What to do when kids want high-tech toys

Sara Alexander

“All of my friends got an iPad from Santa. Why didn’t I get one?”

My then 6-year-old pointedly asked me this question. His stance and the determined look in his eye said he meant business and he wanted answers that day.

As we approach Christmas, countless parents, including myself, are being faced with the same dilemma as children put iPads, iPhones, and Xboxes on their wish lists. 

Am I a bad parent if I buy high-tech toys for my children? Or, does not buying them make me a bad parent?

There is hope for all of us, and it starts with this realization: Your worth as a parent is not determined by what you buy or don’t buy for your kids.

Your worth as a parent is not determined by what you buy or don’t buy for your kids.

Push any guilt aside and let’s focus on the real issue together. Our kids are being raised in a culture that is pretty different from the one in which we were brought up. Technology is everywhere, and while it brings benefits to our lives, technology also has its pitfalls, including overexposure to pop culture, access to pornography, and isolation from real life friends.

Three Ways to Know if Your Kids Are Ready for High-Tech Toys

1. Look to the Bible first.

Proverbs 22:6 says that we should train our kids in the way they should go, and while the Bible does not speak directly to the use of technology, it does give us some great insight in shaping and molding our kids.

Jesus says in Matthew 6:22 that the eye is the lamp of the body, so we must be wise with what we see because it impacts our entire selves. The average child will be exposed to pornography by age 8, either by seeking it out themselves or by accident, according to Focus on the Family. Whatever device your child is currently using or will be using, be sure to set parental controls so they won’t find themselves in situations that are over their maturity level.

2. Before making any big-ticket purchases, decide if the toy is age appropriate.

Would you hand your 8-year-old keys to your car and expect them to be able to handle that responsibility? Of course not. So is your child able to handle the responsibility that comes with owning an expensive toy with Internet access? An iPhone is not a cheap “toy” to replace if it gets lost on the school bus or dropped in the toilet.

3. If you do decide a high-tech toy is the right decision, set appropriate boundaries for your child.

By setting up rules for when the device can be used (for example, after homework is completed and not during dinner) and by setting time limits, you are protecting your child from becoming addicted to a screen. Never underestimate the power behind an unplugged dinner with the family. As much as we enjoy connecting with others through social media, children do not have the emotional and mental maturity to always make the best decisions for themselves, so you must keep a close monitor over their interactions online.

And to the parent who will not be buying high-tech toys because it simply isn’t in the budget, please know that you are not alone. We’re OK telling our children that it simply isn’t in the budget because that’s the truth. As followers of Jesus, we believe what Proverbs 22:7 says, that “the borrower is a slave to the lender,” and we aren’t interested in acquiring debt simply to satisfy our children’s desires—or our own.

The pressure we feel about Christmas gifts is real, but it doesn’t have to steal our joy. Use wisdom from God’s word to guide you through the shopping frenzy, and stand firm knowing that when we earnestly seek God in our parenting decisions we will not be led astray.

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