We're in the midst of the credit crunch. Belts need to be tightened and spending reined in. So why am I browsing websites looking for expensive video baby monitors that would put the average CCTV installation to shame?
Why am I drawn to electronic toys for my toddler that look like a plane cockpit dashboard? And does said toddler really need an iPod touch, purely to make fun noises on the Bebot Robot Synth app?
The answer to all three questions is simple: I'm a dad, and while the recession is constraining my spending on gadgets for myself, I seem to be simply channelling those urges into my children.Gadgets are great: there's very few products in the world that can't be improved (by which I mean 'sold to credulous men') with a few extra buttons, a silver veneer and strategically-deployed whirring sounds. It's not just consumer electronics, either. Cooking gadgets, gardening gadgets, DIY gadgets and 864-blade razors all find a healthy audience of spendy men, suddenly wondering how they ever lived without [insert product here] before.
It just gets worse when you have children. Not least because there's a guilt factor in buying, say, a new PlayStation 3 console until your kids are at least old enough to hold the joypads. Buying techno-toys for or relating to your kids, though? That's practically responsible!
So, video baby monitors. I had no idea they even existed, yet within a couple of minutes of finding a product page for one, I was in full-on slavering consumer mode. Do we need one? Nope. The old-fashioned audio monitor we used for our first child has served us just fine. About the best argument I can muster in favour of upgrading to a video monitor is that it would at least be more watchable than the latest series of Big Brother. Yet I still want one.
Back to that now-toddling first child. He likes cardboard boxes, and cheap picture books, and running round the garden with a sponge football. Yet wouldn't he be so much happier with one of those child-genius computer things training his brain while also playing a selection of popular nursery rhymes? With a plug-in robot, ideally.
Buying a new laptop for myself would be irresponsible. Buying a pseudo-laptop for a child who's perfectly happy with old-fashioned analogue entertainment? That's good parenting. Isn't it? And in any case, if he does still want to play football, someone will surely be releasing a mini-sized football goal with goal-line detection and electronic crowd noises soon...
Gadget Dads aren't a huge problem as long as someone - preferably themselves - is reining their impulses in. But when the nation is swept by a generation of four-year-olds demanding their own netbooks and tricycles with power steering, you'll know who to blame.
Stuart Dredge is journalist specialising in mobile entertainment, gaming, the music industry and consumer technology. He has just had his second child.
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