If there's a child in your home, it's likely there's an electronic device written somewhere on a Christmas list this year.
From video games to iPads to e-readers, it's not just the moms and dads who are hoping Santa puts one under the tree. Heck, the whole Christmas list may fit in a stocking.
(Truth be told here, my 6-year-old said the only - ONLY - thing she wants for Christmas is an iPod Touch. Santa and Mrs. Claus are debating it).
Justin Cannon is co-owner of The Orchard, which sells used and refurbished Apple products at two locations in Mesa and Chandler.
"This year is considerably busier than last year. It started the day after Thanksgiving. We probably through the next five days sold about 70 laptops, primarily as Christmas gifts. I can hardly keep them on the shelf."
And as for the popular iPad, "Usually the day I get them in, before I have them ready to sell, they're already sold," he said.
According to SodaHead, which surveys people through the Internet, the No. 1 desired gift this year is a video game. No. 2 is a tech device or computer. The iPhone 4S is the No. 1 requested item, with the iPad right behind it.
"Essentially an iPod Touch is for younger kids. The older kids are getting the iPhone," Cannon said. If a parent comes in looking for an iPad for a student, Cannon tries to sway parents toward a Mac computer for its value and capabilities.
Some parents are bringing their children into The Orchard to pick out a computer or device as an early Christmas present, or to get a better idea of what they really want and can use.
Though a majority of the devices are being bought for older children in junior high or high school, Cannon said he's seen parents make purchases for all ages.
"We do see younger. I was just on the phone with a woman who is buying two of the MacBooks for her 5- and 3-year-old daughters," he said.
Gilbert resident Jenifer Ray said her daughter, 7, will find a Kindle Fire under her tree. The Kindle Fire is Amazon's latest entry into the tablet arena.
With her daughter savvy about using her dad's iPhone, Ray said the tablet will be a breeze for her.
"She was completely at ease when she picked it up," Ray said of her daughter trying the device at a store. "She knows how to get onto an app, and if something pops up, to give it to us," and not click on something that may lead to a purchase. "She does all her homework on a computer. This generation, they know how to navigate it and it's easy to do."
The gift will primarily be used for games, reading interactive books (through Jenifer's Amazon account), and streaming movies, Ray said.
Jeff Delp is principal at Chandler's Willis Junior High School, which offers Innovation Academy, a blended learning program where students use a great deal of technology in the classroom.
"For us in education, I think it's about giving kids access to information. As a parent you have to decide how much access do you want to give?" Delp said. "Certainly for kids that are junior high age, you're looking at the things that are popular right now like the iPad and the tablets. I think that both are appropriate for kids this age, but obviously, like you would with a computer, you have to monitor what they're doing."
Devices like the iPad and iPad Touch can be useful because students can take notes on them, and then share them among classmates, Delp said.
Then there are the math practice tools, puzzle games and thinking skill applications available.
Dr. Norman Saba, chief of pediatric services at Cardon Children's Medical Center in Mesa, said he's seen children as young as 2 playing Angry Birds on an iTouch or iPhone.
"Whether they really realize what they're doing, who knows. Some parents use them as a babysitting tool to keep the child occupied."
There are some definite benefits, he said. "Some children might not sit and read a book at home or at the library, but they might read a book if it's on the device."
The key, he said, is constant parental supervision, and putting restrictions in place, both through the device and through monitoring.
"The one thing is these are very addicting for all ages. You'll see kids fighting over it," he said.
For older children, like those in middle school, parents need to make sure they can't access inappropriate material on the Internet. On some devices, like the iTouch or iPhone, it is possible to shut down Web access so only the games and applications can be used.
Saba suggests limiting "screen" time (be it computer, tablet or television) to 30 minutes a day for the really young children and no more than two hours for older children. That may include time to get homework done.
"They need to be out running and playing with kids their own age," he said of younger kids.
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