Is My Child Ready for the New Tech Gift?

Janell Burley Hofmann, November 15, 2013

Dear Janell,

Is my child ready for the newest tech gift? Should I get him the latest gadget this holiday season?


Holiday Parent


Dear Holiday Parent,

As a writer and speaker on parenting the tech and respect movement, this is the core question I hear over and over again – “Is my child ready?” It comes in different forms about all sorts of technology – portable electronics, e-readers, video games, smart phones and social networking. Here is the short answer: I do not know. But you probably do. Let’s explore that idea a little further. The good news: you’re asking the question instead of just giving the technology. This is a brilliant sign – you’re parenting with critical thought and consideration. Stepping back is never easy, especially in a culture of get it today, upgrade it tomorrow. Below you will find a list of reminders and insights to help navigate the tech gift rush and prevent tech gift regret.

1. Know this: you don’t have to act fast. You have time. Exhale. It is ok to delay technology until you are certain. Even if that means waiting until next year – or several years. Sometimes the best gift is “No.”

2. Your child will love you just as much and feel just as much joy if you do not make their tech gift dreams come true. You and the splendid spirit of the holidays are enough. Please take a moment and tape that message to your mirror. It is the truth.

3. You probably know the answer already. Why? Because you know your child best of all. Go on – think about it. How are her grades? How social is he? Do they get enough fresh air, play time, and rest? Are you satisfied with their current relationship with technology or are they sneaky, difficult, or distracted by it?

4. Are you willing and able to parent it? That’s right. Getting new technology is work for us too. This isn’t a give it and go gift. Are you up for the challenge right now? The timing needs to be right for the whole family so we can help our kids build a healthy tech relationship.

5. What’s your motivation? I know mine: surprise my teen, show him how “grown up” I think he is, build a strong tech foundation with my guidance, and a little thing called a free upgrade. There are zillions of different reasons for different families – convenience, peers, learning, inevitable, fun – know yours!

6. You gave her sister one when she was twelve? That’s ok. There is no binding obligation that every moment is fair or equal (that’s the best part of parenting!) in your home or in life. Each child is different and has different needs, personalities, tendencies, and experiences.

7. Don’t be afraid of the technology. And especially don’t be afraid to parent it. You do not need to be a texpert to be a good tech parent. See, the way you parent everything else – respect, responsibility, boundaries, expectations, enjoyment – should look pretty damn close to how you run your tech rules. Boil it down to that and you are already a master.

8. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. No amount of “He has it-she plays it-I want it” should influence the way you feel about a game or device or account. This isn’t about being controlling or overprotective, it’s about knowing what’s right for your family. Keep that crystal clear.

9. Pssst – hey you, come closer: You get to change your mind! If you buy something and it doesn’t work out – too soon, too late, too much, not what you thought – it is not permanent! We get to make mistakes, change the rules, revaluate, redo. Isn’t parenthood beautiful?! Things can be returned, sold, or sit on the top of the refrigerator until the end of time based on your needs.

10. Ask yourself this: How will this make my life and my child’s life better? I can say that my son’s smartphone coupled with our iRules contract have enhanced our life. For real! Communication with peers, parents, and family made simple, expansive access to music and videos, picture taking and sharing, social relationships strengthened. It has been a lovely addition to our life, though it is not – and never will be – the epicenter.

11. Never be afraid to delay. There is great wisdom and sweet reward to be gained in the wait. But, if you are ready: purchase with purpose and parent with personal clarity, then your child will have the key to tech success.

12. Know your kid. Trust yourself. Tech is temporary, our guidance is forever. The next big thing will always be there, calling to your kids, and shaking us down. Never doubt the abundant gifts that don’t cost a dime.

Ok, Powerful Holiday Parent. Do what you do best – open your heart, hold a hand, rock a baby, read a book, sing out loud, embrace. And if it feels right, go on and give that gift.

Merry! Happy! Joy!

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