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Facebook boss Zuckerberg adds backing to Yoto's screen-free audio player for children

The machine is suitable for children aged between three and 12
The machine is suitable for children aged between three and 12 Copyright Yoto website
Copyright Yoto website
By Eleanor Butler
Published on Updated
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British firm Yoto makes audio players for children, designed with Montessori principles in mind of learning through play. It’s screen-free, making it increasingly popular with parents.

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Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg, owner of Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and a host of other internet-based businesses has taken a dive into a screen-free world, according to the Telegraph.

Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan are leading a funding round for award-winning startup Yoto through their philanthropic investment firm, Chan Zuckerberg Ventures.

Some $23 million (€21.45 million) has been raised in this round and, of that, some $11 million (€10.3 million) is believed to have come from the Zuckerberg team and other new investors.

Yoto, valued at $182 million (€169.7 million), was launched in 2015 by entrepreneurs Ben Drury and Filip Denker.

Telling the story of how they began the business, they said: "We both had nagging concerns around the effects of excess screen time for young children, with potential negatives around sleep disruption, fine motor control development and addictiveness of screens making us think twice about putting our kids in front of a screen."

However, they pointed out: "We're actually both technophiles and big believers in the power of the internet and tech as a force for good."

This perspective led to the production of the Yoto Player, an audio device aimed at children from three to 12 years-old.

The machine, which has bluetooth features, is designed to be usable without connecting to a phone.

The top of the player has a slot where the user can put audio cards. It can then read stories, podcasts and other content, as well as playing music.

Contributing authors include Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, and Beatrix Potter. The Dahl family is one of the start-up's backers.

The device also has a basic pixel display that changes colour, although designers have intentionally held off using a screen.

Although the effects of screen usage on young brains is not yet fully understood, some studies suggest that extended use over a period of time can lead to sleeping difficulties and concentration problems.

Unlike a smart phone, Yoto's audio player was also created without a camera, a microphone, and adverts.

According to the firm, this puts children "safely in control of their listening".

Zuckerberg isn't the first famous face to support Yoto, which also counts former Beatle Paul McCartney as one of its first investors.

Last year, the singer made two songs from his new album exclusively available on the Yoto Player, entitled Hey Grandude and Hey Nandude.

Chan Zuckerberg Ventures itself acquired an approximate 10% stake in Yoto last year and the fund's managing partner, Vivian Wu, is on the board.

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