With the rapid changes of technologies and the increasing number of technology toys in the market (e.g., Osmo, Luka), one may wonder: what are the popular choices of technology platforms when researchers are designing for children? What has changed in these design choices as children become familiar with a variety of technologies at much younger ages recently, as opposed to 10 years ago?

To better understand the current practices on designing technologies for children, as well as the practices on how to work with children throughout the research process, we (a group of 14 researchers from three different universities: University of Washington, University of Minnesota, Furman University) conducted a content analysis of all full papers published at IDC conference (Interaction Design and Children) between 2011 and 2019. We also compared the findings from 2011-2019 to research insights from 2002-2010. With this study, we hope to provide a lens to our community’s values, and inform future research regarding designing technology for children. 

Here are some Interesting trends we saw between the two decades (2011-2019 and 2002-2010) in the community: 

  • When designing technology for children, researchers often considered bridging the physical and digital space in their designs, which was the theme that was consistent between two decades. Tangible remains the most popular form of technology that researchers chose for their system when designing for children in the recent 10 years. 
  • Researchers leveraged a much broader array of theories, models, and framework in their research process in 2011-2019, compared to 2002-2010, including learning theories, social theories, interaction theories, etc.
  • Regarding research practices of working with children, we observed more authors made sure that the content of their system reflects children’s voices in their studies. Researchers also highlighted the importance of involving children in their research process (e.g., using participatory design or collaborative inquiry), and ensuring children’s contributions are visibly represented in their research.

IDC researchers’ platform choices between 2011-2019

While examining these papers, we also see some opportunities for future research:

  • In the analysis, we see an increasing interest in developing culturally appropriate technology interventions for children, but not a lot of work is currently acting on this interest. We think there are opportunities to extend the research work to include broader marginalized communities (e.g., diverse ethnic groups, low SES backgrounds).
  • As we see researchers drawing more knowledge and practices from different disciplines in their studies (e.g., research was often informed by theories that came from a diverse set of disciplinary sources), we think there are opportunities to encourage more multidisciplinary collaborations (e.g., between different communities that focused on children related research).

You can read more about our study findings and discussion here. And if you are attending IDC this year, join the Diversity and ethics session today for our presentation and Q&A!

Written by

Irene Ye Yuan is a third year Ph.D. student with GroupLens Research Lab and advised by Professor Lana Yarosh. Her research interests focus in the areas of Human-Computer Interaction and Social Computing. More information can be found in https://ireneyeyuan.me/.

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