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Over half of children use smart devices - but still play with toys

According to a report by the NPD Group

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79% of parents with children ages 2 - 14 report that they or their children own some type of mobile device, such as a traditional cell phone, smartphone, or tablet; up from 63% last year, according to Kids and Apps: A New Era of Play, a report by The NPD Group,

One year ago, when NPD conducted this study for the first time, fewer than half of the families surveyed were smart device capable, and only about a third of children used a tablet or smartphone. This year’s survey update revealed that 51% of children are now using smart devices, and nearly 40% of the kids represented in the survey are considered a primary user of these devices.

Findings from this latest report show there was modest disruption of traditional play patterns, more so for video games than other forms of entertainment, but there has been little impact on traditional toys.

“We don’t see a trend of children, or their parents, abandoning traditional toys. Not in this report and not in the other recent surveys on how play is evolving,” said Russ Crupnick, senior vice president of industry analysis at The NPD Group. “In fact, kids are equally likely to be playing with most toy categories this year compared to last - what has dipped a bit is the frequency of participation, meaning an activity the child might have done every day in the past, well perhaps they are doing a bit less often; and dip is the correct descriptor – it’s not a crater.”

Children who use smart devices are just as likely to play with vehicles, plush toys, action figures, construction/building sets or dolls as children in households that don’t own a device. And, like kids who regularly use smart devices, children who don’t are spending more of their recreational time doing non-organized activities and sports. Most parents feel their children’s device usage hasn’t affected how much time they spend doing other activities.

“Multi-tasking is one factor favoring traditional toys in this battle for timeshare. Device usage tends to be associated with doing other activities, especially watching television. It’s hard to replace an outdoor or in-person social activity with a device,” continued Crupnick.

According to the report, the number of activities children do on their smart devices is increasing, but playing games using gaming apps remains their favourite type (87%). Gaming apps remain the most popular type of apps among children ages 2 - 14 using any smart device but, unlike last year, boys no longer edge out girls in use; females are now equally as likely to use gaming apps as boys.

Spending on apps increases
While the majority of apps downloaded for children are free, the report suggests there is more revenue in the category. Compared to last year, about one-third of parents are spending more on apps for their children using a smart device, and parents say they are willing to pay more for apps than what they are currently paying.

Consumers are more likely to pay for children’s movie apps, educational games apps, and books/reading apps. When looking across all app types, parents are willing to pay an average of $5.90 per app. “The opportunities to upsell to these consumers are significant,” said Crupnick.

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