Keeping a leash on teens' acquisitions

Having a teenager in America today can mean not having access to the best audio components in your house, or to the best pair of skis in your garage.

Most caring parents direct a fair bit of their discretionary income at helping their offspring sample some of the best of what new technology has to offer - even time-eating video games. It's a natural inclination.

Ideally, buying such goods is not about compensating for a lack of "quality time" - or keeping youths in step with their competitive peers.

But the practice can also be like taking an unleashed dog for a run in a park full of squirrels. The situation can get away from you - fast.

Many parents will work to make sure the spiritual significance of the coming holidays remains front and center. They will also give gifts.

Buying for consumer-savvy teens and 'tweens (8- to-12-year-olds) can be particularly challenging for adults who are not satisfied with just asking which high-tech accessory tops this year's wish list, and in what DayGlo color.

In an America that's taken on some Norman Rockwell hues of late, gifts that reflect simple values appear poised to sell well. Consider the old-time phonograph being pushed in advertisements, and piled high in the front windows of Restoration Hardware stores. (Take that, Super CD and MP3!) It could be a fine, retro gift for the grown-up who has just bought himself a '50s-looking PT Cruiser to drive.

But what about those youths?

It may not always be as simple as substituting a set of building blocks for a Nintendo GameCube.

Still, as our lead story suggests, new and old options abound for those who want to give in a way that promotes creative interaction, not passive entertainment.

You might even get to play.

Reach us at work@csps.com.

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