AI Toys Can’t Play With Messaging on Kids’ Tech Dependence

As AI-powered toys continue to evolve, parents with concerns about children's over-dependence on technology are not here to play games. Companies manufacturing AI toys can handle these with clear messaging around the developmental value of play.

AI toys face unique messaging challenges.

In 1997, I thought my Tamagotchi virtual pet keychain was the epitome of AI toy technology. That lasted until Neopets came along in 1999 with a website to take care of a virtual pet. Then Webkinz arrived in 2005 with toy-to-life capabilities—though by then, I’d somewhat outgrown the trend. 

Tech-enhanced toys have inched forward every year since then, until now, when children are regularly playing with toys, smartphones, and tablets that have advanced augmented reality and AI capabilities. Technology is everywhere, and children are growing up increasingly comfortable with tech their parents struggle to understand. But do AI toys really have a positive influence on children? AI toy companies are challenged with answering this question. 

AI toys spark joy from kids and worry from parents

As AI toys become more interactive, they raise concerns about the impact on children’s development. Parents worry that AI toys may isolate children from real-world experiences or impede their social development. Children need to engage in a variety of activities to develop emotional and physical skills, and spending too much time with technology can limit a child’s exposure to critical life experiences. 

Some of these worries were portrayed in M3GAN, a recent film about the potential horrors of AI toys, and how quickly AI might get out of control. Sentient dolls aside, AI has a real potential to take over how we run our lives. Some might worry that, rather than our machines becoming more like us, we might end up more like our machines: cold and uninterested in humanity.

For AI toy manufacturers hoping to build trust with customers, acknowledging parents’ concerns in product messaging is essential to success. AI toy companies can address parents’ questions head-on by emphasizing that their toys are not replacements for human interaction, but rather tools for social and emotional development.

AI toys can empower child development

Companies manufacturing AI toys need to be able to convey that their toys are here to enhance children’s social, emotional, and physical experiences, rather than hinder them. This message must start with a great product. Companies have an opportunity to design toys that encourage group cooperation, outdoor activity, emotional expression, and creativity. 

Moxie is one leader trailblazing the future of AI toys, a robot companion that supports cognitive development with play-based learning. Moxie’s messaging emphasizes that the toy is designed to “empower confident, mindful kids” by teaching them about empathy and communication. Similarly, Miko’s robot toy messaging revolves around the idea of “genuine friendship” and how the toy can teach children about trust and companionship.

To alleviate parents’ concerns about over-reliance on technology, toy robot companies like Dog-e and Cozmo use language that emphasizes the toys’ ability to enhance rather than replace real-world social interactions. For instance, Dog-e’s messaging revolves around the idea of the robot dog being a “playmate,” while Cozmo’s tagline highlights the toy’s ability to “inspire creativity and learning.” Messages like these encourage children to engage in play that promotes emotional awareness and well-developed social skills. The bottom line of all of these messages? AI toys are here to help your kids.

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Mindful messaging is the future of AI toy marketing

As AI technology advances and more companies enter the market, the messaging around AI toys will continue to evolve. We can hope to see a greater emphasis on their educational and developmental benefits, as well as more messaging around how these toys can enhance real-world experiences. 

Ultimately, companies manufacturing AI toys will need to strike a balance between promoting their products’ capabilities while also acknowledging and addressing parents’ concerns about technology’s impact on children. As AI technology continues to evolve rapidly, it’s up to the companies developing and manufacturing AI toys to ensure that their messaging strikes the right balance between promoting technology and empowering children. As long as they keep their messaging mindful and focused on enhancing real-world experiences, AI toys can continue to be a valuable tool for children’s growth and development.

Looking for a human approach to talking to parents? Step into the Smiths’ workshop. We’ve worked in diverse industries, and we apply rigorous standards to learn the ins and outs of every new client project we take on. Contact us today and get some help in crafting the right message for your brand.

George Menz

George Menz

Before joining MarketSmiths, George's professional experience spanned gaming, education, and big law. He is a born New Yorker and graduated from Columbia University.

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