Friday, June 18, 2010

In Support of Silly Bandz

By Mimi Hecht

If you’re over the age of eighteen, chances are you’re a bit out of the loop. You’ve seen the flashy colors, but are clueless about the craze. You have no idea that, right now, kids all over the country are saving their allowance and going hysterical for the latest fashion trend - a rubber band. But as a closer look will tell, it’s not just any rubber band…

The new trend hooking our kids is called “Silly Bandz,” a silicone band that is die-molded into a variety of different friendly shapes like musical instruments, dinosaurs and sports items. The bands are stretched and worn as bracelets, but return to their original shape when taken off. If they ever take them off, that is. Since this past April, when BCP Imports (creator of the Livestrong Band) distributed them to over 8,000 stores, kids have been stacking them up to their elbows and trading them like collectibles. Parents are racing to get a hold of more for their kids’ collections and stores are running out of stock in the blink of an eye. The popularity of the trendy rubber bands won’t stop, well, stretching.

But just as popular as the actual trend is the predictable response of parents and schools, who are reacting to the craze with a roll of the eyes...or even scorn. Some parents are refusing to let their kids succumb to “just another ridiculous fad” and teachers all over the country are banning the bands from their classroom, complaining they’re too distracting. Apparently the bracelet creator had some foresight with the name; everyone but the wearers themselves thinks Silly Bandz are exactly that - silly.

But perhaps, as ever-so-mature adults, we are a little too quick to disregard our kids’ youthful obsessions. When given some thought, the Silly Bandz are actually a very reasonable trend worthy of our children’s liking (okay, mania). Here’s my case for Silly Bandz. (And no, I am not being paid for my endorsement - the now millionaire creator Robert Croak doesn’t exactly need my support!)

The great thing about Silly Bandz is they they’re a “gotta-have” that’s more than about simply showing you have it. It’s about how you have it. For an age group that is all about self-expression, the Bandz support individuality like few other current fads. Kids actually partake in choosing the bracelets they most identify with. The musician will stack his arm with instruments; the sea-creature lover will collect dolphins and penguins; the western-inspired kid (okay, weird, but still) will don the cowboy hat and horse. In many ways, kids can look at their friend’s collection and know just a little bit more about them. They’re a great way for kids to converse about hobbies, memories and the things they care about. Moreover, kids are applying their imagination to the way they choose to sport the craze – on key chains, hung from a necklace or displayed in lockers. What could be better? In a culture where self-expression isn’t always individualistic and certainly not always healthy, this is just one good reason parents should support the bracelet craze.

Another - though certainly less altruistic - motivation to like your child’s new fashion interest is that it’s light on the wallet. A pack of 24 Silly Bandz is under five bucks. If you’re disciplined about buying things for your kids, you can practically tell your kids to go purchase it themselves. Just be thankful it’s not the iPad or a Nintendo Wii that they can’t do without. You won’t have to give a whole speech about losing it, and you certainly can let them share it with friends (what a concept!).

It’s certainly true that obsession - no matter how neutral the subject- can be unhealthy. But, as the Silly Bandz creator knows best, kids are simply hardwired to get obsessed. Just remember when you were ten years old. Nothing was going to get between you and your slap-bracelet, Gak or Beanie Baby (choose your generation) - and you just had to have a ton. All the more so with today’s trend-conscious kids; there’s nothing you can do to curb their enthusiasm. While teachers should be regulating the trading and distraction of Silly Bandz in the classroom, they shouldn’t be banning them altogether. Kids get enough slack to be further bombarded with criticism over a cheap rubber band that is the current mark of fun and individuality.

Parents - and especially Jewish parents - are always cautious about the trends that find their way to our vulnerable kids. But adults need to learn not to scare from every kid-craze. Each trend that captures their devotion deserves a closer look to determine the real dangers or - as in the case of Silly Bandz - possible virtues. And given the totally harmless and even good-natured trend dazzling our kids right now (until next month’s new thing) you have nothing to be up-in-arms about. Unless, of course, up your arms are Silly Bandz.

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