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At What Age Should a Kid Get an iPod Touch?

by Darwin on April 11, 2012

My son’s 8th birthday is coming up.  Aside from the usual Legos and nerf gun toys which last a few minutes and then they’re archived to the toy pile, we have the annual “large gift” where the grandparents want to chip in and buy something for him.  So, this year my wife suggested an iPod touch.  There are several reasons I was for or against buying him an iPod Touch at this age, interested in your thoughts: Reasons FOR an iPod Touch for an 8 Year Old

  • “The Everyone Else Mantra” – I know, it’s lame and we all love to judge other people for doing what everyone else is doing, but in essence, all his friends have some sort of electronic device – mainly Nintendo DS or iPod Touches.  I don’t care what happens in other peoples’ homes but when we go away on a road trip with other kids, they’re playing away on their handhelds either in the car or when getting ready for bed in the cabin or whatever while my kids are staring at them.  I guess in this day and age, it’s the norm, so why not?
  • It’s NOT a Nintendo DS! – If I’m going to choose between getting a Nintendo DS and an iPod Touch, in my mind, the iPod Touch makes much more sense.  For one, the Nintendo DS seems geared solely toward games and goofing around.  Additionally, I’m sure they’ll be obsolete and some new handheld gaming console will be around every year or two rendering the last one a waste of money.  The games cost a ton and the kids lose them or grow bored of them quickly.  At least with the iPod Touch, the technology’s amazing, software upgrades will keep improving and there are a million Apps – both games and educational/utility.  My kid loves taking pictures and videos and editing them on my iPhone.  On that…
  • It’s NOT my iPhone! – My kids are constantly asking to play with my iPhone.  There’s this “Action Movie” app which is hilarious if you haven’t seen it.  But aside from that, the usual Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja and Puzzle/Memory games for my 3 year old.  They always want it.  Since it kinda stresses me out that they’re going to mess up my email, delete apps, drop it in a toilet bowl or something else, if he has his own, it makes my life a little easier.
  • He might actually Learn Something! – As much as old-schoolers hate to acknowledge it, we live in a digital society.  The sooner kids start learning about technology and how it works, the better.  Khan Academy is an awesome App I installed on mine where kids (and adults!) can learn all sorts of things in a great format for free.  I checked out a few lessons and they’re really good.  Who knows what else will come out where he can actually learn something about technology, reading, math, programming, design, or whatever?

Reasons Against an iPod Touch for an 8 Year Old

  • Kids Don’t Need Gadgets – I grew up as the kid who never had the gadgets my friends did.  Aside from the fact that my parents didn’t have the money to spend on the countless Ataris, Parachute Pants or whatever the “in” thing was, they were very much of the opinion kids should have fun the old fashioned way – playing in the yard, exploring, working or whatever. But not playing around with fad gimmicks.  We’ve been on the slow side of adopting the latest and greatest toys and gadgets as well but we are most certainly more consumerist than my parents were.  Of the various concerns, this one has probably been my biggest, almost like I’m betraying a core principle of what a kid’s childhood should be comprised of.
  • Gadgets as Babysitters – Just like TV was the babysitter in prior decades, hand-held gadgets and game consoles have become the babysitters of today.  You know, when mom or dad wants to talk on the phone, get stuff done around the house or otherwise ignore their kid, there’s now an iPod Touch.  Personally, I’d hope that he uses it for fun taking pictures, on car rides or when we can’t be doing something fun together due to the immediate circumstances.
  • Privacy/Online Content – I think just like letting a kid watch a movie you’ve never seen, heck, even the commercials on TV, there’s often a need to know what’s going on and intervene, change the channel, explain what they just saw, etc.  So, I obviously don’t think my kid should have access to the internet at this age, and obviously he won’t be using social networks, but there are some accidental ways inappropriate things could pop up.  The YouTube button doesn’t guarantee a clean experience by any means, and I’d probably have to ensure the internet can’t be accessed as well.  Simply flipping the device to Airplane mode should do the trick, but if somehow one of his friends shows him how to switch to wifi (and I probably wouldn’t have pre-loaded the wifi key to get the apps on there), there are other parental controls evidently.  The key is setting it up right the first time and also – knowing what your kid is doing!
  • Loss/Theft – Kids are kids.  My wife is an adult and she constantly loses glasses, credit cards, earings and more.  I can’t reasonably expect my kid not to lose things.  So, we’ll have to keep a real tight reign on where it is at all times.  No taking it with him anywhere if he’s not with US in a car or whatever.  Obviously, I wouldn’t allow him to truck it off to school and he doesn’t hang out with the type of kids that would steal it from his room here.  So, I guess as long as we restrict the transport of the iPod Touch, we should be in good shape.  But when kids are old enough to leave the house, these get lost and stolen all the time.
  • Dirty Looks – Just like probably some of you reading this, there will surely be dirty looks from other parents (grandparents especially) when my son is with my wife sitting around at my daughter’s dance recital or his younger brother’s speech lesson or somewhere else that he gets trucked around to with mom.  Those are decent times to use something like this I’d think, but judgmental looks will abound.  Oh well, they can screw off.  But the looks will occur.

So, What are Your Thoughts?  Too Young? Too Much Money? Sending the Wrong Signal?

If you’re gonna buy an iPod Touch, buy it through make sure to get them a fun cover so they don’t destroy it and it’s easy to tell apart!  Here are some Angry Birds cases that my kids loved, but Amazon has hundreds of other designs.

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrea @SoOverDebt April 12, 2012 at 2:22 am

My son got an iPod Touch for Christmas when he was 10. I’m a little more open to gadgets than the way you described yourself, but I still had reservations about such an expensive device for such a young kid.

In our case, it was an excellent purchase. I got my iPhone back, I set limits on how often and in what locations he could use the Touch, and I honestly never got any dirty looks because all the other kids had them too (or a DS or some other handheld device). He loved having it when we were in the car, waiting at a restaurant, etc. but relinquished it easily when we came home.

The best part? When I upgraded my phone last year, I gave him my old iPhone – he’s almost 14 now – because he offered to use his allowance from chores to pay for the data plan (opportunity to teach budgeting, money management, etc. etc. – hooray!) And I was able to sell the Touch for about $40 less than what I paid for it, even though it was an older version, which nearly covered the cost of my phone upgrade.

I think there is little harm in an iPod Touch as long as your son is also getting plenty of time to play outside and do “kid” stuff, and it sounds like that won’t be an issue. I say go for it!

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John @ Married (with Debt) April 12, 2012 at 9:44 am

We got our daughter an iPod touch at age 6. I picked this because I didn’t want to waste money on a Nintendo DS. It’s great for long car rides to the grandparents, and is fine as long as you monitor and limit their usage.

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krantcents April 12, 2012 at 11:14 am

This question makes me glad that my children are grown. I think I would use it as a reward for something big. I would limit the use as well.

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Laura April 12, 2012 at 11:23 am

You make very good points on both sides of the conversation. I have an 8-year-old and he does not have any of his own gadgets. He gets to use my phone, iPad and computer some, but only on weekends. We’ve actually had about two weeks of no gadgets for him (this was a punishment/consequence) and it has been wonderful. We’ve played games more, read more, generally helped out more because he’s not so busy pleading to be on a device. But the punishment is almost over, so I guess it’s back to the gadgets. Sigh.

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Monica April 12, 2012 at 12:19 pm

As a parent of 5 boys, I would prefer the iPod Touch, because you are 100% right about the DS and other game systems. My boys have gone through almost every game system they’ve received as gifts through the years and eventually they all become obsolete or outdated. Plus, when you go to trade in or sell the games, they are worth a pittance.
The fact that there are so many educational programs available and you can tailor it to his age/skill level means that it would probably be a good investment. And just discount any dirty looks you may get, people should mind their own business and not judge!

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Joe @ Retire By 40 April 12, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Wow, that’s really interesting. I think the technical edge is a great reason to own the gadget. He might learn something and be more up to date on those technology.
I am terribly out of touch and I don’t know if I can make an impartial decision here. Let us know what you decide.

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Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey April 13, 2012 at 4:50 am

My children received iPod Touch last Christmas. I felt that they deserved it because they have been getting godo grades in school and helping us out with house chores. Yet, their usage is only limited, depending on when and where we are, so that they can still have time to play outside and socialize with other kids. They are not allowed to bring their iPod Touch in school.

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JT April 13, 2012 at 9:43 am

I’m really of the mind that kids are going to do exactly what they want, regardless of what they have. If my parents would have restricted my internet access, for example, I would have found a way to buy my own device and internet service.

I’m really grateful that my parents were never really restrictive with electronic devices. They would have never, ever shelled out the cash for one – but if it was something we wanted to buy and use, there was never a problem with it. I don’t even know where I’d be, education-wise, if I didn’t have the internet at a younger age. There is so much that I would never have been exposed to, either because of small town nonsense (it’s really not that small) or just ordinary public school routines from year to year.

That said, smart phones are a bit over the top since it comes with a monthly fee and opportunities abound for kids to spend your life away on data, ringtones, media, games, whatever. The iTouch, given that it is a WiFi only device, seems a heck of a lot more reasonable. Why not?

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TL Edwards October 25, 2012 at 5:50 pm

You are stupid to do it – spend time with your kids you idiots . It doesn’t last long – where does it end. Seriously you call yourself parents????

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Darwin October 25, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Wow TL; well, you’re not only stupid, but obnoxious. Who are you to judge anyone? Let me guess, you and little Johnny sit around the kitchen reading verses from the bible for fun? There is no correlation whatsoever between parenting skills and whether a child has an iPod. Join the 21st century.

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Eric March 13, 2013 at 4:44 pm

TL didn’t say you are stupid, he said “You are stupid to do it…” Big difference between him saying that and you saying “you’re not only stupid, but obnoxious.” And people should be judged. We should not live in a valueless society where we all run around (in a childish manner) rhetorically asking who others are to judge. Judement is good.
Additionally, what’s wrong with reading the Bible? It’s a collection of wisdom. Who are you to judge? ;-)

Finally, I have very bright kids at the age where they are asking for such devices. I should add that they all play one instrument in the orchestra, piano, play a sport, and read a lot. We limit them to tv/video game time on weekends. If I could offer a suggestion for concerned parents (like we are) maybe just to follow the Greek axiom “Moderation in all things.” We are going to allow them to have the iPod touch, but set limits so that they learn it’s not taboo… it’s just that most people spend too much time with gadgets and become alienated from other people, nature, etc.

Good luck Moms & Dads; ours is a difficult task!!!

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Darwin March 17, 2013 at 1:58 pm

let’s not split hairs over word placement; the intent is obvious.

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MamaBear March 25, 2013 at 6:14 pm

You’re right, TL didn’t say “you are stupid.” He/she/it said “you are stupid… you idiots.” There now, isn’t that better?

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tom December 12, 2012 at 4:30 pm

You have a point TL. And spending time with the kids is the most important. Darwin gets a bit judgmental in judging your judging. But to be fair, most parents don’t have the time to be parents anymore. Welcome to the 21st century.

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Regular Dad February 8, 2013 at 1:06 pm

If parents don’t have time to be parents, why did they choose to become parents in the first place? Having a child is a major responsibility that takes lots of time and lots of love. Your children should be your top priority, not work, not money, not your social life, not gadgets. It’s a shame that people don’t care as much about their children as they do about other things in their lives.

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Darwin February 9, 2013 at 12:41 pm

So your kid has never watched a TV show or played with an electronic device of any sort?

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Bailey November 1, 2012 at 9:15 am

My mum let me write a review for this article to give you a child’s opinion.

I’m 13 years old, and for my birthday I received the new iPod touch 5th generation. I really love it. My parents do restrict my usage on it to about 3 and a half hours a day, which is fairly reasonable and in that space of time you can watch a movie and a few episodes of your favourite programme. Instead of restricting iTunes and the app store, my parents have decided that instead of allowance I could choose for an allowance or they would get me an iTunes gift card of £15 which would cover 3 of my allowances, which is £5 a month. I get all the movies, apps, music and tv programmes I like and not be wasting my parents money. It’s a good idea to get your child a basic mobile phone with only calling and texting with pay as you go, no Internet. But as well as the small phone I received for my 13th too, I also got the iPod touch to make up for gaming and fun.

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Darwin November 1, 2012 at 9:47 pm

3.5 hrs? That’s pretty heavy! But then again, it’s a new world. My kids probably use theirs 30 mins a day on avg.

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Beth November 9, 2012 at 8:20 pm

I have a 10 year old daughter that gets excellent grades, 10 going on 14 so very mature for her age and she loves to read. She keeps asking for an IPOD Touch and I just don’t know about getting her one but now that I know other parents have had the same issues I have and I read this article…I think it’ll be alright…plus since she likes to read and wants a Kindle fire I think you can get a Kindle app so “two birds with one stone” I guess….thanks so much for the info!

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sara November 13, 2013 at 7:06 pm

I just took my 10 yr old’s ipod away… The iPod is difficult to customize parental controls. If you limit them to apps for ages 10 and under, it does not allow any internet, for chatting, talktime, etc. Giving her access to the internet opens up social media. AND now, she has multiple email accounts, instagram accounts, etc. IF you are not an ‘everyday’ user of an iPhone/iPod…DON’t get one for your children. You need to know how to use them, control them, etc.

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Darwin November 13, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Simple solution there is just disable the wi-fi. Disconnect the wireless connection so each time you want to connect yourself, to say, download a new app, you have to put in the security key. It only takes an extra minute but keeps them off the web.

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Carol November 12, 2012 at 6:55 am

Beth, I am in your shoes. My son is about to turn 11 and wants my ipod touch. He is so hooked on technology and I have been so wigged out about it. But he IS responsible, with money, grades, maturity in general. I just got an iphone so I will be giving him my itouch and you are right, there is a free kindle app. There is also an app for a free phone. It’s called line2. You each have to have a line2 account. I think I might just use that to stay in touch with him, without buying him a phone….just thoughts. It seems like the consensus is to monitor/control use of the technology. Thanks to all!

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Lisa Harding November 17, 2012 at 11:05 pm

I am so happy I came across this thread! We’re debating on getting our kids an ipod touch for Christmas. They are 9,8,6 and 4. They use our iphones ALL the time, and all of the points you have made both bad and good I have JUST been thinking about lol. We would have to keep good track of them. Last year at 3 our youngest got her own DS. It was used and not expensive just in case. She only lost it once and that was under her bed. Remarkably now at 4 she does better. The ipod touch (refurb through apple) is cheaper than any tablet or gaming system and you can always get more/diff apps. I’m 90% sure that’s what we will get them for Christmas! Would def. be getting an Otter Box case for it. We’ve had ours for several years now in those cases and they’ve been dropped on accident and they’re always been ok. I realize I am assuming some risk by doing this, and some parents reading this may think I’m crazy. I think these are just the times we live in! I also want to give them something that will keep their interest beyond a couple of days as past gifts have been.

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Daisy November 19, 2012 at 2:53 pm

I really enjoyed reading this and loved your “reasons” as I totally agree! I have a 5 year old that is wanting an iPod! Apparently they are using in the kindergarten classes now! I am truly amazed. And my child knows how to use an electronic device better than I do! Thanks for the info!

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Scripkilla January 3, 2013 at 11:52 pm

We got our 8 yo daughter one for Christmas this year. We already have iPhones and an iPad that I allowed her to use for occasional games and learning apps. I work in technology myself and do not have the negative opinion that some others carry regarding the internet. Sure there is horrible content out there and I certainly have restrictions setup. A good app is the McGruff browser that blocks certain content, yet allows a youngster to look up info about how to draw a zebra. I feel that kids will find ways to access content if they want to bad enough. As a parent, it’s my responsibility to make sure my kids have a good value system. In doing this, my hope is that as they get older, they are not as tempted to abuse the technology (because after all, it is just a tool to use, not some demonic sinner device). It’s sort of like the old preachers daughter analogy. Early adoption, IMO, exposes them to what is ultimately unavoidable – having internet access and social media. I don’t like all of I either,but they need to know the benefits, not just the dangers of the internet and communications technology.

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Darwin January 4, 2013 at 10:28 pm

I just keep em on airplane mode and they can’t access anything online. They have no idea! They’ll figure it out someday when a friend points it out but for now, each time they want to get a new app or see a youtube video, I have to do it for them.

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Edie January 4, 2013 at 8:20 pm

My son and daughter in law got I pods touch for their 2 2 1/2 year olds,as the were always going for the parents iPads and I phones to play teaching games. The kids are amazing with them, the only get them occasionally, such as midway on car trips, long stroller time, etc usually just before they are totally bored and cranky. In other words before bad behavior, as a reward for good behavior. Mother is a elementary school teacher and dad has a degree but just resigned after many years in loss prevention and retail store management to be a stay at home dad for a couple of years as he was working 70+ hr and never got to see the kids, mom is an award winning teacher and has tenure. He plans to stay home till preschool then hopefully sub teach and get a foot in the door for full time. That way everyone will be on a similar schedule. Anyhow at 2and3/4 years the kids can count to 10 and know most of their colors. I believe the electronic teaching games and things on the iPod, iPhones, iPads have been of great benefit, the parents just have to control when, where and what they are used for. I told my son ‘all we had were flash cards and etc’ the electronic apps make it more fun for the children! As scripkilla said its a tool and they need to learn how to use tool wisely!

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Darwin January 4, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Now that it’s been a few months, I’ll certainly admit my kids play some games on there. But they’re also using a NASA app, reading online, playing math games, even editing up videos into movies from footage they shot. Really cool stuff.

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Kyle May 30, 2013 at 12:33 am

I am a 14 year old boy, i get good grades. I do all my chores in the house, but i still can’t get an iPod Touch. i actually used to have one but i got into convos with girls so i got it returned. To be honest, i think i learned my lesson. my parents won’t see that. i never asked for it again because i knew the answer. i play sports. i play on my schools basketball team. its not like i don’t ever play outside. Darwin, what do u think?

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Tara May 31, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Two of my three children, ages 4 and 3 both have an iPod touch. Our 3 yr old is autistic and his iPod has been monumental in helping increase his speech and receptive language as well as fine motor. My 4 yr old daughter got one because it isn’t fair to exclude her just because she isn’t special needs. They are only allowed to have them at specified times and I am a huge advocate for encouraging our children to be up to date on the world’s latest technologies. It may be due to our background as my husband and I were satellite operators in the military but the sooner we help our children to understand the working of our highly technological world the better off they will be. When our 1 yr old eventually gets to 3 or 4 he will also probably receive an iPod touch or whatever the latest technology is at that time. There is no reason to shelter them, simply turn safari off and restrict purchases. There are so many educational apps out there.

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isabel September 1, 2013 at 12:18 pm

i think all of these ages are too young. if the child is responsible then probably age 9 is ok. my daughters friend had it at 9 but she was very mature.

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