“Mom, My Headphones Are Broken!”

Headphone Choices Target
Headphones. Photo: Maryann Goldman.

“Mom, my headphones are broken!”

How many times have you heard that in the last year? If I had a dollar for every time I’d heard it, I’d be rich!

My boys, ages 10 and 12, hang out together while playing Minecraft, listening to YouTube videos, and skyping with their friends. This means that they often wear headphones, so that they can be polite to the other person and hear what’s happening on their computer instead of the other person’s computer. A set of headphones with a microphone is essential to them. They are also essential to me, so I don’t have to hear all the noise coming from their computers either.

Although I am somewhat interested in volume-limiting headphone capabilities, my main concern is that the headphones last longer than a couple of weeks to a couple of months.

Three months would be a record at our house.

I swear, I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried earbud-style headphones, over-the-ear headphones, and even old-school full-size headphones. We’ve tried ones made especially for kids. I’ve tried ordering $4 headphones from China through eBay. I’ve tried virtually every style and design they sell at Target and Walmart. I’ve even tried giving the kids the good Apple headphones that came with my iPhone 6. It feels like if I were to graph the cost versus the time that they last, they’re all about the same. While the Apple ones lasted a little bit longer, they also cost a lot more.

So, how do they break you ask? Well, on the cheaper ones, the microphones often just stop working. Sometimes they bring them to me and the plastic cover over top of the microphone has split in two and the wires are exposed. Frequently, the plastic coating the wires where the wire goes into the earbud is really not thick enough and the plastic ends up breaking and exposing the wires. Sometimes, one ear will just stop working. They’ll often use them in that state until both ears quit. I know some kids are rougher on their equipment than others, and that may be some of what’s happening here. However, I also feel like they are trying to be careful with them. After dealing with the wrath of mom on a few occasions and hearing a lecture on how much they cost and how small our budget is for replacing headphones, I’m sure they’re not intentionally breaking them. All it can take for them to break is forgetting to remove them from your ears and getting up with them still on one time. Boom! Broke!

I have seriously considered investing in wireless Bluetooth headphones. They also come in a variety of shapes and configurations. It’s not that I’m not willing to spend the $30 to $50 to get a decent pair. I’m sure there are some great options out there. But I feel using wireless headphones with kids will present a whole new series of problems. Can you hear them now? “Mom, I need to use my headphones and they aren’t charged!” Or worse yet, “Mom, I plugged my headphones into the charger, but they won’t charge.”  Seriously, they can barely remember to plug in their iPad and Nexus tablets so that they’re ready for use when we go on road trips. I know they won’t remember to keep their headphones charged either. Also, I’d be willing to bet that all of those headphones use a USB micro connector for the charging port. Have you had any devices at your house that have been ruined by kids fisting in the USB micro cable? I have. Even if they get help plugging them in or carefully plug them in themselves, I can see them using them while they’re charging. That puts a lot of wear and tear on the charging port too. I am not a USB micro charging fan. Plus, I’m not even sure if their older PCs support Bluetooth.

GeekMom has had the pleasure to review quite a few headphones. I’m sure these are great for niche groups (e.g., runners), have wonderful sound quality, and/or have volume-limiting controls that work well. If I was looking for a great pair of headphones for me, I’d buy one of those. What we need is a headphone product with a microphone that will hold up to kid wear and tear the way a phone can withstand trauma in an OtterBox.

I’ve had two other mothers contact me, stating that they are also spending too much money on headphones at their house. They asked me if I had a solution. Other than suggesting they consider Bluetooth, I really didn’t. I did feel somewhat vindicated knowing that I’m not the only mom with this dilemma.

With summer vacation upon us, what’s a mom to do?

For now, I have a spare supply of inexpensive earbuds lying around for those emergencies. I guess we’ll stick with that plan. Less time on the computer and more time at the pool or going on summer adventures sounds like a good idea too. Let me know if you’ve come up with a headphone solution at your house. I’m all ears!