2021 is the year to be ‘non-toxic’

From declining weekend screen time, to new media acquisitions of legacy brands, SuperAwesome's Dylan Collins predicts what shifts we might see in the kids space this year, and how companies need to prepare.
January 15, 2021

The kids industry was profoundly affected by the events of 2020, with big wins (edtech, OTT, animation) and hard losses (theatrical, theme parks, live action). Looking ahead into 2021, the world is still regrouping, and this will undoubtedly impact the kids industry and the moves everyone makes this year. But 2021 will also be a year of consequences.

Here are four things that I think will happen:

“Non-toxic” will be one of the most important brand safety descriptions
It’s not just parents and regulators who are concerned about children’s online safety. From social platforms to gaming environments, kids themselves are craving safe online spaces. According to a SuperAwesome study fielded in August last year, in the US, 88% of kids prefer to use social media apps that are meant to be used by children only. Eight- to nine-year-olds are most concerned about becoming exposed to inappropriate content. This age group worries about seeing something “bad” or “scary” online, and will often self-regulate activity by only connecting with friends in gaming environments and sticking to known YouTubers as much as possible. Watch for brands and agencies to invest in, and speak publicly about, non-toxic community and engagement tools in 2021.

Screen time declines slightly, as weekends become more activity based
Since March 2020, screen time for kids and young teens doubled, and it has stayed at that level. However, with further lockdowns emerging already in 2021, it’s likely that we’ll see a decrease in weekend screen time  as kids (and families) look for IRL breaks.

The first major new-media-acquires-old-media transaction
With the rise of digital media empires like Moonbug and, it’s only a matter of time before we see the first major acquisition that reinforces the new landscape. While 2020 saw plenty of M&A activity within categories (Spin Master acquiring Rubik’s Cube, Moonbug acquiring Cocomelon), the combination of growth and digital valuations give the kids newcomers an advantage for 2021. This may even be the year when we finally see a toy company get bought by a digital player.

Brands create metaverse studios to design cross-platform experiences
Be prepared to hear the word “metaverse” a lot in 2021.

This year, brands will start to create metaverse studios—teams focused on integrating their IPs into multiple digital worlds, including implementing multi-game engagement strategies. Non-gaming companies will build experiences that can be played across platforms. Games will continue to serve as sandbox tools, which kids will use, repurpose and play with their own rules–not necessarily how they were originally designed.

The ability to shift between multiple sandbox games and platforms (such as Roblox and Minecraft) will be at least as important as YouTube—maybe even more so.

Dylan Collins is CEO of SuperAwesome (part of Epic Games). You can find him on Twitter as @MrDylanCollins.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash from Mi Pham

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