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.