What to Do When Your Child Wants a New Electronic Gadget

It never seems to stop. Your child wants a new video game. Your child wants the newest, greatest iPod or iPad. Your child wants to join an online gaming community that has a monthly fee. Your child wants a cell phone with more features. Your child wants a computer. It seems as the technological advances continue to develop at high speed, your children’s wish list also grows. What can you do? Consider these ideas.

Tips for . . .

  • all parents
  • Recognize that the younger generation always redefines technological wants and needs. For example, many parents say that cell phones are a “want,” while many teenagers feel that they’re a necessity. This period in history is only different from previous generations because of the higher number of new technological choices available. Be aware of these tensions, and work with them instead of against them.

  • Attempt to balance the technological wishes of all family members at the same time. For example, can you afford to purchase one computer or iPad? If so, create a schedule for when family members can use it, so everyone isn’t always fighting over it. If a computer or iPad is beyond your family budget, look for places in your community that offer free or low-cost computer time, such as your local library or community center.

  • Encourage family members to keep in touch with extended family members via cell phones, e-mail, and text messaging. Grandparents enjoy e-mailing with their grandkids.

  • Be realistic about what you can afford and what you want your child to contribute. Children learn a lot by saving their money and waiting to buy something when they have enough money.

  • Place limits on the amount of time your children can spend in front of a screen every day. Most experts recommend no more than two hours a day for screen time, and that includes the TV, computer, video game system, and smart phones.

  • Tips for Parents with Kids Under the Age of 5
  • Most young children do not need to have access to technology until they’re at least two or three years old, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. Try to keep technology away from young children as much as possible. They’ll develop better if they spend more time playing, being with adults and other children, and having books read to them.

  • Many parents introduce the TV to young children as a way to help out with family morning and mealtime routines. If you set your child in front of a TV set, choose only age-appropriate, educational TV programs , such as ones on PBS. Monitor what they watch. And limit how much they watch.

  • Some preschoolers beg for hand-held video games and iPads. Know that most games require a child to have reading skills, which preschoolers do not have yet. If you do buy apps or games, buy only ones rated EC for “early childhood.”
  • Periodically join in with your children’s technology use. Watch a TV show with them. Play a video or computer game with them.

  • Tips for Parents of Tweens and Teens
  • Many children and teens enjoy playing computer games, hand-held video games, and video games on game consoles (such as the Wii, PlayStation, and Xbox). Make sure the games they play are age appropriate , and that you limit their time to no more than two hours a day.

  • Before your child starts to play a game, talk about how you will negotiate ending it. (Children are notorious for saying, “I can’t stop! I’ll lose this game if I stop now” and then continuing to play for 15 to 30 minutes after you asked them to stop.) If this happens often, shorten their playing time and ask them to turn it off 30 minutes before you want them to.

  • Play with your kids from time to time. Many video games are multi-player games and since most parents aren’t as video-game savvy as their kids, the kids often enjoy racing past their parents as the parents try to figure out the controls.

  • Make sure your children spend more time doing things that are not technologically related , such as reading, playing with other children, doing homework, doing family activities, making crafts, and getting exercise. If they refuse, do not buy them more electronic gadgets.

  • Many kids begin to pressure their parents for a cell phone as they get older. If you want your child to have one, consider starting him or her out with a prepaid cell phone and place strict limits on its use. For example, when your child goes to bed, the cell phone doesn’t stay in the bedroom. Some kids have been known to talk late into the night, or be awakened at three in the morning by a friend who can’t sleep.

  • If you allow your child to use the Internet, make sure you have parent controls, since many kids at this age are tempted to view Web sites that are pornographic or violent. Be clear that it is not acceptable to do so.

  • Have your kids teach their grandparents (or you) a few text messaging shortcuts so that you can keep in touch periodically. Or ask them for advice on a computer problem that has stumped you. (You’ll be surprised at how much they know.)

  • You may feel pressured to allow your kids to play games that are rated higher than their age group and to watch movies with a higher age rating. Be clear where you stand on this, and monitor your kids’ electronic use , since it’s easy for them to borrow games and videos from friends.

  • As kids get older, their technology wish list only grows. Be clear about what’s affordable and acceptable for them to have (and how often to use them).

  • Some teens are hard on themselves when they save for an electronic gadget for a long time (often many months) and then feel “stupid” for buying it when an upgrade that’s bigger and better comes along six months later. Explain how quickly technology is changing and how adults can’t keep up with it either. Emphasize how they made the best choice at the time, which is what’s most important.

  • Set rules about driving a car and technology use. For example, do not allow your child to drive while talking on a cell phone, text messaging, or wearing ear buds to listen to an mp3 player.

  • Continue to challenge your teens’ “needs” and “wants” in the area of electronics, particularly if they’re planning to go to college after high school. You don’t want them to create a lifestyle that will be difficult and too expensive to maintain while also going to college.

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