/ Parenting, Technology

Do we spend too much on children’s gadgets?

Boy playing games console

Mobiles, digital cameras, games consoles… they may be on your wish list, but the average five year-old wants them too. Money well spent or dosh down the drain?

There are many marked differences between childhood today and previous generations. Diet, safety, stupid names… but none more pronounced than the grasp today’s kids have on technology.

My daughter’s two-and-a-half and she already knows how to look at the pictures on our digital camera. She’s also got the swipe and double-tap actions sorted, so she can do the same on her dad’s smartphone.

Too much too young?

While I’m well aware that all this is just part of an average two-year-old’s day, and I’ll even encourage her to have an understanding of technology, I’m nervous about how it’ll all pan out in a few years’ time.

And with justification. Research just out shows that we spend an average of £438 a year on techno gadgets alone for children aged between five and seven. At the age of seven this average spend leaps up to £761. Gulp – hardly surprising they’re being dubbed ‘techno tots’.

According to Kelkoo, almost half of kids aged five to seven own a games console, while 20% have an MP3 player and 12% a mobile phone.

Should buying gadgets be a battle?

Having recently spent some time with my niece and nephew aged nine and ten, I’m well aware that games consoles will one day be on my daughter’s wish list. According to them, there are only one or two kids in their class without a Nintendo DS – but this research suggests I could be facing that battle much sooner than I thought.

But should it be a battle? Should we just accept that today’s children live in a different world and that life is full of technological devices? You can see how parents cough up in a desperate attempt to keep their kids from looking uncool and the whole thing spirals out of control.

Having just returned from a holiday in Wales, buying a portable DVD player would certainly have helped the five-hour journey with a toddler. But we have managed to resist this temptation in favour of nursery rhyme CDs (argh), crayons (mostly on the car door) and stickers (mostly on the car floor).

For now, I’m going to do my best to encourage a love and understanding of technology without overly relying on it as a form of entertainment. We’ll just have to see how that theory works when peer pressure kicks in.


I think them a waste of money – A cardboard box will do far more for a child’s development and creativity. Most technological gadgets keep them quiet – and can “only” be operated “one” way – so reducing the enhancement of creativity..

My children were perfectly happy to play “I Spy” or draw in an exercise book.

Sophie Gilbert says:
14 September 2010

We spend too much on children.

pickle says:
14 September 2010

As soon as they can use a mobile phone I think they should have one and be taught to use only one number – home. Otherwise most technology is likely to deprave them! eg killer games etc.
Pencils and paper and drawing are more creative as is meccano and construction kits, and there is nothing like a hammer, nails and a few bits of wood! NEVER give a kid drums to play with or you will suffer!

I wish I had a drum set when I was younger. I had a piano instead… almost as good/fun.

The problem with mobile phones is the danger of mugging – a great many children are mugged (or bullied) in surrendering their phone. Happens a lot. Whereas a piece of Meccano is hardly likely to encourage envy.

I was often jealous of my brother’s lego collection, causing much fighting. Although I did have my own collection of dinosaurs. Fights over video game controllers were often more rare – though I do remember the ‘battle over the Gameboy’.

I had a vast size 10 pre-war Meccano set that was my pride and joy – originally rusty bit I cleaned it up and re-painted it (I was six when I was given it) spent weeks building ‘working’ aircraft and other moving constructions powered by scalectric electric motors modified by me to fit. – My brother had paints and easel.

My favourite game however was one of my own invention – needing only a pencil, two blank pieces of paper and some newspapers,

I drew a map of an Island – divided into plots – ‘worked’ on a plot – being paid by the owner by cut up newspaper ‘banknotes’ different sizes for different denominations – I wrote down my wages – deducted my living expenses – used the ‘savings’ to save up to buy the plot – then employed ‘people’ to work my land eventually selling the produce for profit – to buy even more land – Eventually I owned the entire island – I even had bad harvests to make it more interesting. Spent hours if not days writing balance sheets and shading my ‘property.- Started this game at seven. – Never really lost the fascination.though I couldn’t get friends to join in! 🙂

Guess what I read at university? Yes Maths and Physics!! 🙂

Willybobpark says:
20 September 2010

Nervous that our then 2 year old would freak out on the long journey we bought a portable DVD player for the 15 hour plane journey to Costa Rica. Personally I think it was worth it given the amount of time required to sit still in a confined space and we used it on the holiday when the jetlag 3 am wake up calls kicked in!

My son is a highly active 2 and half year old and sitting still for any length of time is a challenge for him. Even his so called favourite cartoons will only hold his focus for 10-15 mins before he is performing acrobatics on the couch/floor and demanding to be let outside to find a stick, ball, skateboard, cat, spade, rake etc… So quite the contrary to the parents who are worried their children will cease to be active with too much technology we battle with technology to be used for a quiet 5 minutes!

Just wanted to let you know my sons attention span is even shorter than yours and was at your age at 2 i was lucky if he sat still for 2 minutes, watching rugrats he’d have to be doing something else at the same time he’s now 15 and still very active.

I must admit there is far too much nowadays especially for them to take into school my son doesn’t have all the technology the others have and possibly couldn’t use it if he had. He spends a lot of time on his Playstation like, sometimes more than i’d like although he does need something to help his attention disorder. He does however need to be doing other things at the same time.

Get your children techno literate as young as possible, if we continue developing tech as we are our children will be machine dependent in ways we cannot imagine. A non machine compatible person will be at a greater disadvantage in our near future world than an illiterate person is in this one. However we have to balance this with retaining the personal social interaction and play which makes us human. I think a no tech day once a week is enough to keep the child grounded and aware that life is possible without tech.

I like to use Ian Banks Culture novels as an example of the technology age we are entering, as he pre empted social networking and a host of other new technologies giving us an informed insight into our future.