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Popular tech toys should come with parental supervision

kids looking at an e-book.
Lexie Flickinger

Michigan 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.

At Indiana University, Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology Dr. Ann Lagges says there are many positives to electronics, from educational uses to helping kids stay connected with friends. But, she says, moderation is key.

"Whenever anything takes up all of somebody's time, it becomes their sole focus," says Lagges. "It means other parts of their life are paying the price, things like real-world social activities, school work, sleep, physical exercise, and things like that."

Lagges suggests parents keep an eye on what their kids 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 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 says.

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

"Depressed and irritable mood, not seeming to enjoy anything anymore," says Lagges. "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."