https://i2.wp.com/media.arstechnica.com/journals/apple.media/stealing.gifWe have children; therefore we have iPods. We bought our daughter her first iPod for her 13th birthday; with it, thank goodness, we purchased Best Buy’s Performance Service Plan. I’m not normally one to pay for extended warranties, but the salesguy warned us that iPod hard drives don’t last long and pointed out that teenagers have a tendency to drop things — and the plan covered normal wear and tear. My daughter’s iPod lasted about 6 months and then died with no warning. I returned it, and after a brief check Best Buy handed over a brand-new one. Another six months went by, and, just like the first one had, the second iPod went belly-up. By this time, Apple was no longer making the original model, so my daughter received a brand-new video iPod — an upgrade that cost us nothing extra.

OK, enough of the Best Buy service plan commercial. iPod #3 lasted about a year. Then, it was stolen out of my daughter’s purse at school. She goes to lunch in the middle of a class period. The teacher always locks the room when she goes out, so the kids are used to leaving things there. My daughter routinely left her backpack and purse at her seat. One day the teacher went out of the room for no more than 5 minutes without locking the door, and in that time, someone entered and stole my daughter’s iPod and wallet (which was, fortunately, nearly empty). A police officer came and talked with everyone in the class; but beyond that, and warning all the kids of the dangers of leaving valuables anywhere but their lockers, there was nothing to be done.

My son is 11, and he saved up to buy himself an iPod Nano last spring. Aside from being extremely hard on the ear buds, which he tends to pull, stretch, and break, he’s taken good care of the Nano itself. But some time in the last couple of days, someone stole it out of a zipped pocket on his backpack. We’re not sure when or how, although it seems as though it must have somehow happened on the bus.

I find all this intensely creepy and unsettling. Apparently numerous kids in our local middle schools and high schools are ready and willing to take whatever they want. Did they have second thoughts? Was the social or psychological need for the latest Apple toy so overwhelming that they couldn’t bear to find a legal way to get one? Were the iPods stolen by students who know my children, who talk to them every day in class or on the bus, but who have so little regard for them that they’d nick one of their most valuable possessions?

Sure, we’ve all learned the lesson about keeping valuables on your person, or in your locker, or at home. (My daughter’s boyfriend gave my son a demonstration of how you shove the iPod way down in your pocket so it’s hidden from teachers and not accessible by anyone with light fingers.) But this particular lesson has been very troublesome for me. I don’t want my children to encounter the cold-hearted nature that chills a certain percentage of humanity into a state of self-serving sociopathy. But that cold reality has hit our family: crime being committed by children who may or may not care about what they’ve done or who they’ve injured. What in the world sort of adults will those kids grow up to be?

6 responses to “kleptiPodmania

  1. It is very disturbing to think that the kids who are classmates of your children would steal from each other. Things such as Ipods are a status symbol among children, plus they love using them. One thought about pre-teens and teenagers is that this time in life is a very selfish time for them in many ways. The fact that they are selfish enough now as to not think of the impact on their now Ipodless victim does not mean that they will grow up to be selfish adults. Hopefully they will grow emotionaly.
    Continue to teach your values to your children through words and example and they will most likley grow into the people that you wish them to be.

  2. When I was in high school, graphing calculators were far and away the most popular targets. Most people had games on them, and some models had either IR ports or cable ports to transfer information back and forth, so back then, they were ubiquitous vectors for social communication, as well as status.

    I had two stolen in one year. When my mom and I returned home with a new third, she ripped open the packaging with a fury and pulled bright red nail polish out of her purse. Then, despite my desperate pleas for her to allow me to ever have a semblance of a social life in high school again, she wrote, in giant letters, “STOLEN FROM BEN FERGUSON” all over it. I’m not kidding: all over it. The front, the back, the screen, the inside…everywhere.

  3. The slickness of the thefts suggests a confident habitual thief. Such a one will not be deterred by the police talking to the class.

    The thief may not keep the items. There is a brisk black market in stolen goods. I know people who quite happily buy things from “a man in the pub”, no questions asked. This is why defacing items offers some protection by making them less saleable.

    Theft is a fact of life. We have to live with it. It doesn’t have to sour our lives or cause us existential angst. Be careful, yes, but not obsessive. It’s better to lose the occasional cellphone or iPod than to let the possibility of crime dictate how you live. (Is embarrassing your child better than occasionally buying him a new calculator, I wonder.)

  4. I was planning to go for something a little less embarrassing than red nail polish, but nonetheless apparent: maybe their names engraved on the case, or written with permanent marker. I’ll let them help decide how to mark them.

    We’re also going to specify that we’re replacing each expensive device once, and that we assume the lesson has been learned. If they’re stolen again, the kids will need to start saving. No, I don’t want crime to dictate how we live, but perhaps these unfortunate events have been useful in reminding us of some realities.

    This is also making for cool Christmas gifts for the kids, of course. 🙂

  5. I remember in Jr High having someone, during my science class, slip my purse off my chair, empty out all my change and put it back. I never noticed this until after class, and couldn’t nail the culprit since we didn’t have assigned seats, but it sure made me mad to think that a classmate would do something that criminal for about $1.50 in change. Now, it’s iPods…good grief!

  6. i sit in a cube at work and constantly worry about people coming in and taking things. it has been known to happen and i dont want to be one of those people who come back to find their personal effects missing. theft at this age, lead to greater crimes to come. it’s a shame that children are resorting to this kind of behavior.

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