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Last Updated on September 11, 2017 by Diane Hoffmaster
Teenagers and technology seem to go hand in hand nowadays and it can be a pricey combination. When my children were small, their wish list was relatively easy to handle. They wanted small things that were fairly inexpensive. I bought tons of LEGO (ok, not THAT cheap!) and art supplies (thank you, Michaels coupons!) and they were happy as clams on Christmas and Birthdays. But, now I have teenagers and all of a sudden my gift budget just isn't going to make a dent in the wish list they have in their heads. The primary desire of my teenagers is to have as much technology as humanly possible to plug themselves into. Since I am not made of money and technology isn't cheap, we are having to do some real analyzing of our gift list.
If you find yourself in this epic battle of technology wish list vs. budget as well, maybe this post will be helpful. Check out some of my other recommendations when it comes to things like cell phones for teens or online safety for teenagers. This is an area that is going to require quite a bit of research on your part!
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Teenagers and Technology: Negotiating their Expensive Wish List
There are probably going to be tons of technology items on your teen's wish list. They want to be plugged in, online, being social and filled with music pretty much 24/7. Here are a few tips to help you find a balance between what they NEED and what you can actually afford.
Be honest about your budget
Teenagers are old enough to understand finances. They know that the big, jolly guy in the red suit isn't magically leaving presents under the tree. Tell them flat out how much you have to spend. Put them to work looking for the lowest prices on the things that they want. If you can't afford it, don't buy it! Keep in mind that some technology items can be used for both home entertainment as well as school. My kids have to have ear buds for language classes. I would rather buy them one NICE pair of headphones than a dozen cheap ones that will fall apart after a few months of use. Sometimes, it pays to buy quality.
Ask them how they feel about a one gift Christmas
If your entire Christmas budget will only cover one item, ask them how much they really want it. Enough to forgo any other gifts under the tree? If that one item makes them happy then your Christmas shopping list just got significantly shorter. Teenagers are old enough to understand finances. You may want to shield them from your money struggles but they probably understand more than you give them credit for. Let them know what you CAN afford and see if they are willing to forgo the extras in exchange for the one coveted gift.
Figure out what they really NEED versus what they WANT
Sure, my son would love to have the best gaming computer known to man. Since I don't have a few spare thousand to throw at it he can just keep dreaming. Decide what your child will need to do what they want. If all they really want to do is take their music with them on a run then all they need is an iPod, not a smart phone. Ask your teens to make a list of absolutely required features and a separate list of 'perks' that they would enjoy but not truly NEED! Teenagers and technology can get very expensive if you don't really know what they HAVE to have!
Research parental controls
Teenagers and technology can often lead to problems. Parental controls are an important consideration whenever you are thinking of getting kids a piece of technology. If you don't want your child to have unrestricted access to the internet at all times, don't get a smart phone with no parental controls. Keep in mind that many teenagers have very little self-control and very poor judgment. Don't allow them access to technology that they will use for stupid things that will haunt them for the rest of their lives!
Discuss the rules ahead of time
No sense waiting until the smart phone is in their hands to talk about your restrictions. Tell them up front what they are and are not allowed to do with it. My teens know that I reserve the right to go through their search history, email, texts, etc whenever I want. I rarely DO but if I pick it up to check things out I better not get any grief for it either. Make sure your teenagers understand your technology restrictions before the gift ends up under the tree.
Every teenager has a very specific idea of what they want to put on their technology wish list this Christmas. Some kids are gamers and others are obsessed with music. There are teenagers totally into social media and those that really just need something they can do their college homework on. Maybe they want to start exercising with Fitbit. Make sure you understand what they NEED, what they WANT and whether or not that will fit into your budget. For some holiday shopping inspiration, check out Babble for ideas on great technology gifts for teens and tweens.
Have any other tips for negotiating teenagers and technology?
Diane is a professional blogger and nationally certified pharmacy technician at Good Pill Pharmacy. She has two college aged kids, one husband and more pets than she will admit to. She earned her BS in Microbiology at the University of New Hampshire but left her career in science to become a stay at home mom. Years of playing with LEGO and coloring with crayons had her craving a more grown up purpose to her life and she began blogging and freelance writing full time. You can learn more about her HERE.