Dear Readers: I'd be lost without this list. I shop from it exclusively. Yes, I'm talking about Straight Talk's annual shopping list for teens -- (FYI: official adolescence goes to age 25).
Direct from the source, we bring you the hot tech gifts, board games, and books. Keep in mind, most Millennial Generation kids enjoy their families and will prefer a shopping date over gift cards. You're my superhero if you avoid video games, TVs, and other brain-drains that isolate kids from real-time socializing. More superhero status if you hold off on a cell phone until high school. Include a box of Thank You cards (standing over your offspring while they are written), and you're my choice for a Nobel. Happy shopping! --Lauren
Hannah, 16: I'd like anything to upgrade my music: iPod, iHome, iPod car adapter, favorite CDs -- don't forget iTunes gift cards!
Geoff, 25: I'd like admission to the National Outdoor Leadership School for rock climbing in Alaska or kayaking in the Caribbean. Or a SCUBA certification. Hi-tech gifts: Avoid the iPad. Young people prefer smart phones and laptops. For smart phones, I prefer the Droid X or Droid 2 over the iPhone. Point-and-shoot cameras are a dime a dozen and all pretty good, but smart phones take great photos and video. The Droid takes high-def video as good as any Flip cam. Games: 60-90 minute board games: Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Agricola (popular strategy games). Best family games: Catch Phrase, Apples to Apples, Taboo. Scrabble essentials: the electronic Scrabble player's dictionary.
Sawyer, 19: I'd like the game Setters of Catan, thick winter hoodie, jeans, snowshoes, high-end chocolates, movie passes. Top books: Song of Ice and Fire, Wheel of Time, Power of One.
Farren, 23: I took the Landmark Forum last summer and got clear on every relationship in my life -- and my career path. It is the best gift possible. Include a Kitchen-Aid mixer and food processor and you have almost everything!
Michael, 18: Great for working out: Bose earbuds for best sound from your phone or iPod. Clothes are always desired. A VISA gift card can buy clothes, gas, food, movies. Best books: Outliers, Demian, and my generation's favorite read-again: Harry Potter.
Akasha, 16: Please take me shopping for shoes and boots. Other thoughts: camera, laptop, massage certificate, math tutor, bowls and cookware to take to college. Top books: A Walk to Remember, Love in the Time of Cholera, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Someone Like You, Along for the Ride.
Mariah, 18: Candles, make-up, camera, perfume, gas card, gift cards to TJ Maxx, Penneys, Old Navy. Books: House of Night Series, Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Savannah, 17: I want sweaters and boots. It's no fun opening gift cards, so include gift receipts and prepare that I might exchange things. I feel guilty doing it, but it's crazy not to. I'm hoping my relatives pitch in for admission to the Landmark Forum. It would be a self-discovery gift for life. Favorite books: The Agony and the Ecstasy, Bel Canto, The Help, Pride and Prejudice, Madame Bovary, any of the classics.
More from Lauren Forcella: I notice that more "experience" gifts are being requested this year. Two panelists mention the Landmark Forum which I can't recommend enough and which holds seminars in major cities around the country. It truly is a gift for life. I also can't help noticing how many of the favorite books cited here are BBC Top 100 Books. Giving the gift of great literature just could turn a kid on to reading after all! (Our Web site lists other favorite books under our "Teen Gifts" tab.) I really do hope you can take your favorite adolescents shopping instead of buying gift cards. Not only is it a great way to bond and ensure that you're giving them something they like, but 25 percent of gift cards never get used -- and that's for the general population. For teens that figure is much higher, with many cards simply getting lost.
To ask a question or inquire about being a youth panelist, visit straighttalkforteens.com or write to P.O. Box 963, Fair Oaks, CA 95628