Who better to learn what teenagers want this holiday season from than teens themselves? I checked in with some teenage family members and kids of friends ranging from age 13-18, as did a few of my colleagues, to find out exactly what teens covet under the tree. A few particular gift ideas came up in our responses again and again. Overall, my 16-year-old niece tells me that teens want the “basic technology you can use for more than one purpose, for school and other things.” It’s not just about work, it’s also about play.
Not sure what to get the teen on your list beyond a gift card so they can buy something themselves? An item in one of these five categories is a good place to start.
Not surprisingly, Apple products came up again and again, no matter the age of the teen.
The Apple Watch is coveted by teens of all ages. While you might cringe at the thought of spending so much on the new Apple Watch Series 8 for a 13-year-old, you can get an older-model Watch, or even a reburfished one, for a good deal. The last several generations of Apple Watches all work with the latest watchOS update. You might not get every bell and whistle but it’ll be enough to make them the coolest kid in the class.
The best value right now when considering an Apple Watch for a teen would be the Apple Watch Series 7, which looks identical and has almost all the same features as the new Series 8 minus the temperature sensor and crash detection. If you find the Apple Watch Series 8 for a great deal, though, they’ll be thanking you and taking out the garbage every week without complaint for the foreseeable future.
My 18-year-old niece, who is currently in university, wants the Apple AirPods Max. “There’s nothing more satisfying,” she says, “than being able to play loud music without damaging my hearing. Despite being pricey, they have excellent audio quality and noise cancellation techniques. Better than earbuds.” As someone who lives in a dorm and needs as much quiet as she can get, it’s not surprising she chose these over a pair of true wireless earbuds (though there are some of those with excellent active and passive noise cancelling technology as well).
An iPhone is also typically at the top of every teen’s list. If you can get a good family plan from your wireless carrier, you might be willing to fork over for the new iPhone 14. Otherwise, get older-model iPhones for a steal, especially if you are willing to consider a refurbished iPhone.
2.An instant camera
Particularly for younger teens, an instant camera is a great way for them to get fun snapshots with their school friends. The added benefit is that, aside from only posting on social media, they something tangible they can stick to their locker, binder, backpack, or even the back of their phone. Indeed, my friend’s 13-year-old daughter named an instant camera as a top item she hopes to find under the tree.
One of the newest models in this category is the Fujifilm Instax Square Link. It outputs larger photos than you’d usually get from a mini printer at 3.39 x 2.83 inches (versus the typical 3.39 x 2.13-inch prints). Teens can add borders, filters, stickers, colour modes, and more to them, and create stills from video footage. They can even make fun collages with multiple photos, perfect for capturing an event, day out, or making sure the whole crew gets into the print. Don’t forget to grab them a few extra packs of printer paper to go with it.
Whether it’s to aid with schoolwork or improve their TikTok videos, teens could make use of smartphone accessories. Our editor-in-chief Martin Renaud plans to grab a few of these Wingomart cell phone stands for teens on his list this year. It’s a simple holder that will keep their phone at eye level, useful whether they’re doing make-up tutorial videos or chatting with friends while working remotely on a project.
Mobile phone photography is a big trend these days with teens. To help them capture on-the-go video and selfies, the DJI Osmo Mobile 6 smartphone gimbal stabilizer would be a super-cool gift that they’ll get a ton of use from. It helps with smooth and steady footage along with fun angles and flattering selfies. With the built-in extension rod and DJI Mimo app, they can truly enjoy upping their social posting game.
Selfie ring lighting is important, too, and kids will love having a ring light, especially if they are content creators as much as they are consumers. There’s a wide variety from which to choose, including ones that come with extendable tripod stands and phone holders as well for a fully mobile kit.
Of course, top of the list when it comes to gaming for a teen, according to my friend’s 18-year-old nephew, would be an actual console if they don’t already have one, like the Xbox S or X Series, Playstation 5, or Nintendo Switch. Assuming they already have one, or maybe they’re into PC gaming instead, there are many accessories you can buy that they’ll totally love.
A VR headset, for example, would totally blow their minds. It would add a whole new dimension to the gaming experience for both console and mobile gaming. Not to mention it would also get them on their feet while playing!
For gaming online with friends, and even teams of strangers from around the world (as long as the parents are OK with it), a good gaming headset is a must. Look for one with a boom mic so they can be heard as clearly as they can hear others. Wireless connectivity is important, too, so they aren’t tethered. Finally, long battery life for lengthier gaming sessions is key.
Logitech has a great reputation in the computer peripherals space, and the Logitech G733 Lightspeed RGB wireless gaming headset checks all the boxes. It offers long wireless range, 29-hour battery life (and quick two-hour charging time), and has a boom mic. Plus, it has customizable RGB lighting for a funky twist.
For PC gamers, they might love a slick, new gaming keyboard that will help them improve their skills and react more quickly and efficiently. Find one with fast response time and convenient access to the most important keys as they fight battles and pass levels.
5.Tablets and eReaders
Believe it or not, teens and tweens actually want both tablets and eReaders. Tablets are great for entertainment and school (but let’s face it, they’re mostly going to be watching Netflix and YouTube videos, or playing Roblox!)
My son, who is not quite a tween, absolutely jumped for joy when we splurged one year and bought him a new iPad for his birthday. He uses it daily for his 30-60 minutes of screen time, logging on to Facebook Messenger Kids, playing Roblox, checking e-mails, watching age-appropriate YouTube videos, and enjoying other fun app games. When we travel, it’s his source for streaming video in the car and on a plane. You can save money by getting an older-model iPad that still boasts premium features they’ll appreciate (and the latest OS update) or opt for a refurbished iPad to save even more.
An eReader is on many tweens and teens’ wish lists as well, especially those who love to read. Having one means less clutter and fewer trips to the local library. While it’s technically another screen, the electronic ink affords a reading experience similar to a paperback book without the added bright lights. While some eReaders do allow for limited Internet connectivity, there are no distracting app games and incoming social media messages. And many also have useful features that allow kids to do things like add notes to passages, look up words to help build their vocabulary, and learn more about things in the text, like historical events or persons.
A model that has many of these features and more is the Kobo Libra 2.7-inch digital e-Reader with touchscreen. With 32GB of storage space, they can store up to 24,000 books, from school textbooks (if available) and assigned books to their own personal collections. It’s waterproof, offers adjustable brightness, and even has built-in public library access so they can tap into hundreds of free eBooks from the local library (based on location).
Don’t go with a gift card again
Gift cards are great: you can never go wrong with them (you can get Best Buy gift cards, by the way, in all kinds of denominations). But having something tangible to unwrap is never a bad idea. No matter how much they try to act “cool,” kids of all ages (and even adults!) secretly (or not so secretly) love being able to tear open paper and reveal a cool surprise inside. When it’s something they’ll actually use? Even better.
Check out plenty of great gifts for teens and tweens at Best Buy Online.