For parents who shop at IKEA, you’ll be aware of the challenges that can come from letting your kids loose in the enormous homeware wonderland, splitting your time between shopping and trying not to lose your offspring! Many of the IKEAs around the world actually offer wonderful supervised play areas that you can leave your kids in while you wander around the store unfettered by the demands of youngsters dragging at your coat tails.
It was therefore no small wonder that parents were horrified when they saw IKEA’s Facebook post informing customers of the changes about to be made to their onsite child playgrounds. The famous flat-pack store posted to their customers in Singapore that their child-friendly areas were about to become a ‘tablet heaven’ with every child at the playground given a tablet. The “modern update” they told parents, would keep their children “staring and tapping” for hours.
It’s customary for many retailers to join in with April’s Fools Day jokes these days, with Ikea being no exception and traditionally playing a prank on customers somewhere in the world on April’s Fools Day. But this time the joke was so good that it almost backfired, with concerned parents not always the most humorous section of society. This year’s April Fool’s Day playground prank was intended to highlight the worries of many parents about their children becoming over-saturated with modern technology.
IKEA had suggested that it would be getting rid of all the brightly painted furniture and colourful toys, installing instead a tablet station. Photographs that accompanied the announcement showed ‘zombie-like’ youngsters staring blankly at tablet screens, each child sitting in their separate pod, oblivious to the world around them. A post on Facebook read, “We’ve changed and made our in-store playgrounds into the way children play at home – staring and tapping”.
Many parents were not amused. In response to Ikea’s April Fools playground prank, complaints poured into the store via Facebook and Twitter. Many parents still did not get the joke, with the outrage caused by IKEA’s playground prank bringing to the surface the notion that maybe we have lost the ability to spot a joke, or alternatively that this we’ve become so reliant on screens that this was somewhat believable.
Many commentators said the IKEA prank was so believable in some respects that it was inevitable some parents would get caught out. On the store’s website the announcement suggested that “their studies of children at play revealed that children preferred to play with their tablets than to engage in physical activities, so they were waving goodbye to colourful toys and games, to say hello to zombie-land”
Many parents fell for it hook, line and sinker, and perhaps there’s a warning for us in that.