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Gadgets for kids still big at tech show despite concerns

By AFP - Jan 13,2018 - Last updated at Jan 13,2018

The new Cue robots, which are designed to teach kids as young as kindergarten to code, at CES in Las Vegas on Friday (AFP photo)

LAS VEGAS — The children’s section at the giant Consumer Electronics Show this week touted “innovations that enable 21st century kids to learn and play smarter than ever “.

The timing may have been unfortunate following revived concerns of the dangers of too much technology for young children.

But, as the debate swirled, exhibitors at the Las Vegas extravaganza sought to showcase devices aimed at health, education and entertainment for youngsters, including educational robots.

Pai Technology introduced its interactive storybooks for children, which use virtual reality and according to its website “encourages a love of reading” and offers “thoughtful stories”.

Amy Braun, marketing director for the group, acknowledged concerns about kids and technology but said these devices still have value.

“Technology is here to stay, and it’s important to expose our children to technology but in beneficial ways,” she said.

“We really focus on making sure that the time that we put it in front of our children is all about learning and development. And it’s not either or.”

Braun said parents must decide on appropriate limits for screen exposure and other technology usage.

Chinese startup Dragon Touch unveiled its colourful tablet computer aimed at kids between three and six years old, with educational apps and parental controls.

Dragon Touch’s Lei Guo said the tablets may be valuable, but also suggested parents supervise their use. 

“I really don’t want my kids to spend too much time on the Internet,” he said.

“So that’s why we also have the parent control mode, so that the parents can set a time, for example maybe 30 minutes per day.”

An augmented reality toothbrush meanwhile introduced by French startup Kolibree allows children to look at a smartphone or tablet screen to motivate and educate them about oral hygiene.

“With image analysis, the application detects the brushing motion,” Kolibree’s Leonie Williamson. 

The device makes brushing a game, enabling kids to earn points by holding and using the toothbrush correctly.

Williamson said the toothbrush would not be a big contributor to too much screen time for kids: “It’s just three brushings of two minutes each day.”

The electronics show has long featured devices for children, and exhibitors typically plan their displays and products many months in advance.

But the show opened just amid fresh fears that too much technology may be harmful for children.

In the United States, the nonprofit group Common Sense Media found 95 per cent of US households have a mobile device in the home. Screen time has been shifting, the group said, from television to mobile devices.

The investors cited a recent study suggesting children are negatively distracted by digital technologies in the classroom.

At CES, Ahren Hoffmann of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, said determining how much technology to use for kids is “all about balance”.

 

“We want to make sure that our kids today are both getting outside and play, and that they are playing with traditional toys, that they’re playing board games, but they’re also using iPads and tech toys, and learning about coding and other things that are happening in the world around us today,” she told AFP at the show.

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