J. Alison Bryant: The Future of Digital Play

For the fourth part of this series, we asked experts to focus their predictions on digital play by answering the question, “How will the way children play with digital media change in the coming months and/or years as a result of the coronavirus pandemic?”

A call for intergenerational and inclusive digital play

J. Alison Bryant, PhD, is Senior Vice President of AARP Research.

The COVID-19 world has impacted family relationships in myriad ways, and the grandparent-grandchild bond is no exception. In some families, grandparents have become unexpected full-time caregivers and playmates, while working parents are left with no day care options. In other families, grandparents are quarantined away due to the increased risk of the virus for older adults, with lots of uncertainty about what the future will hold and when they will be able to give hugs again. In both cases, grandparents are finding new ways to play with their grandkids across digital platforms.

My optimistic side sees a future of intergenerational digital play that breaks down the barriers of distance felt by 68% of grandparents, and recognizes that play with one’s grandchildren has positive emotional, cognitive, and health impacts. New “fixes” for virtually playing together now, like games over video chat, can give rise to innovations in the digital media space. And grandparents will be empowered and supported in digital play with kids, just like the ways we try to empower and support parents in this way now.

My realist side recognizes, however, that we have a long way to go when it comes to designing inclusively for all generations. Older adults are rarely considered (or user tested!) when new products are developed for the general market, and grandparents are infrequently part of the process in designing kids’ media—unless it is a product specifically developed for them. Inclusive design for technology will be a must-have if we want to level the digital playing field for all (pun intended!).


See more posts in this series:

Voices on the Future of Childhood

J. Alison Bryant | Andrew Przybylski | Jesse Schell | Jordan Shapiro
Juan Rubio | Katie Salen Tekinbaş | Mitchel Resnick | Tami Bhaumik

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