I got my first email address in 2005, when I was in third grade. In 2005, email was still new, and the only messages my inbox ever saw were chain mail from my sister and coupons from car dealerships.
I wrote letters to all my friends while we were at overnight camp, and our head counselors took away Firefly phones from those fifth-graders lucky enough to have one.
The kids I babysit today sit with an iPad at the table while they eat lunch. They ask for their mom’s phone to play games, and since it’s 2016, the 3 year old knows how to rewind the same episode of “iCarly” so she doesn’t have to shut off the TV. This is the reality we face in entertaining today’s generation, and we can’t seem to get their eyes away from screens.
According to WIRED, more than 100 kids, parents and caregivers were interviewed for research about children’s use of technology. The information gathered proved that parents “were exhausted with screen time, apps and videogames.” They were eager to find ways to entertain their children without giving them a screen, but today’s kids are conditioned to this technology.
Aware of the concern that most parents have regarding their children and how much time they spend in front of a screen, Alysia Finger and Albert Niko Triulzi made it their mission to eliminate screens from children’s playtime and bring back the simple joys kids could experience without an iPad. With this undertaking, the two developed an innovative toy called Turtle Mail.
Turtle Mail is a small, wooden mailbox filled with a roll of paper similar to that of receipt paper. Through an online application, an adult can send a pre-programmed message to the mailbox for the child to receive. With Turtle Mail, children nowadays are able to experience the joys of receiving a letter, even though snail mail is a disappearing concept.
According to WIRED, the message that is sent through the app is produced inside the toy mailbox with a thermal printer and then printed from the exterior of the toy. Parents are able to program when the message is printed to the mailbox and can also control who can send messages to the mailbox. If Grandma lives on the other side of the country, she can still send a message straight through Turtle Mail.
Turtle Mail is like the antithesis of Facebook. Unlike a website or app that is designed to be constantly refreshed, Turtle Mail is designed to preserve the novelty of getting a letter and receiving a personalized message. Turtle Mail’s regulation system allows kids to receive messages at a healthy frequency and will not condition them to the world of immediate messaging.
The sincerity, spontaneity and intimacy of receiving a letter in the mail has almost disappeared altogether since the introduction of email, texting and other online messaging media. However, as April Glaser of WIRED points out, “letter writing is an art” that no online media could replace.