At a time when food and drink companies are being accused of not doing enough to cut sugar in their products, is there space for them to encourage children to live a healthier lifestyle, spend less time with technology, and play outside more?

As consumers become more health conscious, brands that tap into their desire to live more wholesome lifestyles are succeeding. But what’s the potential for companies to become the champion of putting down the tablet and going back outside? Or will they just look like they’re lecturing to tired and over-stretched parents, who know better than corporations how to bring up their children?

Are claims that technology is bad for children exaggerated?

Technology’s negative effect on children has been a heavily discussed topic in the past decade. This has grown to incorporate the use of smartphones and tablets and whether it is slowing down speech development, as well as decreasing interaction with other people. Potential to cause obesity by limiting the occasions for children to exercise, exposing kids to uncensored content, and causing vision challenges are also notable.

Technology’s negative impact on speech development has been scientifically proven, and is potentially of most concern during early years of language acquisition. In 2017 a study by the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario found that the more time children between the ages of six months and two years spent using handheld screens such as smartphones, tablets and electronic games, the more likely they were to experience speech delays.

Demand does exist for companies that help parents provide educational and entertaining experiences that aren’t reliant on technology. Food and drink companies shouldn’t lecture parents on how much screen time to give their children. But they can create products that are easy to eat on-the-go, or packaging that is fun and safe to play with. They can also invest in public places such as parks, libraries and child-friendly cafes, so that parents have plenty of opportunities to enjoy quality time with their children.

Technology is here to stay, so use it right

Even though technology has certain harmful effects, the time for questions around whether young children should or should not use it has passed. Instead, parents should focus on how they can best use technology with children.

Undeniably, technology has educational merits and can bring opportunities for young people to engage with words, ideas and each other. The key is balance.

Packaging is increasingly being made “smart”, and the ability to create fun augmented reality experiences for kids means food and drink brands will soon be drawn into the conversation of how technology can be a benefit to children, but also what limits should be placed.

Oddly enough, technology could help parents control their kids’ use of technology. A new app from Google, named Family Link, allows parents to switch off their children’s smartphones at the dinner table. Adults can also track how children are using their devices. It could prove to be a useful tool for parents who want to ensure their children are not exposed to too much screen time and are willing to have more control on the content kids view.

For more insight and data, visit the GlobalData Report Store – Food Processing Technology is part of GlobalData Plc.