Today I feel like an old fuddy duddy. During coaching sessions with parents recently, and at my seminars, I am always asked about whether parents should buy their kids Iphones, or Ipads, or Itouchs? As I answer I hear my mother's voice in my head, what does a 16 year old need with a fancy phone like that? Whether that sounds like an old fart or not, so be it. Kids do not need fancy phones or the most updated technology. Here are two reasons. First, all these fancy phones provide your teens with unlimited access to the Internet, and downloads. No need to hang with the family, I can just download my favorite TV show or movie and watch it on my Iphone or Ipad. If your teen wasn't distracted enough with texting just think of all the ways he/she can while away the hours on their new toy. Here is the thing, for adults, having all this technology is useful in our workplace, ability to organize and optimize our busy lives, and yes have fun as well. As adults we also hopefully have the experience to know when enough is enough, and can shut off and rejoin our families and friends and colleagues for that face to face time. Teens DO NOT have that experience, do not have that discipline and perspective and do not realize that spending hours upon hours on phones and computers can be detrimental to their life, as they are too distracted to give their full attention to the really important things like homework and family. What starts out as a wonderful gift, and a moment of gratitude from your teen, ends up with arguments galore like" if you don't put away that damn phone, and do your homework, I will take it away." You are now faced with the daily power struggle of pulling your teen away from their favorite toy. And the sad part is that it was totally avoidable.
Here is reason two why kids don't need the best: Vanishing Markers. Remember when you were little kids and you wanted to stay up later, or you wanted to get your ears pierced, or get a bigger, fancier bike, or wear certain kinds of clothes or see certain kinds of movies, your parents would say: "When your older you will be able to ........" As children we looked forward to those "markers" that would signify a move towards "being old enough". Rites of passage, and markers that suggest maturity are important to growth. These markers are becoming fewer and fewer. Just 10 years ago, buying your child their own computer was the high school graduation, going to college present. It was a gift that signified achievement and moving forward. It was an important psychological marker. When a teen got their license, it used to be that getting the first car was a symbol of this new move into independence. Just happy to be driving something of their own, the clunkier the better, Grandma's old car was perfect. Now I am still surprised as I drive around the college campus where I teach to see kids driving around in cars I still aspire too, the hottest, newest models on the market. See I am a fuddy duddy, maybe I'm just jealous. Will you be my mother??
We have left few things for our kids to aspire too. We used to have clothing markers, privilege markers, music markers, etc. Now sex and music, clothes and technology, alcohol and drugs all start with kids too young too appreciate and understand their significance. We are raising a generation of youth who expect and feel entitled to the newest and the best. There is value in understanding that we don't get everything we want when we want it. Somethings are worth waiting for and when they do come are more appreciated and valued. Remember teens live in the moment. It is the adults in their life that need to help them to look towards the future. That old-fashioned work ethic that our forefathers and foremothers taught our parents that nothing is just given to you, if you want something you have to work hard for it, seems to have gotten lost in translation. It is OK to say no to your kids. It is OK to say these things cost a lot of money, and that is not how we choose to spend it. It is OK to say, what you have is enough!