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.
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.
Btw, there's a pretty nifty tool that motivates your kids to do chores. It's called MyJobChart.com. With a free account, they can earn points for finishing jobs you assign them, good towards free merchandise. Give it a try. It's completely free!