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Kids' Headphones Soothe Parents' Headaches, Protect Little Ears

Feb 22 2014, 8:16am CST | by

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Kids' Headphones Soothe Parents' Headaches, Protect Little Ears

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Kids' Headphones Soothe Parents' Headaches, Protect Little Ears

Sometimes a Dad just wants quiet. That’s when I ask my little gamer kids to put on headphones.

I write this piece with trepidation. I have to put all my idealistic recommendations about active engaged parenting aside for a moment. Sometimes I want to eat breakfast without a soundtrack of beeps and dings, without it feeling like my kitchen is a casino.

Thanks to all the snow days here in Philadelphia. I’ve spent many many weekdays stuck inside with my kids. I’m fortunate to have a schedule flexible enough to allow me to work from home. A lot of my teaching load takes place online and I’m only on campus two days a week.  In general, I do most my writing either from the kitchen table or from the coffee shop I affectionately call “the office.”  But working from home means I spend large parts of the day staring at a screen. Productivity requires it. My kids believe they have a right to do the same. Wii U. Minecraft. YouTube. Flappy Bird. Cartoons on Netflix. I’ve watched a lot out of the corner of eye. The flashing colors of cartoons are only mildly distracting. But all that background noise can drive a guy crazy.

The solution, of course, is to give my kids headphones. However, I also want to protect their ears. Fortunately, there are many volume-limiting kids headphones on the market. I set out to test some of them.

Nabi Headphones

My eight year old and I both agree. These are the best of the bunch. These bright red headphones are well-built, with great sound and really comfortable cushioning. Nabi headphones are “dual mode.” This means there’s a little switch hidden in one of the ears that allows parents to limit the volume to 80db to protect kids ears. But when my kids aren’t using them, I can plug them in to my computer and have  “DJ quality headphones” that are “tuned for audio depth, sonic richness and clarity of sound with crystal-clear high-tones and richer, more thrill-inducing bass.”

The Nabi Headphones are expensive: currently $69 on Amazon. But if I consider that I get quality headphones for myself, peace of mind that my kid’s ears are safe, and product construction that might last a couple of years, it is not too bad.

Best of all the chord is replaceable, you can buy a new one when your kids break the old one.

Griffin Kazoo MyPhones

At first, I thought these were the best deal. Currently $14.82-19.99 on Amazon, they seemed to be the best balance between price and performance.

My son thought they were really comfortable to wear and loved the whimsical design that allowed him to choose between frog or penguin.  The construction is a combination of metal and plastic with a thick head piece that seems really durable.

Unfortunately, in the month or so that these headphones have been traveling back and forth between my house and his mother’s (we share custody), the frog headphones have mysteriously stopped making sound when plugged into any of our devices. That’s a shame because it makes me question the durability of these headphones. Otherwise, these would have been my vote for best value.

JLab J Buddies

These each come with their own pouch-like bag and a set of customizable cards that allow kids to pick their own design. The construction, however, is all plastic and feels a little flimsy. At first, I wondered if they’d really stand up to ongoing abuse from little gamers. But they’ve held up fine, much better than many of the other brands we tested.

J Buddies have soft cushioned earpieces that rest atop the ears instead of hugging the ears from the outside like normal cushioned headphones.  My son says they get uncomfortable after a while, but often chooses them first and then switches to one of the other pairs. I think he likes them because they’re louder. So much louder, in fact, that I have some concerns about the volume limiting. I was able to crank music up loud enough to hear a little distortion. These get much louder than the other volume limiting kids headphones.

Zagg Animatones

Before I had them in my hands, Zagg’s headphones seemed to have the best styling. I liked the retro look with metal head band the decorative half sphere ear pieces. But they were significantly smaller than I expected when they arrived. I thought the spheres were going to be closer in size to a hamburger bun than a macaroon. I was wrong.

The Zagg headphones are much smaller than the others and kind of remind me of those cheap headphones that came with my first walkman in the 1980s. But looks can be deceiving; the sound was crisp and clear and even when cranked all the way to the max, I didn’t worry that they were hurting my kids ears.

I can’t speak to the Animatones’ durability since we’ve only had them a few days, but if you want modestly priced headphones ($14.99-22.88 on Amazon depending on design) these are another good choice.

Conclusion: My top choice is the Nabi headphones, but I’m not sure it is reasonable to spend $69-99 on kids headphones. I’d like to say that over long haul it is worth it. You’ll likely replace the others two or three times before the Nabi’s stop working. But I don’t know if that’s true. We’ve had out Nabi headphones for about a year and we’ve replaced the chord three times already. A chord is cheaper than a new set of headphones, but still, I’ve spent another $15-20 on chords.

There are moments when I worry that I never should have given my kids headphones. My eight year old son is sometimes deeply engaged in an online world so much so that he seems completely alienated from the immediate circumstances that surround him. This happens to all of us sometimes, but I worry that by providing him with headphones at such a young age, I’m telling him that this kind of isolation is ordinary, responsible, and valuable.

Parenting requires a lot of self-reflection. In this particular case, I wonder if I’m being selfish. I need to ask myself if the headphones are more for me than they are for my children. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with self care. Sometimes parents are allowed to be selfish. But I wonder if in this particular case, my desire for silence is sending the wrong message to my kids.

Perhaps I’m encouraging bad behavior. But at least their ears are safe.

Jordan Shapiro is author of  FREEPLAY: A Video Game Guide to Maximum Euphoric Bliss. For information on his upcoming books and events click here.

Source: Forbes


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