Gone are the days when your child enjoyed a rubber bouncy ball or a mini monster truck. It's likely that your teenager is hooked on tech gadgets that connect her to the Internet, allow for digital game play and let her chat with friends through social media. Whether it's your child's Sweet 16, a holiday such as Christmas or Hanukkah or your adolescent scored all A's on her latest report card, the best gadgets for teenagers make great gifts, provide entertainment and can even be educational.
What Teens Want
Before running out to buy your teenager the top electronics, consider what today's kids actually are looking for. In a 2013 survey of teens and their back-to-school tech needs from FatWallet.com, 15 percent of teens reported wanting a smartphone, 14 percent wanted a laptop and 10 percent answered that they wanted a tablet. When choosing the best gadget for your teen, ask him what he wants. Also keep the time of year, as the FatWallet.com survey illustrates, in mind when choosing the top tech finds. For example, in August -- when your teen is getting ready to go back to school -- a laptop may outrank an iPod when it comes to the best gadgets for his needs.
If a smartphone seems like an awfully grown-up gadget for you teen, think again. According to the researchers at the Pew Internet and American Life Project, smartphone use among teens is growing, with 37 percent of children ages 12 through 17 -- who were among the 802 surveyed by Pew in 2013 -- reporting that they own one. While this figure may not seem astounding, it is a 14-percent increase from just a few years prior, in 2011. Buying your teen a smartphone doesn't just allow him to talk and text with his friends, but also provides him with the opportunity to use the Internet from almost anywhere, check his email and utilize social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The specific model that you choose for your teenager depends on his needs, your budget, his preferences -- iPhone vs. Android -- and what your cellular provider carries.
Why tether your teen to a clunky table-top computer when you can give her the highly portable tablet? While a tablet won't give her the full functionality of a PC or even a laptop, it's a portable gadget that your teen can take with her to connect to the Internet, check her email, play games, read e-books, watch movies and view her favorite TV shows. With roughly three out of every four teens ages 12 through 17 using mobile Internet technology -- according to Pew's 2013 "Teens and Technology" survey -- a lightweight tablet is almost a must. Before jumping to the conclusion that a tablet is a more adult-like gadget, the Pew stats say that 23 percent of U.S. teens use a tablet -- which is roughly the same rate as adult use. Similar to a smartphone, choosing the specific model of tablet for your teen is a personal decision. Some families, who prefer Apple devices, may want to opt for an iPad, while others may want a Windows-based model.
Teens who are constantly connected to their iPods may want to enhance their music experience with an external speaker. Although most MP3 players and smartphones have speakers for listening to music without headphones, Consumer Reports acknowledges that these typically don't have the quality of a wireless speaker system. This doesn't mean that you need to buy your teen a hulking system to connect to. Instead, consider a pint-sized portable option that works through Bluetooth.