a peek inside the fishbowl

01 Nov, 2010

Kids and gadgets

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Yaktivism

Now that Halloween is over, retailers start playing Christmas/holiday/gift giving season music and focusing on a brand new opportunity to give stuff. Thinking of shopping early? Here’s something to consider. According to a recent article in the Telegraph, children are “… turning their backs on traditional toys at Christmas in favour of the latest high-tech gadgets.”

The study was done by DURACELL. Let’s ponder that for a moment and wonder aloud why this study is receiving ANY major media attention. It’s an article about gadgets, sponsored by a company that powers them.

The study revealed that “… the top 10 most wanted toys for this Christmas among children aged five to 16, revealed a grown-up taste in gifts, with Apple products, including the iPhone 4, iPod Touch and iPad dominating the top three places.”

I mean, of COURSE kids want iPads and the like. Fer chrissakes. It’s FUN. And they see daddy hunched over it playing Angry Birds and mummy glued to her iPhone twittering with friends every single day. It doesn’t mean they should get one.

But do you really believe that a pretty doll or a puzzle or soccer ball just doesn’t cut it anymore?

I find this totally outrageous, and at the same time it depresses the crap right out of me. What do you think?

ETA: And what about this: “[the study] found more than three out of five parents admitted choosing Christmas presents that would keep their youngsters quiet throughout the holidays.”


25 Responses to "Kids and gadgets"

1 | Krista

November 1st, 2010 at 8:52 am

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I couldn’t agree more – it’s outrageous and depressing. Old fashioned board games and puzzles will be under our tree this year.

2 | Hillary

November 1st, 2010 at 9:08 am

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That IS depressing, especially the bit about parents choosing gifts that would keep their kids quiet. (And that’s just those who ADMIT it!)

As a teacher, I see over and over and over (and over!) kids who have been raised by gadgets, and guess what? They have trouble in school.

Dolls, puzzles, soccer balls, craft supplies, games, etc might not keep them quiet, but they’ll keep them creative and active and happy… and might even keep their PARENTS that way, too!

3 | Nathalie

November 1st, 2010 at 9:11 am

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My son asked for an iPod touch. Yes, we fall guilty of owning and loving gadgets… But he still asks for Lego, Playmobil and even a telescope.

So I think that you are right. Kids wants the high tech gadgets in part surely because they see adults captivated to their gadgets.

Let’s the shopping frenzy begins and let’s try to be environmental in the way we can…

4 | andrea

November 1st, 2010 at 9:23 am

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I love gadgets too, but there are so many GREAT toys out there. And I want my kids to be kids for as long as they can.

Lego is a great toy. Playmobil is awesome too! My girls still play with their Playmobil.

5 | Danielle

November 1st, 2010 at 9:55 am

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Completely agree – we always go for the old school gifts – the technology toys come and go so quickly. The things I remember as a kid are my first bike, first wrist watch (not digital), doll and fun board games. I hope my kids do too!

6 | Kelly

November 1st, 2010 at 9:57 am

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Going for toys that DO NOT require batteries this year. Sadly, my 3 already have a few gadgets. (Ipods, DS and Wii) Wishing I could dial back time a bit and make them wait until they were old enough to truly appreciate those things. I remember getting a Cabbage Patch Doll at 9 yrs old and be absolutely THRILLED! When I received a Walkman at 13 I was over the moon.
It may make shopping a little more challenging than grabbing the latest game or I-Tunes gift card, but it will be worth it I think.
Also, fondest memories are of putting together Lego sets and dollhouses on Christmas Day WITH my mom and dad!

7 | radmama

November 1st, 2010 at 9:58 am

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My kids always ask for the high tech gadgets but are quite happy when toys and books and art supplies show up under the tree. Lego, playmobil, sleds still a hit into “tweens” and teens in my house.

8 | Denise Nielsen

November 1st, 2010 at 10:09 am

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Well, I admit we bought my dd an ipod for Christmas when she was 7. It was the first one in the house and she really really wanted one. Then I was so jealous of it I got one too. A year later my other daughter got one. Then my husband. My son – who is 10 – has just decided he might like an ipod too.

And I see nothing wrong with it. It’s just a gadget, and that’s how they see it. They still have books, play games, make art, build lego sets and the focus at Christmas is always on outdoor gear – camping stuff, snowboard gear, snowshoes etc.

I hear you about kids growing up so fast. But I don’t know that I think gadgets are to blame for that. Not entirely, anyway.

9 | Jenn

November 1st, 2010 at 10:25 am

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I’ll admit to choosing toys that will keep the little ones quiet. My daughter needs her quiet independent play time and she will be getting puzzles and doll clothes that fit the bill perfectly.
I choose toys much differently with three kids than I did with one. Kid number one had the latest no matter how much room in the house the monsters took up. By the time kid number two came I was looking for longevity and things that had manageable pieces. It has been the great quality wooden basics that have stood the test of time and will happily store and keep on hand for future little ones that come to the house.

10 | Ginger

November 1st, 2010 at 10:32 am

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Even my two year olds…or at least one of them…love gadgets. They aren’t getting anything high tech quite yet. They play randomly with my phone and the iPod touch and one likes to type with me when I am on the lap top. I don’t have a problem with them being interested in and one day wanting gadgets. It is part of their world and I want them to be savy. But I also plan to teach them proper ways of using gadgets and I want them to go beyond just knowing how to play games or text. I have strong feelings about that, but it is a completely different issue.

I will admit that the boys are getting one major present this year that involves a gadget. They are both receiving Tag Jr readers and books. They love to read and they love to be independent. I bring them to work with me and they do have to entertain themselves for periods during the day. I think the Tag Jr will let them enjoy books without me or another adult and foster language development that we are so desperately working on.

Besides that though…all their toys this year will be just like the ones they have always received. They will be open ended for a wide range of play. Many of them will be quality wooden toys. And none of them will be “themed” toys like Dora or the like. The boys love blocks and as I am writing this Dean is playing with his bead maze and has been for 10 minutes now. I don’t buy many toys at places like Target or Walmart or even Toys R Us. Most of our toys are purchased from the Internet where I have a wide range of options to choose from. I love providing them with unique things to play with that grow with them. Our developmental and speech therapists were pretty impressed as well!

11 | karen

November 1st, 2010 at 10:39 am

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My kids ask for gagets ALL OF THE TIME. It drives me nuts, especially when it is my 8 year old doing the asking.
They won’t be getting any of it this year. I told my son Santa doesn’t give stuff like that and that I’m not either. His sister simply has to go along while he still believes in Santa.

All though my kids both love gagets they have always played with all the regular toys. Lots of Lego and trucks and craft supplies and board games. Gagets are only part of their life but I do believe that for a lot of kids they are their entire lives and that is very sad.

12 | Shan @ The Fairy Blogmother

November 1st, 2010 at 10:50 am

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My 8 year old has asked for a laptop for Christmas this year. Told her straight up that would not being happening. Gifts for our girls (8 & 4) are usually board games, crafty things, books and toys like little people and little pets. My 8 year old still loves to play with little people. The girls love to play with those together and I never get tired of listening to that days storyline. This year Santa is bringing a photo book of last year’s photos for the family. My girls love photos and spend ages looking over old photo albums. Thought we should start making some albums of our own.

13 | Stacey

November 1st, 2010 at 10:56 am

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I think that it is amusing that although the article is all about kids wanting high tech toys, yet the picture is of kids happily playing with low tech toys!

I have often wondered why I buy toys at all, as my kids play with blankets, pillows, and items from the recycling box more than their actual toys. Our battery consumption is quite low in this house.

14 | Ange

November 1st, 2010 at 11:39 am

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I’m in agreement with you – while my son does love gadgets and anything electronic (whether computer, handheld games, video games, tv, movies), he also loves ‘traditional’ toys and games. It is nothing for him to come home and want to play a game of Risk or a card game instead of watching tv; he asks for lego at every possible opportunity (and any in between); he enjoys making things for other people (whether something with those annoying melting beads, or his own creation); he loves to run around the neighbourhood with his friends and have sword fights with imaginary swords.

I certainly don’t limit his exposure to gadgets, but we do restrict his use – especially if we see interest in them becoming too much. It is important to maintain a balance, I think, between the two. But it is hard, sometimes it is so hard.

15 | meanie

November 1st, 2010 at 11:59 am

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I think I might get my 8 year old a Kindle to satisfy her gadget obsession. Or, maybe she will get her iPod. It’s just a sign of the times and I ‘m not sure we should deny them gadgets if that is the way of the world. I really wanted a Walkman when I was about 8 or 9, and Santa delivered the “gadget”. It’s up to us parents to determine the usage of these things and make sure board games/Lego etc are still played and books are still read (in paper or electronic format). I think it would suck to be that kid who doesn’t know how to work electronics because their parents thought they shouldn’t play with gadgets.

16 | Lara

November 1st, 2010 at 12:00 pm

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I will completely admit to sometimes just needing something to keep my kids quiet. Maybe that makes me a bad mother… letting electronics babysit my kids, but the alternative is me losing my mind a bit. we do a LOT of non-electronic stuff. We play with games, with toys and go out a LOT.
Would my 4 year old like his very own DS? Yes. Does he have one though? No. But he has gotten other electronic type toys – like a video game that requires him to do run and jump on a pad, and a toy laptop… and I’m ok with that.

17 | andrea

November 1st, 2010 at 1:15 pm

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I am really enjoying this discussion so far! Thank you !

I don’t want to look at this issue like a good mom/bad mom thing. Moderation seems to be the key here, right? I think we can all agree on that point.

Every parent does what they can for their kid and every kid/parent situation is totally different. I’m just putting this all out there for consideration. We have a lot of power as parents, and we need to make informed decisions. Some of the decisions we make, shape and influence the children we are raising.

The decisions we make for our family may not be the right one for yours, but I don’t think that at this point in our lives the girls need their own individual devices, just like they don’t need their own TVs or laptops. I just don’t think there’s much to be gained. If anything I think it’s wasteful, expensive, and somewhat isolating.

As a parent I need to ask myself, do I want a family that does stuff together? Do I want to encourage creative thinking? And then I have to find ways to do that. :)

Although I am in support of teaching kids how to use computers/technology I also don’t want to rush through their childhood. I want them to play with toys as long as they can.

18 | Johnny Waite

November 1st, 2010 at 3:51 pm

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While there are many instances when technology can hinder a child’s development and social skills, I find it useful to use it as a time to discuss what is important to me. We all know that sometimes that goes in one ear and out the other, but if you really don’t want your child to be dependent on technology, I have found one way to get the point across—limit your own technological dependence.

If kids see you staring into a smart phone all the time, they are going to want to do the exact same thing. If they see you curling up in a corner with a book, they might come and sit on your lap (as long as you aren’t reading about statistical analysis or something like that).

19 | Dagne

November 1st, 2010 at 6:22 pm

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“…they see daddy hunched over it playing Angry Birds and mummy glued to her iPhone twittering with friends every single day…” Doesn’t that say it all? In households where this is the norm, it truly is no surprise that the children want the same technology and to develop the same or similar habits. I think Twitter is one of the most truly awful things to come down the technology pipeline. Can you spell d-i-s-t-r-a-c-t-e-d?

I think that teaching children that we need to be connected all of the time is a terrible thing. We let the phone ring at our house and still don’t have a single cellphone in the family unit (I lie – I actually bought one recently as we’ve moved to the country and I was concerned about breaking down in the car and being stranded, but the truth is that it ran out of juice or minutes or something and I can’t be bothered to do anything about it and now it’s lost in the house somewhere).

I’m not a technophobe but I have an uneasy relationship with much of it. Distraction and any hint of a need to be connected externally are driving concerns for me. The isolation that can come with it is less of a concern for me; my 12-year is the same kind of intense bookworm that I was (and still would be if I wasn’t a grown-up with a family, work and other responsibilities), and it doesn’t get more isolating than that. He has learned so much about the world and its history through his reading and what we discuss together that I’m grateful for the concentration that isolation provides.

I like the balance you are always seeking Andrea and there are some thoughtful comments here. I don’t have any answers, but I do believe one of the best things we did in our family was to avoid buying gaming consoles or any “individual” technology. Our older son acquired a first ever iPod when he was old enough (11) to buy his own, which I think is about the time that it makes sense to have one. Younger brother sees it occasionally and thinks “that’s neat, I’d like one” and we laugh and move on. He’s content to share an earphone on a long car trip, and that’s the end of it.

Struggling for balance in your own family is always the best way to go. Keeping the unit tight matters. I love, love, love Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers. Peers scare me even more than technology (and in combination – whoa!).

Choosing gifts that keep the kids quiet at Christmas doesn’t sound half bad to me, by the way! Like many others here, I would just prefer that they were engrossed in a book, puzzle, building toy or other non-electronic game, but however it works out, having a bit of time to sit quietly and enjoy a bit of downtime myself (and not always at 10pm after they have gone to bed) is totally on my agenda over the holidays!

20 | Carrielou

November 1st, 2010 at 7:29 pm

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Oh, I finally had a chance to sit down and catch up on my favorite blog and I’m so glad I did! We are struggling with this bigtime in our house. My almost 7yr old has been asking for a DS and I’m just not sure how I feel about that. Then there is my 4 yr old, who recently got to “test drive” a Leapster Explorer and I have to admit that even *I* thought it was pretty cool; needless to say he loved it. We take long car trips several times a year and I know how great these would both be for the car, but I don’t want to have to deal with these gadgets during the rest of the year; I know there will be fights about using them and taking care of them, etc. Not to mention the cost!! We do have an old Xbox and Playstation 2 that my brother sent the boys because he got new gaming machines. We do let the boys play but only on the weekends. During the week we remove some of the cables so they can’t even turn it on. ;)
For my oldest’s birthday in a few weeks, he will be getting a keyboard (from his generous grandparents!) which is very cool. And what I’m most excited about is the fact that sitting in my parents basement right now is a giant bin of Legos that used to belong to my brother many years ago (he’s now 37). That will definitely be under the Christmas tree this year. :)
Like some of the others have stated, I’m not against gadgets because that is how our society has been progressing. But we are trying to hold off as long as we can in our house! What’s funny is that earlier this year, my oldest went digging through a box in the basement and he found my old Walkman – you know, the yellow “sport” model?? (Yes, I’m old). Anyway, he has had more fun going through our giant box of cassette tapes and it’s been the source of some good discussions about music and technology, etc.
I’m rambling so I’ll stop now……

21 | bushidoka

November 3rd, 2010 at 10:54 am

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Let me start off by saying that I am a major geek who among other things met his wife online.

But I still like to keep myself very firmly rooted in reality and disavow most of the major gadgets out there. Nobody in our house has a cell phone and we really don’t want one. This whole thread is closely related to something I wrote about recently – cellphones are the root of all evil

The other night while taking the kids around for halloween I saw a kid going door to door trick or treating, while jabbering away on a blackberry! The first thought that came to my mind was “a kid who is young enough to be trick or treating is not old enough to have a cell phone” – and I stick by that. And I would even include ipods in there too. Why does a kid – or anyone for that matter – need to have their head stuffed full of an artificial reality at all times? Teach them to appreciate the world around them – with all of their senses. I also have a feeling that ipods are responsible for more people being hurt in accidents because they don’t hear coming the car that smacks them.

It is true what others have noted above that if your kids see you doing it, then of course they want to as well. And my kids certainly see me on this computer too much. I want to try to take a page from a friend’s book – who recently decided that she will not use a computer when the kids can see her do it. That might be tough to do but it is worth considering.

I do not agree with what someone said above about “oh the poor kid who does not learn how to do this – it is just the way things are now ” (paraphrasing).

And I’m glad someone else mentioned something as simple as answering the phone whenever it rings. Think about it – it is the same thing. We do not even have call display on our home phone because as I always say “if I want to know who is calling, I’ll just pick up the phone and find out”. Try just letting the phone ring sometime. It is a good refreshing exercise. Honestly.

22 | bushidoka

November 3rd, 2010 at 11:20 am

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Oh, and I forgot to mention the best part when I saw that kid with the blackberry on halloween – right after that thought entered my head, the kid fumbled the phone and it went flying and CRASH broke into about 5 pieces when it hit the pavement.

I cannot believe the number of times I’ve heard stories like this from parents – where the kid has busted or lost some expensive gadget. And in most cases when it is a cellphone or ipod, the first thought in the parent’s mind is where to get a good deal on a replacement! WTF? If the kid busted it, or lost it, maybe that is a sign they should not have it in the first place!

23 | kathleen

November 3rd, 2010 at 8:13 pm

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So funny. Never mind techno-toys, I thought we were really caving to consumer culture by considering Star Wars Lego for our 4 year old. We generally buy most toys for our kids at Boomerang Kids and have always found unexpected gently used treasures that they love. Not sure what our 7 year old will be getting this year. Probably something crafty. She did mention she’d love her own backyard monkey bars!

24 | Eos Mom

November 5th, 2010 at 12:30 pm

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I read that and just want to go screaming in the opposite direction–only wood, non-battery toys for my kids! But in reality, I like to do a mix between traditional (doll and stroller) and noisy (like an RC car), but certainly no ipads and such!

25 | Fishbowl gift guide! Keeping kids 8-12 playing with toys >> a peek inside the fishbowl

November 8th, 2010 at 11:29 am

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[…] easy to succumb to electronic gadgetry (remember this post?) but as much as I love gadgets of all kinds I don’t think my kids are old enough. Besides, […]

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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