These are all items that top Christmas lists this year for kids both young and old. For the younger set (ages 5 to 10), parents need to carefully think through the purchase of these fun, entertaining, and sometimes educational techie toys.
When buying any gift for a child, you should always consider your goals for the present. What will it do for them? How will they use it? How much time will they spend with it?
If your goal is to help children pass the time on the long drive to grandmas or relax while you cook dinner, then those are fine uses – not abuses of technology.
Electronic devices definitely have their place in our world today, but there is no evidence that children learn very much from electronics at a young age. Children learn by being hands on.
They need to experience life and its daily realities. Electronics do not enhance social skills and do not help children connect with other people, nature, or learn about cause and effect in the real world.
The gift of an iPad, tablet or iTouch is very generous, but it is also gift that requires parents to set rules and limits on its use. A good rule of thumb is to limit children to one hour or less of screen time per day. This one-hour limit includes television, video games, computers, and handheld devices. Also, loading devices with educational games, books, and programs is a good way to encourage screen time that is both relaxing and productive.
Melissa Johnson is a Clinical Psychologist with WakeMed Children’s.