo’s new Super Mario 3D World for Wii U, we thought it was time to think about what makes Mario such an important and popular character among kids, tweens, and teens (and the namesake of kids’ favorite video game since YouthBeat’s launch in 2008).

For our YouthBeat readers who weren’t around then, Mario first appeared in the 1981 arcade game Donkey Kong.  Since then, he has appeared in over 200 video game titles and the Mario franchise games have sold millions of units.  Mario, and the characters and world built around him, have surrounded youth in the form of cartoons, comics, films, toys and countless objects of play and design.

So, what makes Mario (the character and the franchise) so popular?

  1. Mario Lets Kids Learn as They Go.  No matter the Mario title, players are slowly and methodically introduced to the key movements and elements of the game.  Not only does this help players develop skills, but it also encourages players to challenge themselves and push further. With each new level, there are new skills to learn.  And for mastery-loving kids, this chance to get good and test your skills serves as a recipe for success!
  2. Mario Can Fit Many Forms.  Mario has done a lot of rescuing over the years, and he has shown that he can be a hero in any setting.  Whether it’s a classic side-scrolling platform (Super Mario Brothers), 3D open adventure (Super Mario 64), a race (any Mario Kart), or a fighting game (Super Smash Brothers), Mario has the ability to adapt to any type of game.  Mario, an archetypical hero with a rags-to-riches story (he is a plumber who rescues princesses), begs you to root for him in every scenario in which he appears. 
  3. Mario is Familiar. While conventional wisdom might suggest that new is necessary to keep kids interested, Mario suggests another model.  Mario serves as the guide to new genres that kids can explore. He represents a typical hero (he is a plumber who rescues the princess) whose quests are filled with tragedy, comedy, and overcoming monsters (Bowser!).  Within the larger Mario franchise, there are numerous fighting games, RPG games, and racing games.  Everyone can find a game to love in the Mario universe. 
  4. Mario is part of the Family. Mario is about as family-friendly as video games get (little violence, cute images, and simple humor).  With the release of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Nintendo has also been using Mario to bring families together by making the games cooperative.  With Super Mario 3D World, parents and kids can work, learn, and play together.

What lessons can content creators and marketers alike learn from Mario?

  • Incorporate learning and growth.  This allows entry-points for all ages and skill levels. 
  • Think outside the box.  Moving across different platforms enhances appeal, not detracts from the franchise’s DNA.   
  • Think about family.  Cooperative play not only encourages family time, but also makes games more social and fun.

Now, who’s up for some real life Mario Kart?

Tags: youth research, Gaming, play, culture, youth media

Join Amy Henry at the Digital Kids Summit in San Francisico September 19th

Posted by Amy Henry on Wed, Sep 11, 2013 @ 10:39 AM

describe the imageAmy Henry, Vice President Youth Insights, will be presenting, “Understanding App Value: Parent’s Perspective” at this year’s Digital Kids Summit. The summit, the must-attend event for brand owners, entertainment and media executives, marketers, producers, digital media directors and licensing professionals seeking to engage children online and on digital devices, will take place on September 19 in San Francisco.

It is the last week to register online for Digital Kids Edu and Summit! Visit the website to register online before September 13th and save $100.

Need a little extra boost to attend? Enter speakervip when registering and receive a discount of 10%!

Tags: youth research, Gaming, conference, free time

What Makes Minecraft Work

Posted by Amy Henry on Tue, Apr 16, 2013 @ 01:57 PM

MinecraftAccording to the Minecraft blog, Minecraft has around 10,000,000 users globally. And it’s no surprise that a game with that kind of following has also taken the tween world by storm.  The game, created by Swedish programmer Markus "Notch" Persson and later developed and published by Mojang and now available for play on computers or the XBox 360, has inspired young users through gameplay that includes space for both exploration and achievement. The 2011 “Golden Joystick Award” recipient revolves around breaking and placing blocks, allowing youth to play by themselves or, better yet, with others, to create worlds of their own and to fend off foes. Often cited as an example of “sandbox” or “emergent” gameplay, the game relies on the simple acts of its users to inspire relatively complex gaming dynamics.

What lessons can we learn from Minecraft’s success? We polled players and other experts to identify what Minecraft gets right:

  1. "You can make anything you want." According to one kid expert, Minecraft’s open-ended game design puts kids in control. He notes that "You can build a house any way you want. You can also make statues, mines, and make tunnels." Like loose parts playgrounds, Minecraft gives kids pieces with unlimited functionality and lets them play. This game gives kids the keys to the castle, allowing them to make the world what they wish it to be.
  2. "There are also portals that take you to other places, other worlds." Minecraft combines reality with fantasy, and escape with deep strategy. While part of the game’s appeal is constructing an environment that kids control, the other appealing aspect involves discovering new spaces to explore.
  3. As one of our clients recently noted, Minecraft’s two modes appeal to younger and older kids: explore or overcome. Minecraft nimbly navigates the tricky territory between early childhood and late childhood, letting all play, while upping the ante for the older set. While younger kids might especially appreciate the ability to investigate a world without a virtual “leash,” older kids find satisfaction in anticipating and countering attacks from virtual villains. Constructive play combines with good guy/bad guy play, which piques the interest of boys of many ages.
  4. "You can download characters from the Xbox - your character can wear armor that protects you from enemy characters." Avatars are nothing new, but the ability to be who you want within the context of a world you create makes customization more concrete.
  5. Finally, Minecraft takes gameplay social. For kids, Minecraft takes the constructive play usually associated with solitary activities (think LEGO) to the social sphere.

So what can brands learn from Minecraft?

  • Put kids in charge. Let them create, and inspire them to finish the story (versus completing it for them).
  • Consider entry points for younger kids (explorers) and older kids (controllers).
  • Enable them to make it their own. Let them enter the story through avatars or first-person perspective.
  • Foster friendships. Make social play possible.

Tags: internet, Gaming, digital drugs, free time

Kids’ Most Prized Possessions

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Mar 15, 2013 @ 02:00 PM

Photographer Gabriele Galimberti’s recent project, Toy Stories, combined anthropological study with artistic endeavor to showcase children with their prized possessions: their toys. Galimberti not only captures differences in the items that children around the globe chose, but he also shows the way in which the materiality of youth suggests a shared sentimentality about the little things that children call their own. His work reminds us that children see an object's value as determined by far more than cost. They curate collections, put their action figures on pedestals and they nurture their stuffed animals not because of their cost, but because in their eyes they are priceless. His images don’t tell us the whole story, but in these objects, we begin to see them not as separate from these children, and not as “object and subject,” but as part of a dynamic relationship with the children whose identities they both influence and express.   

What are U.S. kids’, tweens’ and teens’ prized possessions? According to YouthBeat data from 2012, their top ten include a mix of tech and non-tech, of the instrumental and the intimate. Think teens have lost that tender spot for their stuffed animals? Think again! Prized Possessions

What does this mean for your brand? Don’t ignore the importance of objects when seeking to understand the lives of youth today. Move beyond seeing things as evidence of mere materialism, and instead, look for the meaning that youth make of their most loved and coveted items (and the meaning these items convey to them). And, as Galimberti’s work reminds us, don’t just ask or analyze, but look. Listen to the stories that kids’, tweens’ and teens’ tell, but don’t forget to read into these items to find the untold narratives that characterize youth culture right now.

Tags: youth research, toys, Gaming, kids tweens teens

What Makes LEGO® Likable

Posted by Amy Henry on Tue, Feb 05, 2013 @ 01:07 PM

When we think about brands that get it right with youth, we can’t help but think LEGO®. We’ve highlighted the lessons to be learned from looking closely at the LEGO® brand in numerous webinars and conference presentations. And we continue to admire the brand’s moves, and marvel in its appetite for reinvention.

Lego NinjagoBut beyond LEGO®’s strategy, there’s something that the brand just gets right when it comes to kids. Many brands could partner with Star Wars and see a spike, but what does LEGO® bring to their partnerships that make them so salient? Many brands have taken offline equities to the homeland of the digital natives with success. And recently, more and more brands have managed to matter to multiple age segments (a difficult task, although one that seems more accessible than ever). What makes LEGO® so likable not only sheds light on the LEGO® brand essence, but also on some undeniable truths about youth… 

  1. LEGO makes edge accessible. The plotline: A team of Ninjas engage in an epic battle to defeat Lord Garmadon, the embodiment of underworld evil, and a group of scale-laden serpents. Too scary for kids? Not when the characters look like LEGO®s! Whether it’s making menacing characters more comfortable to watch, putting pre-teen properties in a format that kids can embrace, or making play patterns (like the battles of Beyblades) in a slightly more benign form (Ninjago’s line of Spinjitzu Spinners), LEGO® makes exploring a bit safer.
  2. LEGO leverages the cute and the cool. Just when traditional toys take a backseat to digital doings, LEGO likability seems to rise. Boys, in particular, find solace in the systematizing play, to go along with systematizing brains, that LEGO® owns. With a look and style that feels quirky but not risky, LEGO® lets boys keep their toys in tow without losing face. LEGO® Friends, a new line from the brand designed to engage girls, lets girls continue to play Polly Pockets without feeling like she’s lingering for too long in childhood. The over-the-top cuteness of LEGO® figures, in particular, elevates them beyond babyish to a kind of cool that have helped brands like Hello Kitty keep their kid audience long after they outgrow baby dolls and stuffed animals. “Cute” might not be a concept that we associate with boys, but deep down , there might be something sweet and silly that LEGO® lets them express. 
  3. LEGO® makes little look big. Like kids, LEGO®s are the little things that feel big (or sometimes want to!). Their small stature, juxtaposed with the grand adventures they go on, make for visually arresting images, and somewhere along the way, the idea that these little figures can steer ships, fight aliens, and stop bankrobbers feels believable. With size and strength taken out of the mix, characters can be judged by who they are and what they do, not their age or size – a kid fantasy come true.
  4. LEGO® puts play in place. When LEGO® partners with a property, that property doubles its play value. No longer do products simply promote reenactment of storylines; instead, they facilitate story creation. LEGO® play invites improvisation in a way that a standard play set can’t, letting kids bring themselves to play versus letting the toy lead the way. LEGO®s let kids feel ownership of these properties, not just participants in stories that someone else has written.
  5. LEGO® pleases parents. Finally, LEGO®s have evolved, but still look pretty familiar to parents who grew up building with those little bricks. LEGO®s not only gets kids their moms’ and dads’ seal of approval, but it also gets them on the floor or sitting side-by-side with their sons and daughters, allowing them to play architect, builder, designer and artist. Few other playthings invite parent participation like LEGO®s do. And for this generation of youth, parent approval puts brands at the top of their lists.

Tags: Gaming, superheroes, kids tweens teens, TV, culture, parenting

Amy Henry Set to Present at 2013 Digital Kids Conference

Posted by Nicole Pitkin on Fri, Nov 30, 2012 @ 10:55 AM

Digital Kids 2013

Amy Henry, VP of Youth Insights, will be presenting at the 2013 Digital Kids Conference in New York City. This must-attend event for brand owners, entertainment/media executives, marketers, producers, digital media directors and licensing professionals seeking to engage children online and on digital devices returns will be held on February 12-13, 2013.

In Henry’s presentation, “Everyone Has an iPad: Sorting Digital Myths From Youth Truths,” she will share fresh-from-the-field data on youth and parents and their use of technology to help you understand the authentic habits and practices of today’s preschoolers, kids, tweens, teens and their parents. She’ll go beyond the “whats” to provide deep insight into the “hows” and “whys” of youth rituals and realities when it comes to the digital world.

Register now and recieve special discount of $100 off the going rate by entering discount code: SPEAKERVIP

Tags: youth research, Gaming, conference, digital drugs, youth media

The Secrets to eeBoo’s Streak

Posted by Amy Henry on Mon, Oct 08, 2012 @ 03:21 PM

Ever notice those “award winner” stickers on the products you’ve purchased for your kids, nieces or nephews, friends or friends’ kids? We noticed a trend recently – many of the games we’ve seen sporting these stickers (10 from Oppenheim and one from Parents’ Choice) came from the same name: eeBoo. The toys, growth charts, games and gifts from this New York-based brand seem to speak to both parents and kid, let alone the committees who identify the “best of” for the fun-seeking set. What is it that makes these pretty products play so well with today’s preschoolers and early elementary-schoolers?eeBoo

  1. Fine design. The artistry behind eeBoo images isn’t just for kids. It’s meant for the modern mom and dad who is looking to expose their child to beauty with their bobbles. eeBoo’s characters and images are authentic and original, while tapping into timeless fantasies. They look great, and they look like they were worth the money (which is more than parents would typically pay for games of the same sort).
  2. Vivid look. At the same time that their appearance attracts parents, the look of these games and toys takes in kids. The colors are bright and vibrant, signaling to kids that these educational products are meant for fun.
  3. Classic play. eeBoo does offer some innovative games – like their Fairy Tale game which encourages children to collect story elements and tell there own tale to complete the game. But most are slight variations on classic themes…Bingo in different languages…Matching games featuring original artwork. eeBoo takes time-tested play patterns and puts them in new packaging.
  4. Incomplete play. This might sound like something to be avoided, but eeBoo embraces the idea that great play for kids doesn’t do all the work for them. They need to come to eeBoo products with some ideas of their own. The education might be invisible to the playing child, but the engagement that this approach creates will be apparent to moms and dads.
  5. “Moral” materials. According to the company website, eeBoo products are “made simply of paper, cardboard, (often recycled) and non-toxic inks…Our primary sources have been recognized for their ‘green’manufacturing processes and all have been fully certified to ICTI standards. ICTI certifies that these businesses adhere to the highest health and safety requirements.” Materials that are safe and environmentally friendly? Two things that make mom and dad smile.
  6. Made by mom. While many consumers who pick up these products won’t take the time to research the back-story of this brand, some may. And those who do will find that eeBoo is made by mom, Mia Galison. (I found this out when shopping at a NYC store. The proprietor made sure I knew that these nifty products had a nice brand narrative to match!) When it comes to kids’ products, the maker matters. It might be why toy companies are often the object of exposes when their workers don’t fit the romantic image we might have of toy maker or play provider.

For eeBoo, awards might make them stand out on the shelf, but it’s the look, feel and focus on quality that make moms, dads and kids fall in love.

Tags: Education, youth research, preschool, Gaming, play, free time, youth media

Google Promotes “Play” in New and Old Ways

Posted by Amy Henry on Mon, Sep 10, 2012 @ 10:40 AM

149283248In the TV campaign for the new Nexus 7 tablet, Google suggests that classic play and app-based entertainment can occupy a common space. One spot shows a father and son indulging in all the adventures that come along with camping…Getting lost in the woods, exploring the dark and sharing a story by the campfire. What makes this spot modern? A compass app, a glowing phone and an eBook serve as essential equipment. With the tagline, “The playground is open,” the brand suggests that screens are not in competition with play, or even bounded by a digital definition, but rather, this technology can serve as a tool to enhance offline play.   

Of course, Google’s backyard camping scenario is of the most romantic kind…Even when rain threatens to dampen their day, the daring duo endure - simply retreating to their tent to watch a movie. Dad doesn’t use his devices to check email or to text in this idyllic campground. Here, technology is all about adding to father/son engagement. Even the games they play are of the “acceptable” sort – chess!

But underlying this aspirational scene is a sharp insight about a problem facing the parents of this cohort of digital natives which Google wisely seeks to resolve…Play is more political than ever for today’s parents (a subject we addressed in a blog from November of last year). Experts emphasize the importance of offline play. They bemoan the loss of free time in which kids can self-direct their play, and they suggest that media and digital technology threaten the ability to imagine. At the same time, schools are seeking to incorporate technology into their classrooms, both to help them acquire and employ up to date content in effective and efficient ways, but also to ensure that they are preparing their students with the digital literacy they need to operate in the “real” world. Our data shows that parents believe that technology is an important (and inevitable) aspect of their children’s lives, even as some feel conflicted over the role it plays.

Google makes their message stand out in the increasingly cluttered tablet marketplace by joining to seemingly contradictory ideas…Outdoor play, and sustained imaginative play (as shown in another spot in the campaign) aren’t the enemies of technology, they’re playmates on the same playground. Digital devices don’t divide families, they bring them together. And apps and tablets haven’t made exploring obsolete, but rather, they’ve made it more vibrant and energizing. Whether parents will see themselves in this vision of arcadia remains to be seen, but we think Google’s strategy smartly suggests a middle road through the tricky terrain of play today.

Tags: Gaming, play, digital drugs, Youth, free time, youth media, parenting

Do parents praise too much?

Posted by Amy Henry on Thu, Jan 20, 2011 @ 11:56 AM

Chinese mother, Amy Chua has created fervor in the past week with articles and appearances (Today Show) that preview her book, Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother, on “the superiority of Chinese parenting” to be released this week. While she claims that her tough approach to parenting is grounded in love, she has received more than a little flack for some of her essential rules: kids don’t get to choose their extracurricular activities, all kids play violin and piano – and nothing else, no TV or computer and no playdates or slumber parties. Chua blames “the Western model” of parenting for creating kids who are coddled and tweens and teens who take their opportunities for granted.

But while Chua’s cringe-worthy claims about the superiority of one ethnicity’s parent-rearing approach might sound shockingly new, her critique of self-esteem obsessed moms and dads is not. Chua resurrects the debate on how to praise your kids and instill your tweens and teens with confidence without spoiling them. Almost once a year, it seems that parenting experts and media pundits question whether all kids should get trophies, whether you can have a birthday party without inviting everyone in your class (friends and foes alike) and whether you should tell your child they can do it all (or let them know what their limits are at an early age). Parenting Book

We admit that we think Chua has missed the mark on many fronts. In our opinion (and in the opinion of most developmental psychologists and parenting experts that we know), a parent’s “job” is not to simply impose appropriate passions on their children, but to scaffold them. Raising successful children can hardly be reduced to a simple formula, in large part because one of the most important things a parent can do for their child is help them figure out what they love, and what they excel at. Parents can promote a work ethic, a sense of personal responsibility and accountability, and even a moral code for their kids to follow. But Chua self-reports that her parenting style borders on bullying – including name-calling and doling out threats – over a subpar piano performance.

Perhaps what Chua doesn’t know is that excessive praising and verbally abusing one’s children aren’t the only paths to child achievement. Self-esteem might, in fact, instill children with a false sense of their abilities. Telling kids, tweens or teens that they are “the best,” that they’re great and that they have won, even when they haven’t, sets up youth for a false sense of entitlement and for a rude awakening that will surely come when they’re least equipped to handle it. But most psychologists believe that it’s critical for parents to promote self-efficacy – that is, a belief in one’s self-worth, a true and authentic sense of what they’re really good at and where their limits lie, and the confidence and resilience that will allow them to push themselves to be their best.

Chua’s simple rules for parenting have made headlines, but it shouldn’t be news that raising children requires more than a few simple rules. It’s easier to impose than to support, to insist than to allow for exploration, and to yell than to listen. And it’s much easier to see parents as either overtly strict or overly lenient. But we suggest that seeing parents as having the possibility to teach kids, tweens and teens to love themselves and importantly, to really know themselves – the great, the average and even the not so good – will give us a clearer view of today’s moms and dads and maybe make us feel more like partners to them than critics of them.   

Tags: Education, Gaming, parents, book, family, Youth, Amy Chua