As the video above illustrates, kids get acquainted with electronics quickly these days. That's not a surprise, with the proliferation and popularity of gaming consoles, smart phones, iPads, and electronic learning devices, kids are initiated into the world of tech from nearly day one. But should they be? Unlike building blocks, children's books and other traditional non-electronic items, children's electronics can be expensive, yet have a short-lived lifespan related to their design, durability, and age appropriateness. There are a few ways to stretch out your dollars in the tech toy aisles for Jr. and Missy...
Quality vs. Quantity
Should you really buy a 19" TV with a DVD player built in for $99? You know what is going to happen next: in less than 12 months the unit will stop working and you are out of luck. Low end electronics often come with low end quality. Refurbished is ok, but never buy an open box or display unit unless they come with a full warranty. Otherwise, saving up for a mid-tier unit is advisable versus instant gratification.
If you read this site, you're probably aware of how quickly the landscape of technology changes. Buying a second hand computer that doesn't have wi-fi or Bluetooth? Bad move! CRT monitor? Not only bulky, but energy inefficient! Related to the tip above, purchasing a better equipped model in electronics means a longer lifespan, a greater chance the machine won't become obsolete quickly, and will insure your child's time with device will be trouble free instead of one waiting for a return or replacement.
No toy-ish devices
Yeah, that Fisher Price mini computer may seem like a good idea while perusing the store aisles. But guess what? Kids grow up fast and that plastic copy will soon find itself discarded and ignored, because your child will quickly recognize your "toys" actually work. Stop spending money on oversized, bright colored, faux electronics. They just add to premature tech lust amongst kids, when an old fashioned book (maybe later, an eBook) would be the better and bonding choice between parent and child.
Know when to introduce your child to technology
We Americans are notorious for coddling our children. But during a six month stay in an Amazon Indian reservation at the border of Brazil and Venezuela, we noted how a 3 year old boy was already hunting with his family with a miniature bow and arrow. Compared to our team geared up from head to toe just to go across the river, this wee lad was walking around in an area with venomous snakes, spiders, scorpions, caymans and anacondas. To our surprise, the little kid came back with a dead squirrel. Breakfast anyone?
This being said, kids will behave the way you treat them. Our 6 year old has a Nintendo DS, first generation iPad with learning Apps, a 24" LED TV, DVD player and an Apple TV 2 (yes, we've spoiled her). She plays some of her games on our 27" iMac and we're already considering a 21" iMac will be in her room in due time. She takes good care of the devices, don't toss them around, and respects them. This kind of attitude was nurtured because we introduced and trained her to carefully handle these tech toys at an age when she was capable. Before then, it was all about the blanket, bedtime stories and stuffed animals.