Kids Exercising More Autonomy in Digital Content

In 2013, 89% of parents chose what digital content to buy for their kids, according to new research from PlayCollective and Digital Book World. But kids are now weighing in much more actively to determine what they read. Those purchasing decisions between kids and parents are now close to 50/50.

As PlayCollective’s David Kleeman put it at the Publishers Launch Kids Conference at Digital Book World 2015 in New York City this morning, the state of digital kids’ content is a “story of growth and maturation, of increasing trust among parents and kids’ own growing role in opting for e-reading and choosing their own content.”

PlayCollective Launch Kids DBW15 kids e-reading children's publishing

That’s despite leveling off in the device market, which is beginning to saturate. Replacement cycles of popular devices are diminishing as hardware improves, a finding that PlayCollective attributes to families having already “chosen their device of choice” and preferring now to upgrade “within the category they’ve already chosen.”

That means it’s more common now for kids to own multiple devices, continuing to use older ones even after they’re replaced by newer versions.

But while children are proving likely to use any of the tablets they own for e-reading, there’s more content competing for their attention on the same devices–an issue that may only grow as kids’ autonomy in consuming that content rises.

Warren Buckleitner, editor of Children’s Technology Review, points out that enhanced features are a double-edged sword when it comes to keeping children engaged. Some researchers say enhancements cause distraction and reduce learning, but others suggest it increases the personalization kids now expect and improves the depth of their engagement.

Whichever the case, children’s publishers still tend to begin losing kids to other media by about age eleven, according to data presented today by Neilsen Book.

In the meantime, parents appear more willing to let their kids determine what and how they read on digital platforms. PlayCollective found parents are becoming more comfortable paying more for children’s ebooks–especially parents of younger kids; the expected price point has nearly doubled in two years.

children's publishing Launch Kids DBW15

When it comes to how these trends will shape the children’s landscape in the months and years ahead, though, Buckleitner says “digital is just messing up everything.”

Managing the mess–and making hay from it–will increasingly be a matter of crafting content that plays to, rather than against, kids’ growing autonomy in the digital space.

Images courtesy of PlayCollective and Digital Book World’s The ABCs of Kids & E-Reading: Volume 4, available tomorrow from Digital Book World.

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