Dear Readers: Here it is again, the "teen-n-twenty" shopping list that's direct from the source. I probably sound like a broken record, but I continue my advice to avoid addicting and social-skill-depriving gifts such as video games or TVs and computers for the bedroom.
Laptop computers are essential for college, but are known to abruptly end family life when given to high school students. Think instead about upgrading the family desktop station so your teens don't become "missing persons" in their bedrooms. (Imaginary friends were fine when they were toddlers, but interactions with "imaginary Internet friends" are best kept to the public rooms of the house.)
Ditto for holding off on smart phones until senior year. There are plenty of great (non-Internet) cell phones that call, text, and take photos -- with no monthly fee.
At the bottom of today's column we've compiled the top tech gifts, games, and books for young people -- all panel recommended. Happy shopping! -- Lauren
Brandon, 20: Best tip: Ask people what they want. Give cash. Gift cards get lost or lie around. For kids who can't be trusted with cash, Walmart, Amazon, and eBay cards offer the best selection and deals. Regarding books, consider an e-reader. Buying books, including text books, is cheaper in e-version. College-student ideas: water-filter pitchers, prepaid cell phone cards, healthy flavorful snacks, paper plates. Favorite game: Nintendo Wii U. Favorite clothes store: Express.
Hannah, 18: Books make great gifts. The Hobbit, Les Miserables, and Life of Pi are great books coming out as movies in December.
Taylor, 15: I'm into photography, so I'd like a camera strap, lens, and tripod. Additional ideas: iPod charger, headphones, mini-fridge, money for clothes and shoes. Less-expensive: makeup, slippers, leg warmers, coffee mug, high school sweatshirt. Best gift cards: Forever 21, iTunes, Target, Starbucks. (Avoid spend-anywhere credit cards, as they usually have activation fees.) Top books, The Hunger Games and The Host.
Colin, 19: I would like a less materialistic society. I prefer books, audio/video courses, magazines, charity, or cash. Desired book: Passage of Power, LBJ's biography.
Brennan, 19: I like gift cards to outdoor stores (REI, Sports Authority, etc.). I combine them with sales to get the hi-end jacket, backpack, skis I've been wanting. Even better, take me shopping there. Desired book: Hemingway's collected works.
Nicole, 23: For young people on their own, you can't beat local, organic food. All health food stores have gift cards. Favorite books: The Alchemist and The Prophet.
Molly, 20: Things like a good vacuum, iron, or kitchen knives would be great. Best is to ask. We don't care about being surprised as much as having something we really could use. My mom got me some boots early. It was great because I picked them out, thus, I love them. (Thanks Mom!)
To further help those who are shopping for young people, here are the top tech gifts, games, and books:
Smart phones: Most youth-preferred: iPhone. Price, monthly charges equivalent to rival Droid.
Computers: College students want laptops, not desktops or tablets. Top in cool: 13" Macbook Pro (workhorse, $1,200). Best for price: 14" Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E430 ($500, super quality, rugged).
MP3 music players: iPod most popular, but Sansa Clip also popular, great reviews, $35.
Cameras: Kodak Easy Share Sport ($105, underwater, quickshare to email, Facebook).
E-Reader: Kindle Paperwhite (best dedicated reader, worth the $119).
Watches: Casio Pathfinder, best sport watch.
Top Card Games: Taboo, Apples to Apples, Cards Against Humanity (older teens).
Board games: Game of Thrones, Settlers of Catan, Scrabble (and Scrabble e-dictionary).
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