Social media can be mean platforms – not only because of filter bubble roar and influencer madness, but above all because of these messages that slowly and steadily get stuck in the back of our minds: The lives of others are much more exciting, despite stressful jobs they always seem to have time for having an adventure vacation with the kids. The older ones appear to be well behaved and excellent in terms of sport and school, the youngest one falls asleep immediately every evening and then sleeps through for ten hours. Yes, there are also For-more-Reality-on-Instagram-Accounts of the stressed, but let’s be honest: They’re incredibly annoying!
The industry plays on this generation’s constant fear of missing out. That’s called “Fear of Missing Out”, or in short: FOMO! The technology industry has discovered young parents and families as a lucrative target group, and at the annual CES exhibition in Las Vegas the number of exhibitors with a focus on families is greater than ever. There is a day-long conference with lectures, “How technology can protect the little superheroes” or “Fire at will with all sensors”. But that’s also a business with the fear of doing something wrong with the offspring, after all nobody has to get a driver’s license to have children, which leads to anxious comparisons when looking at the others: Are we making mistakes, are we missing something?
It’s no longer about, as it was a few years ago, exploiting the ignorance of parents who are puzzling over why children play “Fortnite”, want to be registered with “TikTok” and what Kinzoo is supposed to be. There is hardly any educational work to be done, young parents are so-called “digital natives”, familiar with the Internet and mobile phones since early childhood; in the USA alone they have a total purchasing power of 143 billion dollars per year.
“My eight-year-old daughter grew up with technology,” says Sean Herman, author of Screen Captured, about families in the digital age and founder of Kinzoo, a short messaging service for family members. “Kids are watching closely what we’re doing and when we’re not Deal with fear of contact with technology, then they do that too.” The industry no longer has to convince parents of itself, which leads to new ideas, new products, new visions. It starts even before birth: one company offers sperm analysis for the home, another promises longer joy when fathering children via an electrode patch that is stuck where no sun shines; a bracelet is said to alleviate discomfort during pregnancy.
The companies try to make parents feel guilty
Symbolic for FOMO, but also for the mixing of virtual and real world is the offer of the company tori, which has received four awards. Children design a tree in a coloring book, they build catapults, magic wands and spaceships using craft sheets. A board with magnetic sensors in front of the screen makes it possible to integrate the handicrafts into game apps and move them three-dimensionally – the individually designed trees can be seen in the background. Children should learn how this works via products at the neighboring stand: programming for preschool children. Just don’t miss anything.
When it comes to families, the tech industry comes across as a seducer trying to make potential customers feel guilty: if you can’t sleep at night because your kids can’t, please get one of the cribs that imitate the movements of the baby’s cradle using sensors monitor the infant’s sleep in the mat and play back sounds that parents can create via integrated loudspeakers. There are breastfeeding aids and electrodes for tightening the baby bump, a board game with the help of a language assistant – and a robot that helps children build robots.
“On the one hand, we welcome the handling of technical offers when they read books on tablets or communicate with friends,” says Herman: “On the other hand, our daughter has already seen inappropriate content, learned swear words or spent several hours in front of the screen. Children watch exactly what we do. If we keep staring at our phones, so do they.”
How fitting that the technology industry also offers solutions for this. There are smartphones where parents can not only monitor usage time, but also content – and the movement profile. There are bracelets designed to encourage kids to move more to get more screen time. Not only school performance can be checked, but also the progress in learning a foreign language. The offspring shouldn’t miss anything, they should be at least as athletic, smart and talented as everyone else who can be seen on social networks. The children know: It is not “Big Brother” who is watching them, but their own parents.