David Zax

A View from David Zax

Perfect for the Tech-savvy Toddler: A Toys "R" Us Tablet

The $150 Tabeo is for the sandbox set.

  • September 11, 2012

Toys “R” Us announced it would be introducing a proprietary tablet made especially for kids. According to the Journal, the Tabeo will run $150 and be sold exclusively through Toys “R” Us. For sale October 21, Tabeo is already available for pre-ordering through Toys “R” Us’s site.

The Journal says that the strategy of making the Tabeo exclusively available in its brick-and-mortar stores is an attempt to fight the phenomenon known as “showrooming.” Showrooming refers to when parents go into a physical store to check out the goods, and then simply go home and buy a cheaper version online.

The Tabeo is ruggedized to make it more or less childproof. It uses the Android operating system, and comes pre-loaded with 50 free apps, including “Angry Birds.” Toys “R” Us now has its own app store with 7,000 titles in it. The Tabeo also offers parents easy controls to limit how much time their kids spend on the tablet, and to control which sites their kids can and can’t visit.

When the iPad and its competitors first hit the market, the iPad-savvy baby became something of a YouTube phenomenon. Because of the simplicity of the touch interface, computing became accessible to children far younger than usual. A May 22 story, also in the Wall Street Journal, noted the possible benefits and drawbacks of computing at such a young age. Psychologists are still debating the effects of the iPad on toddlers; this is uncharted territory, and the iPad is itself younger than any rigorous psychological study would take (often, three to five years). The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended eliminating TV time for kids under two, for reasons related to language delays and disrupted sleep. But they “just don’t have the data yet” on whether iPads should be excluded, too.

Where doctors haven’t yet pronounced, commerce swells to fill the void. The Toys “R” Us tablet is hardly the first oriented for kids. Take Techno Source’s Kurio tablet line, for instance, which somewhat resembles the Tabeo. It also runs Android and has a rubber slipcase, with parental features to eliminate exposure to inappropriate content. (PCMag went hands-on a while back.) Other kids’ tablets include the Fuhu Nabi, Vinci Tab, and LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer. Meanwhile, though, parents also need to consider whether it makes sense shelling out $150 for a kids’ tablet when a Kindle Fire doesn’t cost all that much more.

We are breeding a new generation for whom the touch interface is the golden standard of media consumption. We’re all familiar with the videos of kids swiping around on iPads–but have you seen this one of a one-year-old for whom a print magazine is simply an iPad that doesn’t work?

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