But Mom, Everyone Has an iTouch! When Your Kid Is The Only One Without the Newest, Greatest Gadget

iTouch fund
Our iTouch fund. We’re trying to teach our kids that they need to save up for technology. But…it’s tough in our affluent community.

TFF takes a brutal look at the consequences of giving young children the luxury of owning expensive technology. 

The other day, my son came home and announced that his fifth grade class voted to have a “Bring in Your Electronics Day” at school. My son doesn’t have fancy “electronics.” And if he did, do you think we’d let him bring in an expensive toy to school?

Evidently, other parents don’t have this problem. A couple of kids routinely bring in iPads to their fifth grade classrooms. Most of my son’s classmates came back from Christmas vacation with an iTouch in hand to show off during morning meeting. (Evidently, getting a new, shiny bike doesn’t cut it anymore for a Christmas gift.) One of my son’s best friends even insulted him for not having an iTouch (“You’re like the only one in our class, dude, who doesn’t have one.”) Ouch.

My question is why do little kids need an iTouch, iPad, or iPhone? My son even told me one of his classmates broke her iTouch the same day she got it. Of course! But the parents ran right out and replaced it. This is not how I grew up. We saved, we waited, and we lived without like most families. Today, parents and children alike expect and demand the best right away, and they usually get it no matter what the consequences.

I can’t wait to see the adult versions of all these kids who get the latest, greatest gadgets now.  They’ll only be frustrated and angry adults who can’t imagine not having what they want when they want it. I will spare you the links to the enormous body of research over the years that proves this point. But that’s what giving your kid an expensive item like an  iTouch at an early age will do to them. Yes, I know everyone’s “reason” for giving their kid an i-anything. “My kid has to keep up with technology.” Maybe what you really mean is that your kid has to keep up with the Joneses.

We are trying really hard to teach our kids to save up for expensive purchases like this. As you can see, we have a family iTouch fund that is just about complete. One of my son’s friends did just this–he sold off his old technology to make the money to buy his iTouch. Maybe it’s old-fashioned to have a fund where you actually don’t have to put a toy like this on a credit card, but it’s the type of value we want to teach our kids. By time we get this iTouch, much less figure out how to use it, a newer, better version will no doubt be out on the market. And, our son will feel left behind. When will this insanity end?

As you might have guessed, we talked to my son’s teacher and the principal about this proposed “Bring in Your Electronics Day” at school. They agreed with us and the idea was nixed. We told them we failed to see how it could be a teaching moment when kids with technology would be bullying kids without.

We don’t deny our kids technology–when it’s appropriate. My daughter has a basic cell phone out of necessity now that she’s in middle school, and my son has the luxury of a gaming console and use of the computer. They each had a Nintendo DS till one broke and the other is gathering dust. No one is suffering in our house. But…I know this for sure–my kids won’t be the ones suffering when they are adults and surrounded by entitled, whining friends who have learned to value expensive things on-demand over the warmth and joy of people and experiences.

One year later: The iTouch is used by all, no one argues over it (well, there were a couple of times…), we share apps, in general, it’s truly the “family iTouch” and no one has suffered. Plus, it’s still in great shape because we never, ever, ever let the kids take it to school. Now, my daughter is saving up her own babysitting money to get her own iPad. That’s another post…


15 thoughts on “But Mom, Everyone Has an iTouch! When Your Kid Is The Only One Without the Newest, Greatest Gadget

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  2. Hello from Greenville Elementary School in Wisconsin. We are third graders in Mrs. Smith’s class. We read your blog post and had many feelings and thoughts. Some of us agree with a few of your points, but many of us did want to respond.

    Technology prepares kids for the future where there will be lots of technology. Teachers are using gadgets to teach. There are MANY educational apps for these devices. It is a good way to learn. Kids are learning on gadgets like a leap frog. There are a lot of colleges that have online classes. Using gagdets helps us prepare for our future education.

    An iPod takes up less space than tons of toys. They can be used for many things like maps, education and gaming.

    Kids need phones or technology in our world to keep them safe. Kids are involved in a lot more
    things now. Families are busy and it helps us keep track.

    Out of our class of 27 students, 24 people say they would love a new bike for Christmas so a bike is enough for many kids.

    The technology day should not have been cancelled over one student not having electronics. It could have still went on because it could teach people to SHARE their technology.

    Where is your proof that we will turn into frustrated, angry, whining, demanding adults? Can you send us the links to the research you were talking about so that we can read about it?

    Thank you for answering our questions.

    Planet Smith

    1. Hi! Thanks for writing in and being part of a very important discussion. Absolutely — I agree that the future is in electronic learning, but please re-read the post and you will see that the post is not about knocking the use of technology, the main point is about giving into a child’s incessant demands for the newest gadgets in an affluent town. Our town, and its kids, have a “keep up with the Joneses” mentality which is the main reason we started this blog over four years ago.

      But to your points….first, let me say that Tech Day wasn’t cancelled due to just one child, there were a couple other complaints if not more, but when I brought it up to the principal, he said they planned on canceling it because he didn’t feel comfortable with the idea, anyhow. The kids in this elementary school routinely use laptops/computers, etc., however, iTouches and iPads are not a mandatory piece of equipment in lower grade schools here. Are they mandatory in your schools?

      Second, I’d like to ask you if every single family in your classes can afford to buy their child an iTouch or iPad as soon as the need arises? Many of us in our community, though an affluent community, cannot and do not want to run right out and buy a piece of expensive technology just because “everyone else” has it. That’s just not how we plan to bring up our children, and, in fact, you can see in my post today, that my daughter is saving up for her own iPad in a financially responsible way rather than having us go out and buy it for her. I’m extremely proud of her, and more importantly, she is extremely proud of herself for saving up for such an important purchase. Until she gets her iPad, she has use of the family iTouch, the family laptop, and two desktop computers…oh, and a Kindle.

      Third, I will absolutely dig out research (it’s filed away since the post was written awhile ago) about why it is not good to give into your kids and get them the latest, greatest products just to make them happy. Please re-read that line: I said “I can’t wait to see the adult versions of all these kids who get the latest, greatest gadgets now.” That sentence is not about what technology will do to future adults, it’s about what giving into a child’s incessant demands and keeping up with the Joneses will do to these future adults–there’s a huge difference.

      I’ll add on to this reply with another reply. Some of this research comes from the many books I’ve read on the subject, but I will send along another reply when I gather my links and resources.

      But first, please read this article at this link (be sure to read the comments, they are entertaining): http://www.cio.com/article/701182/Why_You_Should_Not_Buy_Your_Child_an_iPad?page=2&taxonomyId=3164

      To be continued…. Thanks, Marilyn, TFF

      1. Research: Part II

        As promised, here’s the second half of my reply. I don’t think you needed to see any research on why raising entitled children is not an ideal way to raise kids into adults (as mentioned, the point of my post in question). If you do need that research, please let me know and I’ll be glad to dig further. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you were looking for research more along the lines of how letting kids use too much technology will affect them as adults. I think this one particular article link (see below) encapsulates it all. It’s a fair article looking at the pros and cons of using a lot of technology in teen years. Let me know what you think! Thanks!! ~Marilyn
        link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/02/fashion/02BEST.html?pagewanted=all
        article: AntiSocial Networking

        “Gary Small, a neuroscientist and professor of psychiatry at U.C.L.A. and an author of “iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind,” believes that so-called “digital natives,” a term for the generation that has grown up using computers, are already having a harder time reading social cues. “Even though young digital natives are very good with the tech skills, they are weak with the face-to-face human contact skills,” he said.”

        Please let me know what other research you’d like to see, whether it is on entitled children or tech-saturated children. Thanks! ~Marilyn, TFF

  3. We finally decided not to get my son an itouch. He accepted it after a little negotiating – instead he got a new pair of basketball shoes and front row tickets to go see a mavericks game as well as a party with ten of his friends. We still ended up spending a lot on his birthday though! He spent some of his birthday money on a new bicycle and a lego set also.

    1. Hi Geethaa,
      Thanks for updating us! I like your option to keep it a screen-free birthday. You can’t beat a new bicycle and Lego set! Till next birthday ;–)

  4. hmmmm tis a difficult decision. Itouches are no longer media players as well as a smart phone that is free and you don’t have a to pay for it. You call and text while checking your emails and ur twitter or face book. I think he is a little young for a smart phone like this — it’s really hightech its the most popular phone for the highschool student and college kid becuse its free you pay one and that’s it. Plus they are really expensive. Another point is I am guessing he is an elmentery student — the screen is gorilla glass very strong but glass and he might break it. I am just telling you what you would get yourself into. = )

  5. My husband works in the IT field and recently got an ipad, which he sometimes uses for work. However he is willing to let our kids use it on the weekends for an hour each on Sat. and Sun. We have down loaded Angry Birds as well as a ipad book app on there for them and may download a few other free games later.
    However my son’d b’day is coming up and he is wanting an Itouch or a Kindle fire. According to him he is the only one in school who does not have any of those devices. He is getting a b’day party and a few presents from us, including some games for his X-box as well as other toys like a skateboard and maybe a Nerf gun.
    But he is still getting very upset about this. I also am not comfortable having him save up for it because he already has an X-box, access to the computer and an ipod. I prefer not to have him spend all his time on screen devices.
    Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Geethaa, Your son looks like he does have it all covered with the X-box and iPad use, but it seems he really wants more of a mobile handheld device. I wasn’t sure of your son’s age, but here are a couple of good suggestions:

      1. Have him sell or trade in his iPod (and maybe some games he doesn’t use anymore for the X-box) to get some money towards an iTouch (the devices are essentially redundant so why have both?). My son’s friend, Sean, had to do that to get an iTouch for his birthday when he was in 5th grade and it worked out really well and Sean takes care of that device since he has ownership over it (ie: he helped pay for it even though it was a b-day gift). (BTW- I do love the iTouch, and it gets a lot of use because it is a family device so it has a mishmosh of things on it for all of us to use.)

      2. But, if the above is not an option, why not get the Kindle Fire–at least it’s a better device to push the reading habit onto your son. (Obviously you can read better on the Kindle versus the iTouch.) Then again, if you do this, you are adding yet another screen to his collection.

      It’s a tough call, but I personally like the first option because it gets your son to see wants/needs/redundancies and the power of selling something to trade up to something else rather than just having it handed over to him.

      Hope that helps!!! Let us know what you decide!

      Marilyn, TFF

  6. I am sure that he will take far better care of it than the ones you have heard about, and will grow with a good head on his shoulders. Gailkav at IMPACT is my mum, so I am like 4th Gen PennyPincher. We think it sucks as a kid, but we appreciate it as adults when logic and reasoning skills are finally gifted to us.

    Good Luck. I hope it is everything he hoped it was. Interestingly, in those few self indulgent splurges as a young adult, that not everything is as cool or as awesome as it seemed to me. I think that helped my patience a lot.

    1. Margarita, I love your comment and plan to show it to my kids ;–) Thank you so much. It made my day!! ~Marilyn at TFF

  7. Here here. They had that ‘bring your tech to school day’ at the primary school my kids used to go to. My kids have some bits of technology, but they were dreaming if they thought I was going to let it go to school.

    My kids earn their pocket money through chores, save it up (and they earn a small interest for saving) to buy something. If they can save up 90% of the value, we chip in the remaining 10% as a reward.

    My 8yo is currently saving up for a PSP. He will be able to afford it in July. I am obviously incredibly proud. Of him, and of us for teaching him that the luxuries are worth saving for. There is probably very little chance of him breaking it on the same day, its taking him a few months to save for it.

    1. Hi Margarita! Thanks for writing in. Well, my kids finally saved up enough for an iTouch. Gulp. Wish us luck. ~Marilyn, TFF

  8. I thought I was the only parent left in the world who feels this way. I have no intention of letting my son have a iAnything until he’s old enough to buy it himself (and, therefore, appreciate what it means if he breaks it). I don’t understand why kids under the age of 16 would need any of these gadgets, anyway.

  9. Great post, glad the school saw that the new tech to school day was a poor decision. Talk about emphasising materialism.@@
    Our kids are cell phones (well sort of). Kid #1 and kid #2 both have a separate line added to the parental shared bill. They get the freebie phone that comes with it, and must pay to replace or upgrade to something fancy. We pay a flat fee ($9.99/mo)and will tax are out $12.28/mo per kid. Fine. It includes unlimited texting, and shared minutes amongst the family line plan. Since the bulk of our actual use a voice calls are within plan, we have a ton of minutes leftover, which I am considering reducing. Additionally, we blocked media. No downloads, no games, no ringtones which add nice charges plus data charges, which are not part of our plan. Kids can’t send/receive photos, not an issue as this is a COMMUNICATION device, not a toy.
    Kids #3 & #4 are as of yet unaware that the new “house cell phone” that just replaced my landline I pulled (saving $22 and change/month by doing do)will be shared by them when they “NEED” a phone as they are out/away from home. Again, $9.99/mo or $12.28 with taxes/fees. I am willing to pay $36 total for 3 extra lines (the max Verizon has on a shared plan)Same restrictions as the older 2 kids phones: text and calls only. No downloads

    We are probably the only family w/o a flat screen TV although we decided that when one of our 2 TV’s breaks, we’ll get a space saving flat screen for the wall. No Ipad either, although they are good for SPED kid, who is trialing one at school.

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