Present for Son


Present for Son: a reader asks…

I have a son about to graduate high school and go off to college. I want to get him a present that will be useful to him at college. He already has a laptop and a cell phone. What would you suggest from a tech toys perspective?

He might enjoy wireless earbuds, to free him from the cord connecting him to his phone – I’m assuming it’s a smartphone with access to Spotify, Pandora or another music app. If he’s an iPhone guy, then Airpods at $160 or BeatsX at $100 would be great. If he has a Samsung smartphone (or other Android-powered smartphone), then the Samsung Gear Icon X earbuds at $150 would be fine. These all can pipe music directly to his ears, and (connected to the smartphone) let him make phone calls (they include a microphone).

He might also appreciate having a tablet for casual surfing on a larger screen than his smartphone. Again for the iPhone guy, an iPad or iPad Pro would be great. For the Android gang, a Microsoft Surface Pro ($800 and up) might be overkill, but a nice Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 at $300 would be just fine and cost much less.


A simple Wi-fi router might come in handy in the dorms, like a Google Wi-Fi system for $118. The Wi-fi on many college campuses is woefully inadequate, but most dorms have an ethernet jack for wired internet. He could connect the router to the ethernet jack and create his own private dorm room Wi-fi network. For a stocking stuffer, he’ll need an ethernet cable to connect things. And possibly an electrical extension cord and/or power strip/surge protector.



If you’re an Amazon Echo user, get him a Dot ($30) for the dorm. That makes it easy for you to drop in and talk to him, as well as let him make lists for things he needs, get answers to questions, and even play music. If he’s big into the latter, then perhaps instead of a Dot, get him the new Echo ($80) which has much better speakers. Want to see him when you talk? Both of you could get an Echo show ($150). Or see my last recommendation below.

Simpler, on the edge of tech toys might include an electric fan for those hot days when the dorm cooling isn’t enough, a clock-radio (how retro!) to help him get up in time for class, or a clip-on desk lamp.

Lastly, since you used the term ‘cell phone’ you may not have provided your son with a smartphone. In today’s college environment, that’s going to be a huge hinderance to him in so many ways. For better or worse, college society has a large online social component and denying your child the ability to participate will cause any number of problems and frustrations. You needn’t get a huge data plan with whatever smartphone you buy, since he’ll be spending most of his time on the college Wi-fi network. Be sure to tell him that if he wants to stream anything (movies, tv shows, music), he should only do so when using Wi-fi, otherwise your phone bill might spike. Added bonus (if you also have a smartphone) is that you can video conference with him anytime you want, using any number of services.

For iPhone/iPad/Mac to iPhone/iPad/Mac: Facetime is so easy to use and very nice.

Google users (on any smartphone) will want to use Duo (Google’s version of Facetime), and anyone with a Google account can use Google Hangouts. The last one is good if you want to video conference with more than just one person.

Most students do most of their parental communication via text messaging, but I can tell you how nice it is to video chat say, during dinner. Being able to see them is much better than just text or even phone.


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