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Tips on buying tech toys for children

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TEMPE, ARIZ. – Kids typically make it perfectly clear to parents what they want for holiday presents when it come to technology. What’s less clear is what is appropriate for different age groups.

Arizona State University T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics Assistant Research Professor Mary Anne Duggan and Sanford School Graduate Research Associate Crystal Bryce offer guidelines on what’s appropriate to buy according to where children are in their developmental spectrum.

“Technology is like a food diet that should be balanced with time limits and other activities. Children are experiencing cognitive, physical, social and emotional development as they grow. When children spend an inordinate amount of time with technology they begin to lag in important developmental milestones,” Duggan said.

Children up to age 2 should have zero time in front of screens, according to guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media.

“Kids need direct interaction with people and three-dimensional objects for brain growth during this period. Research shows that there may be language development delays in children under age 2 who do have screen exposure,” Bryce said.

Children in this age group thrive with toys that engage their senses and enhance fine motor control. Toys like Pack ‘n Play are perfect for little ones in this age range.

Kids who are 3-to-5 years old are developing social skills and learning how to interact with others. Electronic games that work for children in this age group are those that involve other people. .Six to 8 year olds are in a crucial period when they are setting activity patterns for the rest of their lives, Bryce said.

“Go with things like the Wii and Xbox-Kinect that encourage kids to move around,” she said. “You can do them with the kids, too.”

“Make sure you are limiting screen time and also encourage activities that are not tech related,” Duggan said. Useful tools are a timer or parental controls available on some devices that limit time.

Less than one to two hours per day is recommended for screen time for children ages two and older and its best not to have screens at dinner or in the bedroom, Bryce said.

Children need to have parental interaction time. It’s also important to encourage children to play outside,” Duggan said. “Children need a variety of experiences to grow and develop.”