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…