Monday, August 25, 2014

Are Warranties Ruining Our Kids?

It's a pretty standard question when you're buying electronics.  "Would you like to buy the extended warranty?"  For a mere five or eight or ten dollars extra you can ensure that should your child in an act of random childishness crash, dent, or otherwise wreck their new cell phone, game system, tablet, etc., the magic electronics fairy will swoop in and save the day.

And considering how careless kids these days can be, it seems like a smart move.  It will save money in the long run when their new gizmo or gadget needs to replaced.  Kids are constantly dropping things, stepping on things, or spilling stuff on things (sometimes simultaneously).  It's way cheaper to just front the few extra dollars than have to pay for repair or replacement down the line (or otherwise hear their whining crying miserableness).

While it might seem like a smart financial move to just go ahead and purchase the warranty, what it might cost in developing a child's sense of responsibility could be quite expensive.

Because when the magic electronics fairy swoops in to replace Little Johnny's broken Xbox  One or laptop or iPod, Little Johnny is absolved from the natural consequences of his carelessness. Instead of learning to treat his things with care and caution and gratitude, he learns that his behavior doesn't matter.  Instead of learning that if he doesn't treat his nice things nicely he won't have nice things, he learns that if he treats his things roughly he just gets brand new things.

It's not a great message to send.  Sometimes people screw up (some of us more than others), and in the real world, you usually have to deal with the consequences of your screw up.  When we mess up we don't get an infinite number of do-overs. We don't get the endless string of extra lives in video games.  Sometimes wrecking something means it's wrecked for good.  Sometimes messing up has long-term effects.  Sometimes actions actually do have consequences - and learning to live with those consequences is an important part of life.

We live in a world of disposable things.  Everything from diapers to cameras can just be pitched in the garbage when we're done with them and quickly replaced with new ones.  The disposable goods phenomenon makes it difficult to teach children the value of things since so many things are so easily replaceable.

Disposable goods, unlimited video game lives, and replacement warranties just reinforce the not-so-subtle message to our children that life is void of consequences.  You can make an infinite number of messes or mistakes and you just get to start over like nothing happened, but that's not the way the world works.

Try breaking someone's trust or defaulting on a loan or get caught drunk behind the wheel of a vehicle and see how many do-overs you get.  There is no relationship fairy to swoop in and fix or replace broken relationships. And the closest thing out there to financial fairies and criminal record fairies are lawyers... and their work tends to be pretty freakin' expensive.

Yes.  It is inevitable. A child will destroy one (or more... maybe even most) of his belongings due to negligence or immaturity.  It's what kids do.  They wreck things.  But instead of letting the warranty fairy swoop in waving his magic wand, it's perfectly okay to use it as a teaching opportunity.  If the child doesn't care for things properly, he or she will no longer have those things.  Let him do without.  Let him suffer the loss, or else pay for the replacement himself.  It's better to learn that carelessness has sometimes dire consequences before they are old enough to be tried as an adult or otherwise have their negligence as part of their permanent criminal records.

Think twice before purchasing the replacement warranty.  No matter how cheap it is or how good of a deal it seems, it's probably not worth the important life lessons it will cost your kids.

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