Many moons ago when I was growing up, I never had a brand new bike–always a hand-me-down from my sister or my cousin. Roller skates and ice skates were shared between siblings and of course there was one black & white T.V. sitting in the living room along with one phone and a “record” player for the entire family. (I think I may be dating myself). I don’t recall feeling deprived about the lack of material goods. After all, we went to the Library for Children’s hour on a regular basis, walks in the park, outings to the zoo and beach, oftentimes followed by my favorite treat–ICE CREAM! I was fortunate to have a large, loving family and even though we weren’t rich, the house was always filled with laughter, love and the sweet smell of my mom’s coffee rolls. Little did I know I had a very special childhood.
Having lived in San Diego for the past 13 years, I have noticed a disturbing trend, and one that is prevalent in upper middle class households across the USA. Kids have so much STUFF. As a real estate agent, I am in people’s homes on a regular basis. In one home I viewed 2 months ago you entered a living room with NO FURNITURE, just wall-to-wall plastic toys. I was baffled. I couldn’t imagine that 20 kids would not have enough to play with. They had 2.
I have friends who have 3 kids. For every birthday and Christmas these kids get iPods, XBoxes, computer games, walkie-talkies, cell phones, and other electronic gadgets I have never even heard of. More and more and more. The home looks like Mission Control, with all the wired up, fired up devices of 5 people. They typically spend all their time inside watching TV, movies, restaurants, bowling alleys and the occasional Theme Park. I don’t think these kids ever go to a library, or have a “Summer Reading List” (remember those?) What will the end result be? A bunch of spoiled brats who are academically inferior, with poor communication skills to boot. And parents with mounting debt and a whole bunch of STUFF.
I suppose the slow real estate market has made me prioritize my spending habits and I can honestly say I really don’t need as many material things as I thought I did. I find myself defending my little flip phone (free) and mini laptop I use for travel as opposed to an iPhone or iPad. It would be easy to spend hundreds of more dollars monthly on technology, while I find I can be very productive with alot less.
So to get back to the main topic: Are kids getting more STUFF to make up for the quality time their parents don’t have for them? Are we doing our kids a major disservice by taking away their creativity and filling it with STUFF? Is this trend going to change as folks downsize or even lose their homes and the economy takes time to recover?