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There's a Downside to Tech Toys?

PHOTO: Tuned in, or tuned out? Technology tops the list of popular holiday gifts, but experts are warning parents about its potential drawbacks and the need to set limits for kids. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
PHOTO: Tuned in, or tuned out? Technology tops the list of popular holiday gifts, but experts are warning parents about its potential drawbacks and the need to set limits for kids. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
December 31, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY - Utah families are preparing to ring in the New Year, but some kids may miss the festivities because they can't take their eyes off a screen.

Mobile phones and tablets were among the hottest gifts this year, but experts are cautioning parents about the drawbacks of technology. Dr. Ann Lagges, an assistant professor of clinical psychology at Indiana University, said electronics have many positives, from educational uses to helping kids stay connected with friends - but added that moderation is key.

"Whenever anything takes up all of somebody's time, it becomes their sole focus; it means that other parts of their life are paying the price," she said. " So, things like real-world social activities, schoolwork, sleep, physical exercise - things like that."

Lagges suggested that parents keep an eye on what their kids are doing online and set some time limits. She said parents also should consider the quality of activity, since working with friends on a school project is very different than playing a violent video game.

Lagges also encouraged parents to consider the example they set.

"The parent who has their phone with them all the time and responds immediately to every 'bing' is perhaps not sending the best message to their kids about how to keep technology and social media in its proper place," she said.

While there is no solid evidence that overuse of electronics can cause depression, Lagges warned that social media can exacerbate depression or anxiety. She encouraged parents to watch for changes in their child's behavior.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - UT