Nickelodeon is moving into other digital realms combing with the company 2K Play to create video games based on pre-schooler’s favorite Nickelodeon TV characters like Team Umizoomi. Now youngsters are able to zone out to their favorite TV shows then plug in to their corresponding video games for hours on end. Another Nickelodeon TV series that has been transformed into a video game is Dora the Explorer with Dora and Kai-Lan’s Pet Shelter, rated “E”, which means suitable to be played by “E”veryone. The Umizoomi game is rated “EC”, suitable for “E”arly “C”hildhood years. Sherice Torres, Senior Vice President of Nickelodeon DVD, DTO, and video games, says the games “encourage active play and promote social and cognitive development”.
Really? This encourages active play and promotes social and cognitive development?
However, isn’t it common knowledge now that the last place a young child (or any child for that matter) should be is in front of a screen? As seen with the scandal surrounding products like Baby Einstein and My Baby Can Read, screen time can actually hinder brain development in young children. They benefit more from creative and imaginative playtime.
Despite these crucial revelations, Nickelodeon continues to expand further into other electronic domains. The “kids first” company is partnering with Toys R’ Us to develop a new line of gadgets based on the Nick tween show Victorious. The line includes appliances “from digital video cameras and accessories, portable DVD players, microphones and clock radios, to MP3/MP4 players, CD players, boomboxes, and karaoke machines” designed to keep your youngster constantly plugged in and isolated.
No longer do the days of creative, imaginative play exist like when I was a kid playing endlessly outside climbing trees, bike riding, and the sort. Now kids don’t know what to do with themselves unless there is a screen in front of them.
Yet, Nickelodeon hasn’t stopped there. They continues to turn their young viewers into screen addicts by linking their network series with parallel websites where kids can further engage with their TV bff’s, like iCarly. Once on the website a child is bombarded with endless choices of things to read, watch, and do, mixed in with clever and covert forms of cross promotion including links to buy the latest tween hit single or a video of an upcoming movie. As I scanned through the website myself I found it somewhat hard to differentiate the advertisements from the actual web page material, I wonder how a kid navigates between the real activities and the promotional ones. Not only that, but the website itself was quite overwhelming to the eyes. There are an abundance of pictures, moving images, links, pages, and texts, I didn’t know what to do or where to go, no wonder its so easy to get hooked into.
“The value of this exact market hasn’t yet been tallied, but a 2005 report by Packaged Facts counted 29 million U.S. kids ages 8 to 14, with combined annual purchasing power of $40 billion. Nearly 90 percent of these children are now online, which means there’s a lot of money to be made by websites that can capture the kids attention and their impressionable eyeballs.”
Nickelodeon stands to make millions off young children’s eyeballs. According to IBIS World Reports the video game industry is due to make a collective $28 billion in 2011, and the television broadcasting industry will earn over $36 billion. That’s painting a pretty wealthy picture for Nickelodeon and lets not forget about all the toys, electronics, apparel, and foods they are also producing.
It doesn’t seem as though Nickelodeon is matching up to it’s “kids first” image, but instead is cultivating a “kids first” market demographic to sell to. Even though most people (should) know that kids benefit most from person to person interactive playtime, Nickelodeon rejects that idea and pushes out products to keep kids plugged into a Nickelodeon electronic world.
- Does the entertainment industry have an obligation to the public to let them know their “toys” may be harmful?
- Why are parents continuing to buy these isolating and uneducating products?
- Is there a way to steer kids away from screens?