Dreamworks is teaming up with Fuhu, the maker of tablets for children to create the first tablet in which the content provider controls what the user sees. In other words, it’s more like a television. While Amazon sensibly makes sure that its Kindle Fire line gives parents control over the content available to children — and lets them set daily time limits as well — Fuhu gives parents no control at all.
The partnership is a convergence of two business trends. With children as young as 2 or 3 now routinely using their parents’ iPads or smartphones — if the toddlers don’t already have their own — technology companies are racing to introduce gadgets made for smaller and smaller hands. Fuhu itself sold more than two million Nabis in 2013, and its tablets, which are primarily designed for children 6 to 11, now collectively deliver more than 20 million video streams a week.
Entertainment companies have been surprised at how speedily children have taken to tablets, sometimes forgoing TV sets altogether. As a result, DreamWorks, Disney and their competitors are searching for ways to make it easier for users to find their characters on portable devices.
According to the New York Times piece, “Nancy Bernstein, a movie producer who is in charge of creating what she calls ‘character moments’ for the DreamTab, insists that the effort is not simply an advertising opportunity for the studio.” That is absurd. Giving content providers control over the characters and images children see is advertising. Even if the penguins from Madagascar are not specifically promoting a new sequel or toy, they reinforce brand loyalty, which is the whole point of the arrangement. I’m not in favor of tablets for children to begin with, but this is really a new low.