Eileen Wacker: Electronics and Kids [The Moms Code Series]
Eileen Wacker is the acclaimed author of children’s books Fujimini Island Adventuresand the owner of ONCEKids Publishing. This is a re-print with permission of her January article:
We are officially recovered from the holiday season and hurling towards Valentine’s Day. The big gift requests from our four kids were electronics. My husband and I labored long and hard over whether to get them the latest and greatest gadgets. We rejected their pleas for an iPhone 5. We did not capitulate to giving them iPads yet. Here is where we ended up.
Our fourteen year-old got his first iPhone. It was actually my husband’s 4s. My husband secretly got the iPhone5 for himself for Christmas and gave his phone to our son. Amazingly enough, my husband still had the original box, otherwise we might not have pulled off the successful ‘re-gifting’. Our fourteen year-old daughter got a new, white iPhone4s. For her white is the new black. She had been suffering with her iPhone3G for a year with a terrible camera that became insufferable once Instagram became popular. Oh, her shame has finally come to an end. She also requested a Kindle. I gave her mine and downloaded the Kindle app on my iPad. She smelled a re-gift (as it was not a Kindle Fire) but smartly did not call me on it. Our ten year-old has an iPhone3G and he has to keep it one more year (‘what no one else I know does!’) so he got an iPad mini. Finally, our nine year-old daughter got a white iPhone4s. As a working mom, I now need her to have a phone so she became our child who got a phone at the earliest age. The other three feel quite strongly she should have to wait like they did. Clearly, she is the favorite.
Then, there is the matter of the phone case and accessories. And itunes gift cards to fill the devices with apps. That’s it – holiday shopping with a trip to the Apple store and trolling the website for the hippest cases. I have learned this January in 2013, there are ‘best’ cases, which are currently Otterbox, Lifeproof cases, 5 layer case, tough case and Specks. Buying the wrong case or having the wrong device is like wearing Toughskins in a Levi era. Our children’s electronics have become a symbol of their generation, of fitting in, of expressing themselves in a manner that is 90% like everyone else and 10% uniquely them. My nine year-old still loves puppies so she has used her gift cards for puppy apps and she takes endless photos of dogs. But she is still begging to join Instagram. She is straddling two worlds, trying to fit in both. We have said no to instagram and fb for our nine and ten year-olds. Our fourteen year-old is not interested in fb; he communicates through his xbox as he plays games with his friends.
As parents we are trying to raise responsible children who are happy and fit in with their friends. We do not want to raise spoiled, entitled children. All my mom friends suffer from the same challenges. One friend, Grace, gave her three sons each an iPad for Christmas. Her youngest is ten and he cracked his screen three days after receiving it. Another friend Angela gave her son an iPhone and he lost it two days after Christmas. So the real new debate begins – do we replace the electronics that a child innocently breaks or loses less than a week after receipt? In the end, the debate about whether to give kids electronics is essentially over but now the can of ‘what do we do now’ is open. We debate the issue and cannot decide the right answer. Grace searched endlessly on-line and found a site that repairs cracked screens for $150 compared to Apple’s $280 price tag. She will make her son pay a penalty of some kind, and, he has to wait a bit for the fixed item to be returned. But we can’t just give them a new expensive device with no strings… Angela said, “No way. No new phone until his birthday next summer.”
We get the iPhones and iTouchs engraved. We get life proof cases but they are still young and most kids drop and bang things. I can barely keep my things organized. It is a big responsibility for the kids and they can’t always live up to it. So do we have to meet them in the middle when they innocently wreck electronics they are not really mature enough to have?
I guess our parents had it a little easier. I don’t think many kids came home a few days after a holiday with no pants on. I am an admitted ‘re-gifter’ to soften the reality I am giving these items to my kids at such a young age – but then again, at least they don’t have to wear Toughskins.