The children of the late 1990s were not that likely (yet) to be highly active on the internet, although it was in the early stages of meteoric rise. Fast forward to today and children (like adults) take the internet completely for granted. They have instant access to nearly any information, this has had the effect of creating a hugely impatient modern day generation of children. They are far less likely to take the time to concentrate on highly detailed instructions or frustrating activities. Playthings need to work quickly, instructions need to be very intuitive and flawed products will be almost instantly rejected.
Screen time addiction
Screen time addiction reduces time spent playing off screens. The Playstation generation of the late ‘90s were no strangers to screens, however, the screens were not so portable, not so addictive and the software (remember when apps were called software!) was expensive, so there were usually far fewer games available versus the practically unlimited number of apps available on tablets & phones today. Today’s generation of children are addicted to screen time on a vast scale, and therefore we have a whole generation of addicts who need to put down their ‘fix’ to play with toys. Therefore, there is a challenge for toys to remain relevant to kids.
From a parental perspective though, the screen time addiction has created more impetus for playing with toys, as parents use toys as an antidote to excessive screen time. Due to inflation over 20 years, toys today are now usually a throwaway purchase as often as they are a really considered purchase, and so economically they are far more accessible. So, this has led to children having vast collections of toys that they play with far less versus previous generations.
Mass adoption of social media has significant impact on children today versus the 1990s. The biggest single impact we can point to is unboxing videos, which have both changed the toy launch marketing model but also lead to a new type of product as ‘surprise’ driven products have become the hottest sellers for the last few years. From a content perspective, children’s content viewing has increased, but with a tendency to watch more ‘informal’ content, more driven by self-made personalities. This is an ongoing challenge to the classic toy business model of ‘massive movie = massive toy sales’.