Vacationing With 2 Kids and 8+ Mobile Devices

I’m on vacation this week with a column due and I couldn’t help but look to my wife and kids for inspiration. It’s amazing to see my family’s mobile adoption and how devices have changed our day-to-day lives.

We are a family of four with two children under the age of six and we brought eight different mobile devices with us for a week, 10 if you count our two Nike+ FuelBands. These devices included an iPhone, a Windows Mobile Phone, an iPad, iPod, iTouch, an AirBook, Kindle, and a Mifi Hub. To keep everything powered up, we brought four chargers, six cables, and two extra batteries for the Windows phone. (Wow – replaceable batteries – what a novel concept.) Even I know this seems a little ridiculous, but the funny part is, we left devices at home and have extensively used everything we have packed. Now, before parents start scolding me, we also brought a healthy stash of books, stickers, toys, art supplies, and have had marathon “Would You Rather” and “I Spy” games.

Mobile devices have not only made it easier to find places, stay connected, and share what you are doing with others. In my case, they have made for less stressful travel and happier family vacations. On a typical vacation day, the girls use our mobile devices to watch TV shows and/or movies, play games, and listen to music as well as using them as sound machines to help them fall asleep.

What really amazes me is how adept my 4- and 6-year-olds are with the devices. After watching other friends’ kids as well as those countless YouTube videos, I think their usage tracks how other children their age engage. They have no problem navigating the devices and rarely ask for assistance.

Everything Should Be a Touch Screen

One funny thing I noticed is that my kids now believe everything has a touch screen. On the first day of vacation, my youngest was completely frustrated that our digital camera wasn’t a swipe screen to browse photos. This was even worse a few years back when we had iPhone and BlackBerry devices. Even with games on the BlackBerry, my children quickly had no desire to play on it and it seems that RIM’s market share numbers and Wall Street investors share my daughters’ opinions.

Buttons Will Be Antiquated

Forget kids not remembering a rotary phone, today’s kids won’t even remember phones having buttons on them since the time is coming quickly when everything will be voice activated. For now, they are completely comfortable on a qwerty keyboard. Imagine how fast we adults could type if we started at such a young age!

They Are Social

Most games they play have an aspect of sharing. Whether it’s artwork, personally created characters, or game scores, they want each end product to be emailed to someone or posted to our Facebook pages (we try to save our friends from the their onslaught of activity). It will be interesting to see how this content creation evolves over time and whether this early mobile adoption leads to earlier social networking participation.

They Are Happy in Apps

I’ve written previously about how people are spending more times in apps with seemingly no care for the open web experience. With kids, it’s even more pronounced trend. This is in part due to the access granted to them by involved parents as well as an inability to comprehend the difference between the web and apps. Now, my kids are really too young to understand the difference, but even our 12-year-old neighbor is happy as long as he can get to his favorite YouTube channel through its app. It will be interesting to see how businesses continue to adapt to reach and engage younger audiences.

Too Much Is too Much

Of course, there are huge downsides to kids spending so much time buried in mobile devices. At times my kids can tend to resemble me, heads buried in their electronics while walking down the street oblivious to their surroundings. Luckily, my wife has a firm grasp on the amount of screen time they are allowed. One thing is for sure: the positives and negatives are only going to be amplified as kids make iPhones, iPads, Kindles, and other devices their most desired accessories.

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