A cheap mp3 player for a 16-year-old girl...
December 1, 2007 12:48 PM   Subscribe

Please help my girlfriend buy a cheap mp3 player for a 16-year-old girl in foster care she's "adopted" for the holidays.

Every year, my girlfriend participates in a program where she gets the name and Christmas wish list of an underprivileged kid. This year, she's shopping for a 16-year-old girl whose parents have had their parental rights revoked and who is currently a ward of the state living in some kind of foster home. Quote:

"One of the things on her list is an MP3 player, which is totally one of those things that would make some people scream "what!?", the implication being that if you can have an MP3 player you can't be in particularly dire straits, but I feel like I understand: I mean, why can't she have what everyone else has, you know?

"On the other hand, it seems like a dicey gift for someone in her situation: how is she going to get music for it? Is she going to have regular access to a computer? Is she living in some foster care setting where there are multiple opportunities for someone to steal it?

"So basically, I want to get her an MP3 player but I sure as hell don't want to get her an iPod, something both expensive and utterly desirable by others; I'm looking for something a little more toylike, as I think that's probably all that she needs.

"Does this exhausting explanation bring any product to your mind? I tried to go online and read reviews last night, but that always confuses me 10 times more.

"As for my budget, I don't think I have a very realistic notion of how much a cheap MP3 player should cost. She has other stuff on her list that I'd rather spend money on (like clothes and school supplies) so this is more of a second-tier present, you know?  Definitely less than $100... like way less."

Ian here again. I know one of the stock AskMe answers is "we need more information," but the information we have about her situation is all we're going to get.

Thanks, guys!
posted by Ian A.T. to Technology (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
To save money, buy a refurb. Woot has these all the freakin' time for not very much money. Often in pink, which makes it a less attractive thing for a boy to steal. I'd check eBay as well.

She's a teenager, so it's probably going to get lost/damaged anyway, so no point in spending tons of $.
posted by desjardins at 12:55 PM on December 1, 2007


Well, I'd imagine that she has friends or something that can help her put music on it. She wouldn't have asked for it if she didn't have a plan to get music on it, right?

Here is a 1GB for $17.

Here is a 1GB for $20.

Here is a 2GB for either $30 or $20, depending where you buy it.


Another 2GB for $40.

If you want to spend a little more, here's a 20GB for $50.

Figure out what type of batteries it takes and buy a few packs of those too.
posted by k8t at 1:00 PM on December 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Correct link for the $30 or $20 one.
posted by k8t at 1:02 PM on December 1, 2007


I'm going for the $30/$20 one for a teenager I know, BTW.
posted by k8t at 1:05 PM on December 1, 2007


I'd go for this one:

Creative Zen Stone 2GB MP3 Player $45
posted by sharkfu at 1:16 PM on December 1, 2007


Get her an iPod Shuffle. They're just $59, and very stylish.
posted by evariste at 1:49 PM on December 1, 2007


Sorry, $79.
posted by evariste at 1:49 PM on December 1, 2007


Lots of good comments in this previous thread. When kids these days ask for mp3 players inevitably they mean iPods, storage space is probably secondary to stylishness. The recommendations of refurbished or used Shuffles and Nanos are worth considering.
posted by lia at 1:53 PM on December 1, 2007


i don't know that i agree that iPods are some sort of "must" according to stylishness. as a substitute teacher in a school where kids are allowed to trot out their MP3 players for work time, i see lots of other kinds of players. and these are fashion-conscious teenagers in a charter school. they just know that their parents can't all afford iPods.

however, i bought the Shuffle for my 13 year old's b-day, and she's quite happy. the best part is that a Shuffle is easy to keep on you and easier to hide from thieves. so it's not necessarily out of range.
posted by RedEmma at 2:35 PM on December 1, 2007


Try PriceGrabber.com and do a search there. You can also set limits off to the left for prices and other things.

I agree with you though that this is an unusual gift for someone who is supposed to be underprivileged. I too would wonder how she has the capability to download mp3's, except maybe through a friend.

Boy, times sure have changed. When my grandmother was six years old, she wrote a letter to Santa. Somehow the local newspaper intercepted it and it was published. She literally only asked for fresh fruit and a Bible. That's it, nothing else.
posted by magnoliasouth at 2:42 PM on December 1, 2007


Apple.com, and look at the refurbed iPod Shuffles. $49.00. As has been said before, when it comes to teenagers an MP3 player is not an iPod. Only an iPod is an iPod.
posted by Gungho at 2:47 PM on December 1, 2007


Load it up too. Everybody likes listening to something new.
posted by comiddle at 3:03 PM on December 1, 2007


There is a universal truth in this who discussion - music matters. This kid is asking for a way to have some personal music in her life. Sure, clothes and school supplies matter but the gift of music is a gift for the soul.

If you do go the iPod route then buy some non-Apple earbuds. White Apple earbuds are a thief magnet.
posted by chairish at 3:11 PM on December 1, 2007


There is a universal truth in this who discussion - music matters. This kid is asking for a way to have some personal music in her life. Sure, clothes and school supplies matter but the gift of music is a gift for the soul.


It may be the one consistent thing she has in her life, now that she's become a ward of the state. I don't know how many times in my teenage years I'd hide in my room listening to music in order to feel better about stuff. My life was easy, too.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:19 PM on December 1, 2007


I agree with you though that this is an unusual gift for someone who is supposed to be underprivileged. I too would wonder how she has the capability to download mp3's, except maybe through a friend.

To me there's nothing unusual about it. An iPod is not a luxury item, it's a commodity. Especially a Shuffle or a Nano. So-called underprivileged kids in this country routinely wear $200 sneakers and $100 jeans. What's so out of line about giving a 16-year-old girl an mp3 player that costs under $100? 16-year olds can work in most states and earn minimum wage. Is it really that out of line to buy the kid an iPod that it would take her 15-20 hours of flipping burgers to pay for herself? Come on now.
posted by evariste at 3:25 PM on December 1, 2007


Ian A.T.: can you tell us any more about this program? It sounds like a very worthwhile one.
posted by evariste at 3:34 PM on December 1, 2007


Skip the Apple stuff. You're payin for brand name no doubt about it. I recently bought a Sansa Clip for about $40. Good quality, good battery life, small size and built in clip to attach to your clothes. Plus it does have a screen (albeit a small one) to tell you the song title. Don't feel like it has to be an ipod to be good quality.
posted by CwgrlUp at 3:44 PM on December 1, 2007


Resist the impulse to buy her an inexpensive iPod of any sort. Putting aside issues of value or style, iPods really work best when used with a single computer. If she's a foster kid, chances are against her being in that sort of situation. Instead get her something that can be treated like a USB disk and loaded with music just by dragging and dropping files.

Also, get her something with a display that lets her create her own playlists (ie not an iPod shuffle) -- 16 year old in foster care doesn't have a lot of stability or control over her life. It would be nice if she could pick the music she listens to.

As for the impulse to judge this girl expressed in some of the replies: She's a 16 year old in foster care. That either means: she had a nice stable life that has recently been up-turned, she has grown up in a dysfunctional family situation that has finally boiled over, or she's been dragged from foster home to foster home for a number of years, perhaps interspersed with stints back with her parents or relatives. Anyone care to trade places with her?
posted by Good Brain at 4:42 PM on December 1, 2007


Among the Asia-based friends I have, 1GB players that double as USB sticks are very popular - more popular than iPods, even. Most people have Windows machines here, and iPods are not cheap. These Flash-based devices are cheap and far easier to use - just drag & drop.

(Also, this is a very interesting program.)
posted by divabat at 4:50 PM on December 1, 2007


I'm sure she has access to the internet, either from a friend or school or the public library. I'd go for the non-Apple, if it were me, just because you can get a lot more for the money and less conspicuous. As the links above show, under $100 is very very doable. (Of course, I'm quite happy with my 256kb player that has its battery case held on with a rubber band, so perhaps I'm not the best judge...)
posted by happyturtle at 4:51 PM on December 1, 2007


If you're looking for something cheap and toy-like, I second a Zen Stone.

I've got a Zen Stone Plus and it was, indeed (a) cheap but not no-name-brand crappy and (b) toy-like in a pleasing ''ooh it's so teeny and round and... uh... stone-like!'' kind of way.

It's pretty sturdy too, I'm sure it would withstand school/move/pocket/bag/dropping.

And she could use it on any computer. Creative does have software you can download, but you can just use Windows Explorer to drag and drop files.
posted by t0astie at 5:01 PM on December 1, 2007


+1 refurbished shuffle. What this girl will want is to fit in with other kids at her school. A brand-name ipod will help with that, and if she has friends they will help her put music on. It isn't the most practical (you can get more for your money with other brands) but will surely be appreciated.
posted by ms.v. at 5:28 PM on December 1, 2007


I think the Zen Stone is probably a good idea -- cheap, stylish, spacious, and flexible. I think we may be assuming a bit too much about this kid's situation to rule out an iPod, but it is true that Apple's players are a bit limiting in how you get tunes onto them.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:41 PM on December 1, 2007


Nthing non-iPod. Unless you can guarantee this girl consistent access to the same computer, her music will get wiped when she hooks up to a new computer, which may or may not have iTunes or the ability to install it. Zen Stone or any reasonable player recognizable as an external drive on Windows machines (most common, so most likely what she'll have broad access to). My teenage daughters (15 and 17) have Sandisk Sansas that work perfectly for them and no one cares that they're not iPods. Pricewatch shows a nice Sandisk E260 4GB for $75 shipped.
posted by notashroom at 8:12 PM on December 1, 2007


Re the access to computers thing - in the UK there's been a govt initiative to ensure foster carers have computers that children/young people in their care can use.

And in response to evariste, lots of places in the UK have schemes like this - I don't know where you're based but it's worth contacting your local council or social services department and saying you're interested in buying gifts for children in need. If nothing else, they may well accept cash to be spent on presents.
posted by paduasoy at 3:33 AM on December 2, 2007


Hey guys...my girlfriend wants to thank all of you for your recommendations, as they've given her a much better idea of what cheap mp3 players are out there, what her options are, and some other considerations to keep in mind.

As for the "buy a kid some Christmas gifts" program, it's set up through her city's Social Services. It's not anything like a distinct charity...even calling it a "program" makes it sound fancier than it really is; it's just something Social Services does.

If you're interested in doing something similiar, call your local Social Services. If they don't do something like this, I'm sure they'll know someone who does.
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:14 PM on December 2, 2007


Uh, ignore what I just said. The program is called Operation Good Cheer. Weirdly, I can't find an official website, but here's some information from a press release:

"This entirely volunteer Christmas gift-giving program, sponsored and coordinated by Child & Family Services of Michigan, Inc. State Office, began in 1971 by individuals who wanted to make a difference in the lives of children who reside in foster care. Recipients include infants, children, teenagers, and adults with disabilities. Over 4,000 children and youth are provided with gifts each year to open on Christmas morning and since 1971 more than 50,000 participants have had their Christmas wishes come true as a result of Operation Good Cheer volunteer efforts. Thousands of generous volunteers gather annually to participate in Operation Good Cheer. Donor groups and individuals purchase and wrap Christmas gifts from a child's "Wish List". At donor sites, these gifts are picked up and transported by volunteer trucking companies  and their drivers to a centrally located airport. Pilots and drivers with their aircraft and vehicles transport the gifts to local airports across Michigan. At each airport, agency volunteers gather the the gifts and deliver them to the children and youth in foster care. This impressive display of generosity provides thousands of youth, some of whom would not receive anything otherwise, with gifts and the joy of knowing there are people who care."
posted by Ian A.T. at 6:00 PM on December 2, 2007




Resist the impulse to buy her an inexpensive iPod of any sort. Putting aside issues of value or style, iPods really work best when used with a single computer. If she's a foster kid, chances are against her being in that sort of situation. Instead get her something that can be treated like a USB disk and loaded with music just by dragging and dropping files.

Absolutely. Any player you get should be able to play any musical file on it's drive.

Go for the largest size flash player you can get, with replaceable batteries (iPods only last a year or two so before they need a $100 battery replacement)
posted by delmoi at 3:40 PM on December 4, 2007


(iPods only last a year or two so before they need a $100 battery replacement)

No.

I have two iPods that are both over two years old, neither needs a batter replacement, if they did, I could probably have it done for $30.

Still, the iPod is the wrong device for this situation.
posted by Good Brain at 6:05 PM on December 7, 2007


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