Parents fall for Ikea's April Fool prank

Top: Ikea's Smaland playground where children get looked after for free while their parents shop at the furniture giant. Bottom: A posed photo showing children playing with tablets in sitting pods at the play area. Ikea's prank garnered many negative
A posed photo showing children playing with tablets in sitting pods at the play area. Ikea's prank garnered many negative responses on Facebook. PHOTOS: IKEA

Ikea, that huge place where chicken wings and hot dogs are sold alongside furniture, pulled a prank so well that few saw through it.

At 10.55am last Friday, the Singapore office of the Swedish furniture giant posted on Facebook its plan to transform Smaland - its children's playground - into an area where youngsters could play with computer tablets instead.

Said the post: "Our studies of children's play habits reveal that today's kids prefer tablets to physical activity. So we're replacing the magical forest with a haven of sitting pods with tablets - recreating the way your kids play."

Parents had to figure it out carefully - the playground is popular with children and parents who want free toddler-sitting.

Then, there is the date of the announcement on April Fool's Day.

As of 6pm yesterday, the Ikea post had received about 2,100 responses - many of which were negative.

Said Ms Jolin Poon: "I would like to see the children playing with other children, jumping into the ball pit, climbing and doing all sorts of physical activities. We don't want them to be stuck in the digital world."

Calling the supposed revamped playground a "zombieland", Ms Deniece Wong, wrote: "(Children) need physical play more than finger play. They learn social skills when they interact with other kids. They don't interact when their eyes are glued to the screens!"

The views reflected those of experts after a study by think-tank DQ Institute and Nanyang Technological University (see other report).

Ikea came clean about the prank at around noon yesterday.

But some found that it highlighted a more serious issue. Said netizen Cheong PM: "I do not see it as a joke. Rather it is a wake-up call (to) remind us that our children are doing exactly the same at home: in their own cocoon, stuck to a gadget, lost in the digital world."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 02, 2017, with the headline Parents fall for Ikea's April Fool prank. Subscribe