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Hey Parents: How to Avoid Holiday Teen Gift Faux Pas
by: ARA

As the holidays go by year after year, trendy gifts come and go. A few years ago we witnessed the truly engaging battery-operated, wall-mounted singing fish. Rewind to the decade prior and we find the puzzling Rubik's Cube, as well as a dozen theory books on how to solve it. But holiday seasons throughout time have shared one common truth. It's a constant struggle to find that perfect gift for teens, especially one that adults can feel good about.

This should come as no surprise. Most parents and grandparents, not having been constantly glued to MTV or regular cruisers of the local high school's hallways, feel hopelessly out-of-touch with what's cool for teens this and every holiday season. In addition, teens have high demands and a fickle sense of style, making it hard for even the hippest parents to stay on top of the latest trends.

Still, according to published reports, the National Retail Federation is expecting the best holiday sales in four years in 2003 with an expected 5.7 percent spending increase over the previous holiday season. So the question remains: will adult shoppers be in touch with the cool barometer for teens?

To clear the air and avoid perplexing shopping situations, here are a few fundamentals that teenagers tend to look for in gifts. These factors hold steady for technology, fashion, games and most any kind of teen gift.

* Coolness -- Teens want the latest, greatest thing out there. It has to be pleasing to the eye and in tune with what's fashionable these days.

* Customizable -- While teens usually want what everyone else has, they also want to be able to put their own twist or stamp on it for self-expression.

* Multi-functional -- The more ways to use it and still look cool, the better; in social capacities, for entertainment, for organization or for school.

There are guidelines that savvy gift-buyers can follow to make this holiday season fun and functional for teens. These tips revolve around ways to ensure you hit the hot buttons for teens this season.

First, stick to fashion seen in today's teen magazines and on TV. Editors and on-air personalities with these outlets are usually trustworthy when it comes to what's cool to the younger crew. They often publish or broadcast on-air gift guides a month or so before the holidays.

Secondly, the latest technology provides a sure bet for coolness. When it comes to technology, consider a product that delivers what kids crave in terms of speed, coolness and fun, while also delivering what parents crave in terms of longevity and educational value. A product like a graphing handheld from Texas Instruments, such as the TI-83 Plus Silver Edition and compatible TI Keyboard, fulfills this multi-faceted requirement both in and out of the classroom. From a long-term investment standpoint, it can also be used throughout a teen's educational career.

Third, in the wake of rising homeland security issues, today's teens are developing a deeper sense of social responsibility. For teens in this category, a donation to a favorite charity in his or her name can be a welcome and heart-warming gift.

Furthermore, there are certain items that will likely never be cool gifts to teens. The following are prime examples of gift-giving faux pas often committed by unwitting parents and grandparents.

* Socks and underwear -- Never cool. Few teens are capable of opening this type of present without some degree of embarrassment, no matter how multifunctional or customizable they may seem.

* Footed or flannel pajamas -- While these might have made a comeback in some isolated species of teen in the Galapagos islands, footed PJs just aren't what teens in North America want to show off to their friends. And, beyond being mildly entertaining to other family members, they don't have any redeeming qualities from a functionality perspective.

* Portable cassette tape players -- Yikes. It's hard enough to stay on top of the hottest music for teens without having to work with an outdated mode of playback.

And lastly, Santa made a list -- so should your teen. Identifying the scope of your holiday shopping smorgasbord ahead of time will shorten time spent in long lines at the mall and free up time for family and friends. It might also save some embarrassment for both you and your teen.




 



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