Is second screen something children want or even need? Four experts give their view ahead of a debate at this week’s Children’s Media Conference in Sheffield

Jennifer Wilson
Director, The Project Factory

Rather than second screen, we think more broadly of ‘alternate screens’ that kids might want to engage with. Second screen usually presumes that the on-lap screen links to content being watched on TV. Some younger children will immerse themselves in one screen completely but as they get older, why should we divide their attention? We should focus on allowing content from one screen, character, show or story world, to link to another to extend the experience, allowing content to be more deeply and interactively explored upon demand. If we can capture the essence of our story in a meaningful way, we can create a second screen experience, whether concurrently or not.

Marc Goodchild
Creative director, IpDipSkyBlue and co-founder

Children’s TV has been a bit slow off the mark when it comes to second screen. Some of that is because commercial broadcasters are reluctant to invest in it, but in some quarters there’s also an innate prejudice that seems to be that if one screen is bad enough then two must be double-trouble. Yet there’s no evidence to prove this either way. In fact children are probably much better multi-taskers than we give them credit for. It might be that they’re the first audience who can actually make sense of the two screens simultaneously and spawn a whole new genre of exciting experiences that bridge the passive and interactive worlds.

Donnie Kerrigan
Md, Chunk

When I was wee I’d watch Tarzan while dressed in leopard print Y-fronts and stabbing crocodiles (cushions) with a plastic orange peeler. Other (normal) kids watched telly with a cuddly toy by their side. Digital companions can be alternatives to physical toys if we can change behaviours; kids go and pull out the Peppa Pig doll from their room, but it’s not instinctive to grab a tablet or phone yet. And if we understand behaviours, a doll or a cushion is just there for small interactions like a cuddle (or a stab!). If we get it right it can work.

Angharad Garlick
Head of Boom Kids

Belly-vision is here! The fear that new technology would make TV redundant simply hasn’t happened. The reverse in fact is true. It supports, it regenerates and it extends the service. The most engaged audiences are the ones who interact, who play along, share their opinions and vote for their favourites. This is true for the younger audience too, they are keen to participate and interact. The challenge is to offer straightforward, engaging and entertaining second screen content which helps them immerse themselves in the programme as opposed to distracting them from it.

Jon Creamer

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