Five Things Your Kids Don’t Really Need

by Vered DeLeeuw · 62 comments

Is it just here in Silicon Valley, or are elementary school kids throughout the country walking around carrying cell phones and smart phones? The first time I realized one of my daughters’ friends, an eight year old girl, owns a cell phone, I was taken by surprise. Since then, I’ve learned that a full third of the kids in my daughter’s class own a cell phone, and a couple of them own a smart phone.

Most Young Kids Do Not Need a Cell Phone

Why does an elementary school child need a cell phone? I can see the logic in getting a mobile phone for your middle school child. By that age they are far more independent and spend time away from you. Giving them a cell phone with a limited plan would help you stay connected, make sure they are safe and enable them to get in touch with you should something happen.

But young kids who spend the vast majority of their time with their parents, those that are dropped off and picked up from school, play dates and activities, why do they need a cell phone? Aside from it being a status symbol for the kids, it seems wasteful.

A Collection of 50 Webkinz

The concept behind Webkinz is genius – these plush pets come with a “secret code” that enables their owner to play on the Webkinz World website. It’s a great way to entice kids to buy more and more stuffed animals, even at an age when normally they would lose interest in those. Indeed, the parent company behind Webkinz is Ganz, maker of plush animals.

In addition to buying too many stuffed animals, kids who play on the site inevitably discover that the best parts of the site are for members only – and this membership costs money, of course. Another smart feature (smart for the company, that is, not so much for parents): each Webkinz purchase enables your child to play on the website for just one year. After that, they have to purchase a new pet in order to renew the account.

Abercrombie Kids and Other Designer Clothing

Do kids really need a full wardrobe of designer clothes? More and more of the children in my older daughter’s class (fourth grade) are wearing Abercrombie Kids, and I have to wonder about this choice.

Many criticize this company for selling overpriced casual clothing, exchanging parents’ money for the promise that their kids would be “cool.” Critics point to many issues with the company, including its employment practices (especially their notorious ‘look policy’), merchandise, and advertising campaigns which have been described as sexually explicit and racist (Source: Wikipedia).

The way I see it, kids don’t need designer clothes.  They certainly don’t need an entire wardrobe of designer clothes, and they need to know about the values behind the companies they purchase from. It’s important to teach kids from an early age that there are values that are more important than “being cool” and that being cool, in the shallow sense of the word, is not necessarily something they should aspire to.

A Wii

Yes, we own a Wii, and I am not proud of it. It was a birthday gift to one of my kids, and we gave it to her on the clear condition that if she wants more games, she would need to pay for them from her own allowance. Personally, I see Wii, iPod and all those other electronic distractions as something that causes the current generation of children to miss out on a lot. They don’t play the way we used to play. They don’t use their imagination, they expect to be entertained all the time, and when they are not entertained by an activity or a gadget, they’re completely lost and are unable to figure out what to do.

Having said that, as a grownup my life too is very different than previous generations’ – whether we want to or not, life is forever changed by technology.

A Club Penguin Subscription

Much like Webkinz, the genius of Club Penguin is that they offer a “free” subscription, but kids quickly realize that all the fun stuff is only available to paid subscriptions. At about $6 per month, this is something that my kids can pay from their own money, and indeed we ask them to do so. Each month they are faced with the decision of whether a Club Penguin subscription is worth giving up on other things they want, and this helps introduce the concept of budgeting and prioritizing.

I’m not above buying my kids things they don’t really need. In fact, my kids are surrounded with things they don’t really need. But to continue on Miranda’s thoughts in a previous post, it’s important to remember that there are many things we can live without - and this applies to our kids too.

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{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

Miranda July 8, 2010 at 5:18 am

I agree. I’m not sure why we think kids need all this stuff. I’d add an iPod for elementary children. Also, their own TV. We’ve got one TV in the whole house. It’s in the family room. I’m not sure why a child “needs” a TV in his or her room. In the end, I think it’s better to help them learn to value in helping others and not place a lot of stock in things.

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vered July 8, 2010 at 8:05 am

I agree about TV – I know a couple of 8 year old kids who have their own TV in their own room – just seems like a bad idea.

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MoneyNing July 8, 2010 at 9:04 am

TV has been something I’m thinking about reducing for Sara when she grows up. It just seems like there are “better” things to do most of the time.

I contribute at least half my success on the lack of interest in watching TV and I’m sure everyone can just do more (kids or adults) if they aren’t sitting in front of the tube from 5pm to 10pm every night.

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KM July 8, 2010 at 9:56 am

I can’t even imagine watching TV for that long. Sure, I love the occasional Star Wars marathon or even watching a movie or two in a row on a gloomy day/evening, but I would get so bored watching something every single night. Not to mention that the commercials would drive me crazy. When I lived on my own, I didn’t even have a TV service and just watched a few of my favorite shows online. I still find myself short on time without watching TV, but I can’t imagine how little I would get done if I did.

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MoneyNing July 8, 2010 at 10:58 am

Another is video games. I used to play A TON of games when I was younger. I wonder how much time I’ve wasted between that and TV.

I sure hope I can get my daughter away from this before she gets addicted.

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Tiffiney July 8, 2010 at 10:59 pm

I stole an idea from an article and it works great with my kids. We give them a certain number of beads at the beginning of each week. The beads are worth 30 minutes of screen time. In our house that’s tv, Wii (gift from well meaning grandparents) or Internet.

We also incentivize them not to spend the beads by paying them 50 cents for each bead not spent by the end of the week.

We give them a very limited number of beads and it’s been very interesting to watch as the beads became precious. We can almost see them considering, “Do I really want to spend a bead on this?”

Split Cents July 8, 2010 at 5:26 am

So true, especially regarding the cell phone. And giving a kid under 12 a smart phone just seems patently absurd. Not only is it completely unnecessary (these kids should never be far from an adult with a phone, anyway), but given all the recent coverage in the NY Times, Wall St Journal, etc of the potentially devastating impact of cyberbullying… Its just asking for trouble.

Just let them wait a couple years; then, almost all their peers will have cell phones (the Pew Internet & American Life Project estimates that 75% of kids 12-17 have cell phones, and half of them send >50 text messages a day.)

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daphne July 13, 2010 at 2:17 pm

My son has had a tv in his room for years. He has has all of the items you discuss as not being necessary ( tv, ipod, smartphone – he is 11). He is an only child. We can afford to do that. But I do agree that is it no NECESSARY. And my husband and I strive to teach our son that there are many more things to do other than sit idly watching tv, playing a game about a real game, listening to someone etc. There will be ample time to sit and do nothign when you are an adult in the workforce. However, our decision to buy our son a phone at a young age was based upon a situation that occurred to US. Not based upon his friends or any polls or being cool. He is still one of the only kids his age that has a cell phone much less a smart phone. And he is heavily regulated on it. The biggest issue that parents have is not just that their kids HAVE access to MORE, but how to balance it. If you as a parent are always online, on the phone or watching TV, it is quite hard to tell your kids not to be. My son has outlets to play (outside w/ friends and US), to read ( a lot of that), to do for others and experience what we did as kids. We make sure he does. Don’t allow anyone to push you into getting things for your kids. Who is the adult? Your kids will go with what you show them to be the best way. As parents we must take the lead.

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kt July 8, 2010 at 7:03 am

but the thing is that the little kids make it seem that they will die if they do not get these things. True they dont need them but sometimes it is good to give a kid something like that just for them to fit in with their friends. It feels really bad when all your friends are going all over the place in their bikes and the kid is just left to sit and watch. I would rather give the kid something like a playstation 3 but have a set timetable when they should use it instead of denying them the fun of owing one. But small kids really do not need cell phones

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MoneyNing July 8, 2010 at 11:03 am

Good point. Fitting in plays a huge part, and I have to go back to the parent’s decision to buy a house in certain areas.

It’s hard for your children when all his friends have $10,000 birthday party budgets, so think twice before you spend all your money to live in the most expensive neighborhood.

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KM July 8, 2010 at 7:38 am

From what I noticed, kids who have all these things also have parents who would rather buy them something to keep them busy rather than spend time with the kids themselves. I plan on teaching my kids the value of being able to use their imagination and come up with ways to have fun like I had to do when I was young, and I just hope I can do it despite the outside influences of school, neighbors, etc. Somehow I never got sucked into peer pressure and didn’t care if I was “cool”…I thought I was pretty awesome as I was…but I grew up in a different culture, where there were no such things as cliques or peer pressure and by the time I understood what it was, I was old enough to resist it. All I can do is hope that some of that transfers to my kids.

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Cd Phi July 8, 2010 at 1:50 pm

I couldn’t agree more. Growing up, my peers were all pretty privileged. But most of the time that meant that their parents worked a lot so they had those cool gadgets to play with to keep them company. They had the newest cell phones, the nicest cars, and hot new designer clothing. I, on the other hand, had a home-cooked meal every night and my family to come home to. Instead, my friends often came over to my house because it just felt more like home even to them which was kind of sad now that I think about it. The craving for material possessions is really a sickness of our time.

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Todd July 8, 2010 at 8:03 am

I am not sure how old the poster of this article is but I grew up with Atari, Commodore, and the like. I am not sure how the Wii is any different. If anything, I find it is something that I can do with the kids. The current generation of parents grew up with gaming systems. We have jobs now, pay bills and live sort of like our parents did. The phone I agree with…the iPod I only agree with in that I would buy a much better/cheaper mp3 player. I want my kids to appreciate and like music. Designer clothing…dead on, I wish all schools would switch to uniforms. Webkinz…not sure about. Just because I do not relate to it does not make it wrong per se. My folks probably did not understand Star Wars action figures but to this day, I would not trade any of my afternoons of playing Star Wars with my friends for just about anything.

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KM July 8, 2010 at 9:44 am

I agree with uniforms…I had this opinion for a long time too. Kids can express themselves through activities and using their mind, and they don’t need clothes to express themselves (which is the most common argument against uniforms).

As for the gaming systems, while I grew up around them too and would still play games on my Xbox if I had the time, I think it’s important to limit that kind of technological interaction in younger kids and teach them to do more physical things, like going outside to play or building things with Legos. They will get used to being active instead of sitting in front of a screen all day long and they will learn to be more creative. Video games, while a lot of fun, limit a person’s mindset to a predetermined path, and if kids overuse it, they will not learn to think outside the box. I am just saying there needs to be a balance to everything.

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Benjamin Bankruptcy July 8, 2010 at 6:24 pm

True I used to play video games/watch movies and then build the stuff with lego. Viva La LEGO.

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Big Cajun Man July 8, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Your kids don’t need you chauffeuring you everywhere either, they need a nice sensible Bike to get them where they need.

And when they turn 18, maybe they can get a nicer bike, but NOT a Car….

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daphne July 13, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Yes, so someone can snatch them off of it. Nope. My son gets to ride his bike with US. Or in a controlled area. Means more work for my husband and I, but he is my responsibility.

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Mountain John July 16, 2010 at 12:34 pm

I disagree. I got a car first chance I could because even biking I couldn’t get anywhere. The nearest store (a gas station) was almost 10 miles away and the nearest friend’s house was more like 20 miles away. However I had to buy my own car, pay for the insurance, gas and repairs myself. I didn’t get an allowance so this meant that I needed to work a job if I wanted to drive, which was more than fair enough for me. Having the car was the real transition to adulthood, I learned responsibility and it opened up the possibility of going places that my parents who worked and were never home couldn’t take me.

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robert July 19, 2010 at 9:54 am

Yeah, I have to agree with the other posters, not having a car is totally unreasonable. It may work in your neighborhood/city but definitely not in all. I live in the midst of Souther California urban sprawl. There isn’t an efficient public transit system and high schools are large meaning a teen’s best friend possibly doesn’t even live in the same city. Further, from experience, I know that if a teenager doesn’t have a car and the parents won’t give them rides, the burden simply shifts to the friends. You’re not punishing or teaching your teen a lesson but simply burdening their friends.

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erin August 9, 2010 at 12:34 pm

paranoid much? Seriously, though. The likelihood your child will be “snatched” from anywhere is incredibly small. Much more likely a family member will snatch them. Let the kids roam.

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Linda August 9, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Erin, apparently you have no idea who Shawn Hornbeck is. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/09/24/48hours/main4474670.shtml
Or Ben Ownby. http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/16641405

Kids DO get taken MORE OFTEN THAN YOU THINK. The odds are not “incredibly small”. You shouldn’t post incorrect information and pass it off as fact unless you are someone with statistical facts and knowledge. Your opinion is not based on facts.

I work to gain media coverage for all of the missing children out there who get no face time since they aren’t “pretty enough” or whatever the lame reason may be.

Don’t be so quick to call someone “paranoid”. You don’t know what it’s like to have your child snatched when riding their bike or taken from their own bedroom window by a sexual predator. And quite frankly, your post is insulting to those who do know what it’s like …

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Nils August 26, 2010 at 12:14 pm

But Linda, you are wrong and Erin is right.

Consider these numbers: Every day in this country about 2,000 children are reported missing. That means close to 800,000 kids are reported missing every year, but only 115 kids a year are victims of what is viewed as classic stranger abductions. This is a really, really small number. Just a little over 0.01% of all missing children are “snatched”. Most missing kids are taken by family or run away, and most of the rest are taken by people that they know.

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Cath Lawson July 8, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Hi Vered – My kids play on too many electronic toys and I really regret giving into them. As you say, it doesn’t encourage them to use their imagination at all.

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Benjamin Bankruptcy July 8, 2010 at 6:23 pm

I had an atari and a sega entertainment system. I’m not sure they’re any worse than movies which I know my great grandparents thought was worse than books which their great great grandparents thought was worse than field work (idol hands are the devils tools.). Sure literacy is great but when you use it to read things like Harry Potter or Mills and Boon it’s not much of a gift (i’m not plugging illiteracy here).

I was playing on computers from a really early age and it set be up for a successful life.

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vered July 8, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Your perspective – and Todd’s – is interesting and completely valid. Perhaps it’s all very normal – after all, each generation is different. I grew up in the 1970s and I do know for sure that we used our imagination more, had more face time with friends, read more books, spent more time outside and were a lot less materialistic than today’s kids. But perhaps that’s not necessarily better – just different.

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KM July 9, 2010 at 7:33 am

I think the key is balance. The newest generation of children must learn the technological ropes in order to be successful in the world, but it shouldn’t occupy all of their time. I admit to being sort of “addicted” to online games when I was in high school, but although it meant less time in the outside world, I also gained a lot of friends from all over the world and learned about different cultures. Then I visited them and received a free place to stay and a free local tour guide. I also learned a lot of other skills like programming, webdesign, and graphics design/3D modeling during my computer “addiction.” But most of that was during high school, when I didn’t feel I was challenged enough with school itself, so I think allowing younger kids to do the same thing is probably more harmful.

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CreditShout July 13, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I’ve never heard of club penguin, but I agree about all of the other things kids don’t need. I didn’t get a cell phone until I started driving. I can’t say for sure since I don’t have kids yet, I can’t see myself buying them phones before high school…But I do hate seeing youngsters walking around in designer clothes. It makes them snobby and they probably only get one use out of them before they spill something on themselves.

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clare July 14, 2010 at 12:19 pm

ok my daughter just turned 11. She has a lap top a cell phone and an ipod. These “things” have never been lost or broken or abused. If we could not afford them she would not have them. But she spends more time in the pool in the back yard than she does on anyof them combined lol. But when the schools are requring some homework be done online, in the 5th grade, and we dont keep a house phone, cell phone was needed. its 2010 not 1980 lol. All these items are a part of the times dont be a dorky parent. If the child has earned it , and is mature enough why not?

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Simon July 18, 2010 at 7:46 pm

I agree with you, Clare. As a teenager at the age of 15 living in New York City, my perception of technology is that it is a necessity. Entertainment-related reasons aside, I need daily access to the computer and the Internet because the school that I attend regularly distributes educational materials and makes announcements regarding assignments. I also agree with those who have said something along the lines of “If you move to somewhere expensive, you must raise the bar, even while still being frugal.”

It’s 2010 after all. Technology has become integrated into many peoples’ lives. On the other hand, I consider the things that are not necessary to be designer clothes, cell phones before entry to middle school or high school, depending on the circumstances. As for something like Webkinz or Club Penguin… I have heard of them when growing up, and by that, I mean the during 5th and 6th grade. I actually had not heard of them when younger, and by the time I did, I had already considered them to be inane. But on the other hand, I played online MMORPGs during the time. Looking back, I have absolutely no regrets in doing so. Things are great in moderation, and if within budget, I think it would be unfair to deny those of this generation the opportunity to experience, firsthand, these elements of their day, if the financial situation permits.

Something like uniforms to combat the problem of designer clothing… I disagree with this. I mean, New York City is a fairly liberal city with that aspect, and I do not know of the educational jurisdictions of other states or cities. My parents and I are relatively frugal and we do not purchase any of those large, expensive designer brands. It’s normal clothing that we purchase, and normal clothes that we select based on how we think they look. Those who can afford those designer clothes, great for them. No bearing on the rest of us.

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Nina July 22, 2010 at 9:15 am

I’m with u ^^

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Moneyedup July 14, 2010 at 6:57 pm

I remember when play was a thing done with friends outside. Sometimes it didn’t even cost a dime if no sports equipment was involved. These days play can cost families thousands of dollars in video gaming equipment, toys and subscriptions for online. The summer time can be the perfect time to get kids doing fun activities that don’t require parents spending tons of cash, like simple science experiments, crafts, summer camp games, or playing sports. One of my favorite summer time activities is to make homemade popsicles.

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robert July 19, 2010 at 9:41 am

I totally agree with everything you say with the exception of the Wii. There is no harm in a child finding entertainment in a video game nor watching TV for that matter. I am a product of the up and coming generation that was raised on all this technology yet I don’t crave attention or entertainment at every moment as you claim. That, to me, is something that occurs and has occurred with all children. Take a child to somewhere they obviously won’t find amusing (the DMV, bank, or any errand) and they’re going to be displeased and bored. Kids aren’t mature enough to rationalize why they are there other than the fact that Mommy said so (which usually is the reason). Why do you think that some places like banks and doctor’s offices have play areas set up. It’s nothing new that kids want constant entertainment, they’re kids, this should be obvious.

Further I totally disagree in your argument that they’re lost and don’t know what to do. I had a computer in my house hold since I can remember and now work on them as my job. I have always spent a lot of time in front of a PC and my parents (along with me) were criticized by my grandparents for letting me do so but now it’s how I pay the rent. No, a child’s imagination, creativity, and exploratory nature isn’t stifled by new technology like the Wii, computer, or TV but just redirected into those machines.

Finally, what I think is constantly overlooked and misunderstood is the nature of video games amongst friends. Video games aren’t lonesome activities played by loaners in their parents’ basement, they’re the centerpieces of social gatherings. Plenty of times I have gone to a kickback and a video game been the entertainment. How is this any different than a board game?

Don’t worry, a video game like the Wii will never replace something as classic as swimming or hide and go seek. Instead video games are just another way for kids to get together and be amused.

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Grace Choung July 20, 2010 at 12:25 pm

I’m not a parent, but I do believe that I can write an opinion that comes from a perspective that is a part of this generation. I can admit that children under 11 are young to have their own television and/or cell phone, wear designer clothes, and play video games. I believe most parents are concerned for their children’s well-being, but I think parents need to learn how to set limits. I have no right to educate individuals who are house-hold disciplinarians. Please understand that I have no intention to offend any parent in any way. I just want to speak from a perspective of my up-bringing and how my parents dealt with this issue.

Designer Clothes: I never bought expensive clothes, but I did wear designer brands. What’s my secret? My mom took me to Ross, TJ Maxx, and outlet stores to get them at a cheaper price. When I was 11, (when I didn’t have money) my mom bought them for me and taught me the lesson to value money. As I grew older, my mom instructed me to buy my own clothes using my own allowance. I began to appreciate my money and bought things that Ineeded. learned the difference of needing and wanting things. I noticed my friends who bought clothes at a ridiculous price became matieralistic; I didn’t. I live a simple life, but I do recieve peer pressure whenever I window-shop with my friends when I hang out with them at shopping malls. It’s normal that children want things, but parents, I beg you to teach your children that life is meaningless if their lives become self-indulgent and dependent on such things. Meaningless, it’s all Meaningless. If you’re children really want to buy something, tell them to get a job.

Cell Phone: I got my first cell phone in my last year of Middle School. At that time, it was considered that I was too young to have one. Before technology got fancy to creating the iPad and such, a few years prior, people told me that I was matieralistic. But now, elementary students are having cell-phones and it blows my mind that parents are allowing it. Before I jump into conclusions, there must be a motive why parents allow this. Circumstances and situations change over time and some values might change. I understand, but question yourself why your kids really need one. I only got my phone because my mother who was a home-maker started working again and my father was always out of the house working. I wasn’t matierialistic at all, I just needed a phone to contact my parents. I’m the oldest in my family so maybe that’s another factor why I got one. My younger brother didn’t get one until he reached that same age to get one.

Television/Video games: I hated playing video games, so I was always out with my friends at the park. When it came to television, I never allowed myself to watch more than a hour. I set my own limits on how much I spent my time. But most of the time, I was with my friends at the park. I believe it is important that children should go outdoors to get some fresh air. On the other hand, my brother is a video game and t.v. junkie so I saw that he got lazy and prefered to stay indoors (and became a little obese as well). My parents decided to set limits on him and eventually, he started playing basketball and football. Set some limits, it’s a good lesson.

Overall, that is my upbringing and maybe you can get some insight how my parents dealt with the issue. I am no where close to have children, but I do babysit as a job and I do keep the values my parents taught me to teach values, morals and to educate everyday lessons that are applicable. One day when I do have children, I will remember what my parents taught me and maybe I can do the best I can to be a great parent. It’s not like parents are horrible to give in to their children; they want to see their children happy. What crime is it to buy your children things? But remember that having a family is the best gift any child can have and hopefully, they can remember that family is much more important than what riches can buy.

I learned all this the hard way. I was no different to any child growing up. I just grew up.

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PK July 21, 2010 at 9:55 am

I want to jump in as to why a parent would buy a cell phone for even a young child.

Many cell phone providers allow GPS tracking software that allows the parent to track the child’s moves. Unless you are a typical surbanite who ferries your child to and from every place they go at all times, it’s good peace of mind. In addition, many providers allow, for an extra fee of course, to turn off certain “smart” features such as internet (reminds me of the concept of a paid “unlisted” number.) In addition, rather than tracking your child to every location and keeping a list of those numbers, you can use just one number to call and check on the child. That leaves one last major issue: affordability.

If you already have a mobile phone (and most young adults do), then getting a family plan is probably another 30 dollars or so after adding in the features above. Not so bad for peace of mind and convenience.

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Nina July 22, 2010 at 9:13 am

I don’t agree =P
One reason, i’m 13 and most of this stuff I have.
Second reason, I think we need this stuffz

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Me July 23, 2010 at 10:20 am

Thank God I wasn’t raised by the writer of this article… While I agree these things are not needed, isn’t getting/doing things as a child that might not be absolutely necessary, part of being a child. Additionally, letting your child have the electronics/on-line type toys and video games (within reasonable bounds) is helping them with their knowledge/comfort of such things which will be valuable as they grow. An ounce of commonsense can go a long way… I wouldn’t buy only clothes with a logo, but having a special shirt or pants is something a child can appreciate… use these times to talk with your children about needs vs. wants, about fun vs. exercise, about the money that purchases these items… Raise your child by allowing them to have fun, learn and talking with them… not by what they get/don’t get or do/don’t do….

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Silver Fang July 23, 2010 at 11:31 am

I didn’t have a gaming console, cell phone or computer growing up. I did have a TV in my room, which I know some consider anathema. It never caused any harm and let me watch what I wanted while my parents watched what they wanted. What’s the harm in that?

I think it’s fine for kids to have those things as long as that’s not all there is to their lives. I think it’s reasonable with the youngest of children to set firm limits on how long phones and computer may be used, but to loosen the reins as the kid gets older and allow them to take responsibility for their own use.

I think a good cutoff for the cell phone is entry into middle school/junior high, whether that be in the sixth or seventh grade. That is the time when kids start to branch out and explore the world beyond their backyard. It’s also a time of meeting many new friends and getting involved in sports and activities.

Allowing a kid to have a phone, but making them have a stake in it, such as paying for their own text messages, ringtones, etc. is a good way to teach them fiscal responsibility.

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lovemom July 24, 2010 at 6:43 pm

As much as I’d like to agree with the author, I don’t. In this day and age all kids should have a phone. We’re living scary times and anything can happen, at any time. Our kids need to feel safe and frankly we do too. By being able to dial and connect we can achieve this. I personally got my kid started on her first cell when turned 11 and just in time for middle school. It’s an exciting experience that can turn very scary. So decided to get her settled with a prepaid cell phone, TracFone to be exact. It’s been a year and so far so very good. She gets 200 minutes a month for $30. It’s more than plenty minutes for her since she’s not on it 24/7. Just having a cell has helped her tremendously – learning about budgeting and management of her time. A win / win for her and for me. She gets what she wants and I don’t get to spend much in the process.

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sue July 25, 2010 at 6:24 pm

I couldn’t stop laughing at the article. It is another way parents blame “things” on bad parenting. It is like parents who blame McDonald for making their kids fat, blame the teacher if their child is not performing well in school, or blaming the coach if the child doesn’t understand the rule of the game. The world is full of destraction, fattening food, over crowded schools, and volunteer coaches. As a parent it is your job to teach your child about how to manage the destractions (toys, wii, cell phone) and to use them in a positive manner (McDonald as a special treat, cell phone for emergencies, etc.). It is your job to teach your child, not the schools or coaches.

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GE July 27, 2010 at 10:29 am

Imgaine if you will, it’s 1910 and not 2010. I can hear the parents of that generation wondering about electricity, the automobile, and yes, even a phone – in the house no less (can you imgaine the idea of indoor plumbing, etc. . while they’ll be spoiled for sure.)

The point is that whether we are discussing now or a time one hundred years ago (or hopefully it we don’t screw it up too bad, 100 years from now), the parental generation will always wonder if the new technology is necessary or go about obtaining everything they can afford for their offspring. As with most everything in life, is it not about moderation, appropriate involvement (lets not go down the helicopter parenting thing please), and oversight of those we’ve been blessed to provide guidance and direction to?

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David July 28, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Your crazy on the video game stuff. I was a freaking Basic programming machine at 8-9 years old on my Apple II circa 1982. But I still loved wasting countelss hours playing games on my Intellivision. There is nothing wrong with kids playing video games provided it is a reasonably social activity (read: not playing World of Warcraft for hours and hours alone in a dark room). Should we fault kids of today for the fact that games are a zillion times better than what we had? I can’t imagine how many hours I watched a red line dance across the screen of my colecovision football screen….

It is certainly true that computers have morphed from being a tool to being an entertainment device as they have grown more sophisticated. My kids would never be able to comprehend how enjoyable it was to write really rudimentary choose your own adventure, trivia and sports games in basic. But I’m not going to bemoan their reality. I’m not going to tell them “holy crap was my childhood more innocent and special than yours.”.

The world is what it is, but parents have a tremendous power and responsibility to shape the lives of their children. Despite what you see on Disney Channel and MTV there are still plenty of sweet kids out in the world….

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Jonathan July 28, 2010 at 1:47 pm

I used to work in a retail store of a major wireless carrier, and a lady came in wanting to buy a cell phone for her daughter. I said, “Well, ma’am, are you going to choose it for her, or will you be letting her pick it out herself?” The lady replied, “Oh, I’ll definitely let her pick it out.” I said, “OK, great. When do you expect her to arrive?” She replied, “Oh, she’s right here with me…” I asked where, the lady pointed down. I leaned over my 42-inch-high counter to see a 3-year-old little girl standing beside the lady. That’s who the phone was for. I did my job and sold her the phone, but to this day, I can’t understand WHY… Keep in mind, this was a real, active cell phone on the lady’s family plan… I mean, seriously… A 3-YEAR-OLD?.?

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tony July 29, 2010 at 11:23 am

I’m okay with my kids having certain luxuries, as long as they know the value of a hard-earned dollar. With that as a mindset, they’ll soon figure out for themselves what’s really worth getting. Here’s some good advice on how to teach kids about the value of money.

http://www.savvydaddy.com/content/moneyandkids

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cooper August 3, 2010 at 12:29 pm

1. Nobody NEEDS a cellphone. Those of us over the age of 10 remember life without them. People were not running around saying “If only I had a cellphone…” It brainwashing by marketing.
2. Kids don’t need a Wii but you have one. Nice mixed message. And , btw, it’s not the Wii, per se, that’s the problem. It’s the level of violence and disrespect displayed in the games. And even if you don’t allow those types of games in your own house, little Johnny or Susie next door might.
3. Designer clothes. It’s certainly not the kids fault if they have a closet full of A&F…it’s Mom & Dad that have the warped valueset.

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Linda August 3, 2010 at 2:05 pm

I am not a parent, and not sure if I am going to have kids. I had a pretty good life growing up, despite my mother and I living in low-income housing after my parents divorced. I paid for many of my own things but my mom did buy me Barbies, stickers, Smurfs, Atari games, cable (for her and me to watch movies and TV), a bike, a stereo, a cd player and my three first CDs. She didn’t have a lot of money but did what she could so I could have some things that I enjoyed. And I worked a job since I was 15 … most of the time two jobs. I bought my own car (used, of course, but it got me where I needed to go.). I also wound up earning scholarships to attend a great University and have done pretty well for myself.
My mom raised me well and I learned to do without certain things but to save and buy what I needed when I could.

I just wanted to give a little bit of my background before I weighed in on the “cell phone” issue. Cell phones weren’t out when I was a kid — that I know of, lol. I got my first one well into my second job after college.

I do, think there are reasons children SHOULD have a cell phone. I volunteer with missing persons cases, helping them to get media coverage. Ya know, there are a lot more missing kids than certain TV programs like people to believe… but I won’t get into that.

If your child ever goes missing — by his or her own accident (maybe staying out too late or forgetting to call, etc) OR getting kidnapped by someone you know or worse… a stranger — a cell phone could help trace their last known place. The cell phone gives off pings to cell towers nearby and can help locate the phone and possibly the child. In some rare instances, perhaps the child can even make a phone call, which could help to locate them.

There are practical reasons for having a cell phone. I may not have thought, in the past, that children “needed” a cell phone until I started getting involved with so many missing child cases.

They don’t have to “use” their cell phone, but it should be charged and turned “on” at all times. You never know when this will come in handy.

I would say kids from ages 6 to 17 all should have a cell phone. Make sure they know to keep it fully charged, and give them a charger or two. Keep one at school, one in the backpack, one at home.

Good luck to all of you parents trying to raise your children as well as you can. I do not envy you.

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LMo August 5, 2010 at 12:02 pm

I have a niece that got her first cell phone when she was 8. Why? She lost it a few months later and her parents replaced it with another, more expensive phone. Both my niece and nephew have had televisions in their bedrooms since they were 3. This infuriates me to no end. The niece with the cell phone also had a computer in her room that is not monitored or filtered by her parents. I’m sure my brother and sister in law want their kids to have the best, but this is ridiculous. In my household, there is 1 tv in the family room, and 1 computer. My children are not allowed on the computer without me present and they watch tv for 2 hours a day if they are finished with chores and homework. I just don’t understand why parents give kids this age so much stuff.

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Gretchen Hammer August 8, 2010 at 2:42 am

I am amazed that the author’s children have enough money to spend $6 per month on some magazine/game/whatever……..why do the children need that much spending money????? Our children received an allowance of far less, to be used for something they wanted but did not need….My husband and I bought for them what they really needed. When they reached high school age their allowances included lunch money, money for the weekly church offering, and other extras that were not necessities, including dates…..I feel that kids have way too much money in hand, and the emphasis in ads/commercials is how to get them to spend that money…..why isn’t it on how to establish relationships with other people rather than things?????

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Dawn August 9, 2010 at 10:52 am

I don’t think those things are bad in and of themselves. I think how they are incorporated into ones life that is important. Our kids have a contract for computer and internet use. They have to read for the same amount of time they play, and they must work at jobs outlined in another contract. They negotiate the contracts, and then they are happy to live by them. Our kids have cell phones, but they don’t text. They use them to communicate with us and friends, and it allows them more freedom than they would normally have, but we live in a smallish town where they walk home from school or take public transportation. Webkinz… well, they have to buy them themselves, and my daughter plays more with the stuffy than online. Designer clothes… if it is one thing once in awhile… I don’t have a problem with it.

Everything in moderation. Figure out your priorities, and everything else falls into place.

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Phil August 9, 2010 at 11:10 am

Don’t blame technology, toys, and movies for f***ing your kid up…blame yourself. As long as you actually talk to you kids and be a parent you can give them anything without them abusing it. It’s just like parents who send their kids to private school NEWSFLASH…. SOME OF THE BIGGEST SLUTS AND DRUGGIES I”VE EVER KNOWN WENT TO PRIVATE SCHOOLS….. Every girl i know who went to a private school is a tramp and every rich kid I know is a pothead (I’m 24). Sheilding your kids from the world and being a stingy douche bag parent is only gonna make then want what they cant have…and a new asshole is born….be a parent and you may be able to avoid this…try it, it may actually work :)

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Phil August 9, 2010 at 11:14 am

One more thing, why the hell are you buying your kids designer clothes, I don;t see it as a bad thing it terms of their value set BE A PARENT and say ” this was expensive and a very good product, don’t F it up or you wont get another one.” but I see it as stupid in a sense that if your kid plays outside and is actually normal, he is gonna inadvertently mess his clothes up anyway, or if you want him to dress nice, tell him to change into his crappy clothes when he gets home froms school, by doing this you save money and you enstill in them that “wow, mommy and daddy must really like these clothes and they must be really important and expensive if I have to change out of them to go outside and play.” My parents did this and by the time I was 8 it was a habit, neighborhood kids wanted to play hide and seek or football, Ide say “wait i need to run home and change”. Once again…be a parent…it might actually work :)

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mn August 9, 2010 at 12:10 pm

What I came away with from this article is that kids thrive and families are happier when kids know how to play and entertain themselves on their own without requiring gadgets.
To able to let their imagination run wild. Good point.
i think family structures, work schedules are so different now. i have learned not to judge ppl too much. (although i question when a 5 yr old came to a party with a cell phone and his over obsessive mom called him and interrupted his party game to see if he was ok.)
when i came home from school, my parents who were teachers, came home the same time. we were never alone. i can understand why some kids may need a cell phone. if i give my kids a bowl of soapy water, they can play with it for an hour dipping stuff in, making a mess. my daughter can do imaginary play with her stuffed animals for hours, she’s almost seven.
i live in an apt., no backyard, no safe place for kids to play. so at home, it’s either watch a movie, play the DS, read a book, draw or fight with each other. There’s a time for everything. I agree that kids, of all generations, should learn how to occupy their time. Which is why today, I said, from 2-4, it’s your free time to entertain yourselves, take a nap, read, relax, do whatever you want. come four p.m. we’re hitting the books for an hour, learning things to prepare for next grade. I don’t have a lot of gadgets. But I think some things are investments, including good clothes and should be treated as such, so children learn the “value” of things and how to treat things nicely. that they don’t grow on trees.. esp. this is also good for the sake of protecting some of my things like using my computer to watch a movie. Good article to make one think abt these things. Thank you.

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Ashley August 10, 2010 at 10:38 am

I wasn’t much of a video gamer as a kid, but the main reason I bought a Wii was so I could play the games and get exercise at the same time. I have a back injury and the yoga in WiiFit has helped greatly. I’m also very much into the Sports Resort and the boxing (gives my arms definition.) I love the dancing games, too. As far as I’m concerned, the Wii is positive in that kids can still play games but get physical activity at the same time. It also encourages groups playing together.

As far as the designer clothes go, my mom bought me a lot of Limited Too when I was a kid, mostly b/c a) I never grew and b) the clothes lasted forever. I have a pair of stretchy shorts that she bought for me when I was 14. I am now 27 and they still look new and still fit. If you’re conscientious of what you’re buying (and don’t grow much, lol), the clothes might be worth it.

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colin richards August 13, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Many parents I know do not have good relationships with their kids, and spend most of their time arguing with them about how often they can have access to technology. What a ton of stress and what a stupid waste of time. These kids get away from their folks as fast as they can when they get big enough. My kids have phones, laptops, tvs and lots of video consoles. They do not care about designer clothes, hardly use their phones and play video games once in a while. They love books and get mostly A grades. I don’t think we need to make a big deal about technology anymore than people should have gotten riled up about radio in the 40’s, jazz and booze in the 20’s and 30’s, or waltzing and rocking chairs in the late 1800’s. I don’t think we should teach our children to be suspicious of technology or ration it for them. We just need to teach our children about everything and spend lots of time with them so they become smart enough to make wise choices.

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mary August 16, 2010 at 8:44 am

This all makes me laugh. The FEAR factor of the cell phone. My 12 year old is the only boy I know without a cell phone. He is at school or here or at a friends house. He rides his bike, walks and enjoys life…without a phone. His friends parents ALWAYS end up calling our house phone to find their sons because they didn’t answer their cellphone and the parent is worried. “Where is Bob”?, “Oh I am not sure they went to the park on their bikes and they are suppose to be back by 4.” Panic parent races to the park…where our kids are having a blast playing baseball…and my son returns by 4. Parenting by fear is a Marketers wet dream.

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Three kids August 25, 2010 at 10:48 am

Holy cow people. Think for yourselves. Who cares what someone else thinks about your choices in raising your own children. It’s hard enough to be a parent, but then to have to be constantly bombarded by pompous, judgmental “media experts” on what your child does or does not need… This is just a lazy article, authored by someone smart enough to know it’s easy to profit from the trend of insecure parenting. My kids watch a little too much tv sometimes, they have a wii and (gasp) ipods. They are also top students, involved in community service, sports, 4h and on and on. They’re fine. Just as I turned out to be. BTW, I came home from school everyday and watched hours of The Flintstones, Adams Family and Brady Bunch and have managed just fine.

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Richard Treadwell August 25, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Yeah, you didn’t have wii growing up. So what? You also didn’t have the internet, cell phones, hi-def tv’s and other gadgets. Your kids have it better than you did, so why do you complain. BTW, if you don’t want your kids to spend so much time playing wii, here’s an idea: stop complaining and play with them yourself (if you can detach yourself from your cell phone long enough to do so.) You sound just like every other old person I know: “Back in MY day, we didn’t do or have ____________(insert modern convenience here.)” Well you know what, this is no longer your day. It’s your kid’s day. And they will grow up fine, hopefully less harpy than you are. You don’t want to live in the 21st century, fine. Move to Cuba.

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gaaraluvr4eva August 27, 2010 at 1:51 pm

I completely agree. I remember playing with my best friend without the help of electronics or anything like that. It’s smothering creativity by replacing it with something that is just given to them on a plate. Children are always absorbed in their little electronic world, and it’s disturbing. Isn’t life complicated enough? BTW, I’m 13. -w-

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Holly Beck August 27, 2010 at 1:53 pm

I agree on everything except the wii. I have a wii. But I only have the sports games and the exercise platform. So the time we spend on it allows us to have fun together as a family, and improve our fitness.
Reasons we wii inside, I have allergies, and it extends our sports time when it is dark during the winter, and during bad weather.

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gaaraluvr4eva August 28, 2010 at 9:01 am

yeah, and Wiis are supposed to be a really good workout. in this day and age, we really need the exercise. The wii just makes it easier. ‘course, next stop is to stop eating McDonalds and Burger King like EVERY day, but that’s not gonna happen, now is it? pfft. Plus, families are not as close as they were before this whole electronic craze. In my own family, Mom’s on her computer, Dad’s on his laptop, and the twins constantly have their eyes glued to the tv. I get out the most in this family, and that’s to go to school. We’re thinking about getting a wii and i hope that it helps us be more together. We really need it….

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Wendy August 28, 2010 at 9:05 pm

Well, I have an 11 year old and a 9 year old. 11 year old inherited the “extra” cell phone this year which we got because we got rid of the landline. They both have netbooks and ipods (thanks grandparents) and the netbooks get used for schoolwork as well as fun. And it keeps them off our work laptops and from fighting.

We don’t personally have any money for kid gadgets, but our families like to help out to keep us in the modern world.

We strictly limit the screen time during the school week and there are no video games, even on the computers, except on the weekends.

I think that they need to be comfortable with technology as early as is feasible and safe. All of our lamenting of “imagination dying” and such is the same complaints of all generations about kids abandoning the stuff they had. Hey, when I was a kid you had to watch “The Wizard of Oz” on TV when it was on, you missed it, it was a year before you could see it again. You had to go to the bank when it was open. And go to the library’s encyclopedia at the right time on the right day to find out the birth and death dates of a famous person. I can make much better use of teachable moments nowadays with Wikipedia if they ask me about a word, a concept, a person, an animal, anything, it’s so great. We can go into much greater depth on a question than waiting a couple of days to have time to go to the library.

The most important thing we do I think is keep them both in Scouting, which teaches them a lot of skills they won’t get anywhere else any more, and a lot of outside activities to keep them from whining about the electronics. We make them pay for video time with reading time and that seems to work out for everyone.

Everything in moderation, folks.

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Virginia January 31, 2013 at 10:47 am

My baby girl is 5 now, she has had a functional laptop, I pod and TV since she was 3. There is no acces to the internet, however with so many educational games and fun music players she has come to love these type of games. I believe we as parents should sit down and teach them, teach our kids how to make the best out of these items. Yes we do need to control what they watch on tv, how? Sit with them, take out those 2 hours and sit with your kind. you might be amazed on how fun and destressing this could be. In this “days”we need to make sure our kids get knowledge of everything possible, because tomorrow things will get harder for people who only know the “basics”

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Virginia January 31, 2013 at 11:06 am

I also want to say I totally disagree with the article. I have seen my daughter’s quick grasp of technology as a blessing and peace of mind. It all really depends on what I explain to her, how I teach her to use it. I am the one who sets the parameters and she gladly obeys.

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