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Kids These Days: Tech and Toys

Kids these days. Am I right? With their Nintendo DS’s and their PSP’s and their Pokey Mons. When I was growing up, our idea of fun was to go in the backyard and hit each other with sticks and pretend we were Jedi or ninjas or VR Troopers. VR Troopers? Anyone? No one? Fine, moving on.

We! Are! Not a knock-off!

The point is, my electronics time as a kid was limited. My parents actually made the effort to shoo me and my brother outside if we spent more than two hours playing Nintendo. Let me tell you, when you were working with a broken Zelda cartridge that would save your game only, oh, let’s say 42% of the time, that made rescuing princesses very difficult. Instead, we had to make do with analog toys like Aerobies and Nerf guns, and set the electronics aside.

I was on the Toys R Us website (I’m disappointed that I can’t type a backwards “R” right now) looking for gifts for my nephew, and as soon as the front page loaded, I was shocked. I did not see an ad for a Slip n’ Slide, or a bicycle, or a LEGO set. Instead, staring me in the face was an ad telling me to buy an iPod.

Now, I have an iPod. I love my iPod. I couldn’t live without my iPod. But I’m pretty sure my one-year-old nephew doesn’t need an iPod.

"Hm? Oh, just listening to some She & Him. Yeah, I liked them before they got big."

Electronics have become a huge part of kids’ toys over the last twenty years. Click on the “educational toys” tab on the Toys R Us website, and the first thing you see is a handheld gaming device. They sell laptops now as well, which are listed in the 5-7 age range. Five to seven years old. Do kids that young even know how to spell laptop?

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m anti-technology. As the Tech Nerdist, that would be like Mike Tyson saying “Hey kids, remember, violence isn’t the answer”. I can’t go four hours without my laptop, I can’t go four minutes without my phone. And if I go a day without some Call of Duty, my thumbs start to twitch.

But the thing is, kids need to use their imaginations. In my last post, we discussed some classic game controllers, and some of you mentioned how you used the Nintendo Zapper as a toy as well as a controller…and I did too. Many of us did. It’s because when we’re kids, we play. It’s all part of developing our feeble little kid brains.

Maybe I’m overreacting. To be honest, I’m just kinda jealous. Nowadays, kids get to play with awesome stuff like this Star Wars Force Trainer, which comes with a headset that READS YOUR EVER-LOVIN’ BRAIN WAVES so that when you think about levitating the ball in the tube, it actually levitates. Do you know what would have happened if I had gotten one of those for Christmas as a kid? My head would have exploded. Literally exploded. My parents would have been cleaning gray matter off of the Christmas tree and cursing the heavens and Mattel.

OH MY GOD I'M A JEDI

I’m actually of the belief that I owe a lot of my problem-solving and other life skills to video games, so I think there is some value to electronics for kids. But we do need to shove them outside at some point. Nothing builds character more than getting shot in the face with one of these:

Yeah, that’s a goddamn Nerf machine gun.

Go ahead, prove me wrong. Show me some good tech for kids in the comments.

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26 comments

  • Great article. I’m 15, so I didn’t grow up in the days of VR Troopers, but oh how I wish I had. I still remember watching the original Power Rangers on whatever channel that came on. Reruns, granted, but brand-spankin’ new to me. And so far the only video games have taught me is patience, basic problem solving skills, and fantastic hand/eye co-ordination. We also bought my dad the new Super Mario Bros. for his birthday or Christmas, I forget which, but last time I checked, Mario didn’t slide when you stopped pushing the button in the original.
    Luckily, I kept my PSOne with the Atari 50th anniversary collection, and it’s got some good ones. Pong, Centipede, Asteroids, and Warlords. My neighbors still have an N64. We also went to Video Games Live recently, and I saw the creator of the original home gaming console, the Brown Box, play Pong, on the original prototype of the Brown Box. It was amazing. P.S. If someone has a link to VR Troopers videos or anything, please post.

  • I have to agree that there tends to be a complete submersion of tech in kids’ lives and much of it is a total waste. However, I have to say there is tech available that can be educational. Chris mentioned the Simon game on his Droid. There are thousands of educational apps for children. With the popularity of the iPhone, why not have your child play a math game while sitting in traffic? That beats being shot from the back seat by a Nerf machine gun anyday!

  • The Nintendo DS has been good for my friend’s little boy who’s 7. He gets his Mario on but she makes him play some brain teaser games. other than that, I got nothin’

  • after reading this post i realized that each generation is going to wind up being more of a dick to the last one because they are not current enough. Cuthulu help us!

  • @Sarah: I totally think about that too. Can you imagine what having the internet from birth would be like? And clearly they’ll have better taste in TV shows what with being able to Netflix Dr. Who.

    Btw @AvitheTVgeek & @Scott: I have a confession to make. I watched VR Troopers but refused to watch Power Rangers because Power Rangers was too popular. That’s right, I was a 10-year-old hipster. Sadly I didn’t understand the concept of riding the coattails of another TV show’s success…

  • I heard…HEARD mind you that…slip and slide had to be discontinued for awhile because of people breaking their necks. wait…here’s an article

    http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1995-10-13/news/9510130438_1_slides-mattel-slip

    I used to friggin love the slip n slide. That and Laser tag before some Officer blew some kid away thinking the kid had a gun! (freakin kid ruined a cartoon and some fun time in the backyard – thanksalot!)

    Kids are crazily sedentary, at least in metropolitan areas. If you still live in a place where there are lakes and fields and whatnot, Hijinks will ensue, if for no other reason that kids don’t want to be in proximity to parents who might at any time yell out “Bobby rub my feet!”…errr…maybe something else was uttered instead.

  • Hilarious post! That jedi toy is insane! And btw my 4 year old cousin recently asked me if I had “netflixed the latest doctor who” ugh they are going to be so much smarter than us

  • Great post! I grew up in the ’60’s, so elctronic games weren’t even part of my youth until my teens, when we had the Montgomery Ward version of Atrari..yeah, we were that cheap. Until then, we played outside all. the. time. Kick the Can, tag, riding bikes, you name it. We didn’t have to come back in until the street lights came on. What happened to those days? *sigh* Anyway, as far as the leap frog game that was mentioned, I’d rather play the actual game where people do the leap-frogging. LOL! Yay for wanting our youth to play outdoors once in a while..maybe even daily!

  • My favorite toy when I was growing up was my roller racer. Nothing like hogging the sidewalk and pissing off pedestrians. Everything was cool until you got to that one steep hill you had to climb. Roller racer not designed for inclines.

  • A lot of people I know put children’s games on their phones for their kids to play with. I put Simon on my Droid for my 3 yr. old. She likes to intentionally push the wrong color to hear the “WRONG!” buzzer sound. She thinks that’s funny. I could argue playing it correctly is mildly educational for her.