Techy tikes: Great mobile experience crucial to win over future users

In the Searchlight: Baby, you need to create a great mobile experience or else. Plus, a Google mystery, a data center keeps its cool and more.

One demographic is going positively gaga for mobile devices -- mostly because they can't say much else. Toddlers love tablets. The results of a study released this week by the nonprofit family advocacy group Common Sense Media and highlighted in this week's top Searchlight item revealed that 38% of children under the age of 2 have used a mobile device to play games, watch videos or use other media, such as educational apps. This marks a 28% increase since 2011.Studies like this one typically are meant to sound an alarm for parents, to keep tabs on media use or to cut down the intake (in this case, the study prompted the American Academy of Pediatrics to suggest parents ban screen time for tikes under two -- yeah, right). There is also a takeaway here for you, Searchlight readers.

CIOs and IT leaders, the crayon scribblings are on the wall. If you think creating a satisfactory mobile experience matters now, it just might be the most important thing you do for the future health of your company.

The truth of this study is all around us. When my 18-month-old nephew barrels toward me with his arms waving and chubby fingers grasping, I have no illusions he's looking for a hug. He wants my iPhone. Cough it up, lady! Don't you know Elmo lives inside that thing?

Clearly neither he nor his tiny cohorts really know what's happening when they tap and slide their fingers over the screen. But they do know they like the mobile experience. They can make things, fun things, happen quickly. It's not a means to a satisfactory end that they're going to want to give up. Additional information from the study bears this out -- by the age of 8, the number of smartphone-, tablet- and other touchscreen-device-using kiddies reached 72%. You'll never see such a unique look of disbelief and annoyance as that of a toddler fruitlessly wiping his hand across a laptop screen.

The parents and aunts and uncles of these kids are the ones who stormed their offices, demanding to be able to use their smartphones and tablets for work. About 35% of Americans now own a tablet, 56% a smartphone -- imagine the saturation to come. As this generation -- the first true digital generation -- matures, CIOs, the omnipresence of these devices will be a given, and how they experience them will be up to you.

As Common Sense Media's founder and CEO Jim Steyer tells Mashable's Meg Wagner: "This trend is a big deal to the tech industry, and there's a profound impact on children and families. We've got to use these things wisely."

Check out SearchCIO.com's own coverage of these topics

Good advice for parents and IT leaders alike.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Karen Goulart, senior features writer.

This was first published in November 2013

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