Mobile phones and tablets are popular gifts, but experts are cautioning parents about the drawbacks of technology.
Ann Lagges, an assistant professor of clinical psychology at Indiana University, says there are many positives to electronics, including educational uses and helping children stay connected with friends, but she says moderation is key.
“Whenever anything takes up all of somebody’s time, it becomes their sole focus,” she points out. “It means that other parts of their life are paying the price. So, things like real world social activities, school work, sleep, physical exercise, things like that.”
Lagges suggests that parents keep an eye on what their children are doing online and set some time limits. She says parents should also consider the quality of activity, since working with friends on a school project is very different than playing a violent video game.
Lagges also encourages parents to consider the example they set.
“The parent who has their phone with them all the time and responds immediately to everything is perhaps not sending the best message to their kids about how to keep technology and social media in its proper place,” she stresses.
Lagges says there is no solid evidence that electronics can cause depression, but she warns that social media can exacerbate depression or anxiety. She encourages parents to watch for changes in their child’s behavior.
“Depressed and irritable mood, not seeming to enjoy anything anymore, changes in sleep or appetite, seeming really tired, having trouble concentrating, making statements about being worthless or even in most extreme cases making statements about death or suicide,” she says.