A couple of weeks ago this article was published, discussing the response to the creation of a new ‘smart’ playground in Rolleston. As the article explains:

“Six augmented reality markers have been added to the playground equipment at Levi Park in Rolleston, south of Christchurch, which parents scan with a smartphone app to activate games and challenges based on imaginary scenarios.

The technology, which is on a 90-day trial, aims to bridge the gap between digital and physical play. It was installed by Playground Centre using technology from Canadian company Biba.”

The article explains how most parents have reacted by pointing out that they really don’t need any further encouragement for their children to embrace technology, and that they went to playgrounds to get away from screens, not to facilitate their use.

I posted the article link on the Kiwi Play Safe Facebook page, and also took part in a discussion about it in group to which I belong. Here’s a selection of the comments that I read:

“Avalon park also has an interactive app, near the bike/scooter path. We haven’t bothered with it as kids too busy doing ‘real’ play and I’ve never noticed anyone else doing it. The whole point of visiting the playground is for physical outdoor play. It’s hard enough to get kids to disengage from screens when indoors. Let’s keep playgrounds and outdoor play screen free.”

“Goodness gracious… A big fat NO for my kids – absolutely NO need for technology at the playground. We go to the playground so the kids can run, play and self entertain”

Personally I won’t take my kids to a smart playground because even if we don’t access the interactive app my kids will see other using technology and then ask why they can’t have it too!”

“Are we not wanting kids to enjoy the outdoors and come up with their own ideas of fun.”

“Overthinking childhood to sell pointless products AGAIN. Also just how incompetent do they assume parents are to need this help? (or more to the point how much do they benefit from us accepting the idea that we are not able to parent without this sort of “help”)”

“In what world does a child need encouragement to play longer? I can never get my one to leave!!”

“I absolutely hate the impact screen time has on my kid with ADHD. It literally drives him insane, and he is totally addicted to it. I have tried everything from moderating it heavily to letting him have as much as he wants – it all ends with total misery and desperation. I know this isn’t true for everyone – for example, my older child is much more relaxed about screens generally – but it is true for us and not uncommon with ADHD kids. Playgrounds are one of the spaces we escape to to get away from screens.”

I agree with all of those comments. And I’d add this: In nearly 18 months of discussing playgrounds with parents and caregivers, I’ve never had anybody mention a need to integrate technology into play equipment, in order to give the children ideas for imaginative play. It would therefore be interesting to know whether any parental demand led to this initiative.

I’d also like to mention this comment I received on the Kiwi Play Safe Facebook page, which is about Levi Park, where the smart playground has been installed:

“It’s not far from us, but we’ve not been there for ages. My problem with that park is that it’s unfenced and at an intersection – not exactly a 100kmh road, but one of the main routes into the subdivision, so with 3 kids it’s a nightmare.”

In the article the sales manager from the company responsible for the smart playground commented that it would help to foster social inclusion and interaction, and build confidence and risk assessment skills. However, I’d argue that children who are free to play in spaces where they are protected from nearby hazards like roads have no difficulty in making up games, because they can run around and enjoy themselves without their parents needing to stay within touching distance to avoid potential accidents.

In other words, parents don’t seem to want their children dependent on technology to play!