FOSI Holiday Gift Guide: Tech Edition

December 1, 2023

The holiday season is known for many things: cozy nights, classic movies, festive decor, and of course, gift-giving. This December, many children will ask their parents and caregivers for new tech such as a smartphone, tablet or gaming console. While this can be an exciting milestone for many families, it’s also a big step. Make sure you feel empowered as a caregiver before gifting new tech to the children in your lives by reviewing and considering the questions below: 

Is my child ready for this new device? 

Every child matures and learns at their own pace. Sometimes, it’s not so much about how old your child is - but more about how they behave and interact with technology. As their parent, you know what your child is prepared for better than anyone, and you should take this into account when thinking about gifting your child new tech. 

Think about other rules you have in your household, whether they are tech-related or not: has your child followed them to the best of their ability? Have they shown that they are responsible with the tasks they’ve been given? Have you and your child worked together to make sure the rules work for both of you?

Additionally, think about other tech your child may already own. Do they demonstrate a reasonable amount of balance and self-control when using a device? Do they know how to turn it off and put it away when it’s time to focus on other tasks? Do they come to you if they experience a conflict or a problem so you can sort it out together? 

Do I (the parent/caregiver) understand this new device?

It is imperative that you, as the parent/caregiver, understand the device you are about to gift your child, so that you know what tech journey they are about to embark on. Understanding your child’s new device will better help you set ground rules with them about how to use it. It will also help you teach them new things about the device they may not know. Once you are familiar with the new tech, it may seem less scary and much more manageable to both you and your child. 

An important part of the decision to gift new tech falls not to your child’s behavior, but to yours. Take this time to check in with yourself, especially if the child is receiving a device like a smartphone. What is your tech behavior like? Do you know how to use your devices effectively? Do you know when to put aside your devices to focus on other tasks and meaningful interactions with family and friends? Do you think before you post on social media?

Do I (the parent/caregiver) have a plan in place for how to ensure that my child is using this device in a safe and responsible way?

If you’ve reviewed the above questions and feel confident that your child is ready for the new device they’ve asked for, make sure you create a plan to ensure your child is using their new tech safely and responsibly. 

First and foremost, this should mean sitting down with your child and talking about the device together, including what they should and should not use it for. This can serve not only as a teaching moment, but also a bonding experience. To help guide the conversation, use FOSI’s Online Safety Cards, which are available for multiple devices, including gaming consoles, laptops, smartphones, and more. No matter what device you’ve gifted, use FOSI’s customizable Family Online Safety Agreements to help set guidelines that work for the whole family. 

If you’ve gifted your kid a device that comes with access to social media or public content of any kind, talk with them about building a responsible digital footprint. FOSI’s Digital Reputation Checklist gives helpful guidance on how to establish a positive online presence, and FOSI’s Cyberethics Checklist provides kids and families with an online code of conduct to follow. 

The holidays will end, but the tech will remain - remember to check in with your kids about their experiences with their new device throughout the year. Happy Holidays from all of us here at FOSI! 

Written by

Alanna Powers

Alanna is the Research & Program Specialist for the Family Online Safety Institute. She leads FOSI's Good Digital Parenting programming and research projects, and supports FOSI's communications efforts. Her prior experiences focused on both media and education. Alanna has taught English and communications courses at both the high school and college level, and concentrated on the subject of media literacy education during her master’s program.

Alanna has a master’s degree in media studies from the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She also holds undergraduate degrees in both Public Relations and English from Penn State University, and is a Fulbright alumna.