Smart Gift Giving

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It’s that time of the year, time to struggle over what to give loved ones for Christmas. Many of those gifts will be high tech. Psychologist Lisa Strohman, founder of the local Technology Wellness Center, one of the first organizations dedicated to addressing technology addiction and overuse, will discuss smart gift giving and how to choose the best age-appropriate toys and gifts.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," we'll hear advice on how to give appropriate high-tech gifts this holiday season. And we'll learn how a public relations campaign revived the KKK nearly 100 years ago. That's next on "Arizona Horizon."

Video: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff flake are speaking out against presidential candidate Donald Trump's call for a ban on Muslims entering the country. Senator McCain said of trump's idea, quote, it's just foolishness. Senator flake tweeted that, quote, just when you think Donald Trump can stoop no lower, he does. Other high-profile republicans in the state have thus far said nothing about trump's comments. There's a new state representative today. The Maricopa County board of supervisors picked democrat Celeste plumLee to replace senator Andrew Sherwood in district 26. Sherwood moved to the Senate to replace Ed Ableser, who took a job in Nevada. And two civil rights groups today asked the 9th circuit court of appeals to revive a lawsuit against a state ban on race-based abortions. A federal judge ruled that the Maricopa County NAACP and the national Asian women's forum did not have standing to try to overturn the law, which the ACLU claims is unconstitutional and designed to quote scrutinize the reasons that black and Asian women in Arizona have abortions."

Ted Simons: It's the gift-giving time of year and for many that means trying to find an appropriate high-tech game or gadget for family and friends. But the operative word here is "appropriate," considering the increasing concerns over technology's affects on society. Joining us now is psychologist Lisa Strohman, founder of the locally-based technology wellness center, one of the first organizations dedicated to addressing technology addiction and overuse. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon."

Lisa Strohman: Thank you for having me.

Ted Simons: Idea of smart gift giving regarding high-tech stuff. What are we talking about?

Lisa Strohman: You have to take into consideration, depending on where they are developmentally may not be able to tell the difference between reality and fantasy. Some technology toys that are coming out blur that line.

Ted Simons: They blur the line, but, again, you have to know, age guidelines for some of the things? Some toys have four and up, five and up. Does that work with technology as well?

Lisa Strohman: In some ways it does. In some ways it will allow you to have some of the guidelines. American medical association, American pediatric association, coming out with different guidelines. Technically if you look at historically, psychological world, if you look at what they do they tend to build their guidelines based on use. The American pediatric association says it is typical and normal to see texting in young TWEEN-age kids, which I think is highly inappropriate as a psychologist, for instance. Their guidelines have that as a normal part of adolescents.

Ted Simons: If you think that is inappropriate and a viewer things that is inappropriate, TWEEN kids, and Aunt Margaret decides what a great thing to allow junior to start texting.

Lisa Strohman: Aunt Margaret is probably not the person to buy the toys for the kids if that is the case in the situation.

Lisa Strohman: If you are Aunt Margaret, how do you find age-appropriate high-tech gifts? What do you look for?

Lisa Strohman: You look for things that build out creativity of children. If you think about why play is so important for kids, it is really what develops their brains. So, if you have a high-tech toy for instance that maybe does exploratory parts through national geographic would be a great example. Actually develops out through countries. Explore countries in that way but doesn't connect them to unknown strangers online,that would be a great example.

Ted Simons: Give me a bad example.

Lisa Strohman: Bad example would be my opinion is a smartphone. Because that is a gateway to any sorts of world, any sorts of communication with unknown individuals, and people that you probably do not want your child --

Ted Simons: Is it akin to the idea that you really shouldn't give someone a pet as a gift because it is so personal and you're talking about a life-changing kind of thing?

Lisa Strohman: That is a great analogy. I would absolutely not purchase a puppy for a friend and think that they would do that. If you think about children, they're kind of like ironically a blank computer that you buy. And it is empty when you start out with them and every piece of data is what builds them. If you give them technology that allows them to go into places, and dark places that you don't want them to go. That becomes part of who they are as individuals.

Ted Simons: You obviously, an expert here on tech addiction and overuse, and, you know, information overload. What is it like out there? How are people handling this?

Lisa Strohman: Quite frankly, not well. I think anybody that you talk to, whether children or adults, and I talk to the entire span of that, feel overwhelmed. And I think some of the stats are that we absorb about six newspapers worth of data per day and generate two newspapers worth. That is insane amounts of data that we are creating and absorbing on a daily basis and we are getting overloaded, and overburdened by that.

Ted Simons: Are we talking depression, anxiety, addiction is a factor here.

Lisa Strohman: Absolutely, addiction. If you have that genetic burden in your family, those tends to be at higher risk, adults tend to be at higher risk. Anxiety and depression are two of the main things that we see with our technology overuse.

Ted Simons: If you, again, you want to -- you want to be the good friend, good relative to give the kids something, good parent, what do you look for? What do you do?

Lisa Strohman: For me I say go low-tech. Books are great examples. If you are looking at little kids, never any technology before age two is a standard guideline that I would think is great. Elementary-age kids, lower-tech things, Legos, gadgets they can build and create their minds with. Middle school, high school, I love the idea of doing things, there is extreme coloring examples that you can do that are intricate that builds fine motor and develops out or even experiences. So giving them the gift of going to a museum, for instance.

Ted Simons: Little Johnny is going to go that's great for you. I want a smartphone. I want to be able to play madden football on my computer.

Lisa Strohman: Sure. I would explain to parents, aunt Margaret, whoever it is, that when you go on play station, X-box, particularly what the kids do, if you start to say yes, it is like giving that kid that lollipop in the beginning. They are going to keep demanding it over and over. And once they go live and connect online, you have a lot of potential of people coming in and trying to really work with your children and take them into places that you don't want them to go.

Ted Simons: If -- give us examples now of kids who do seem like they're on the precipice here. There is too much going on, too much technology, too much screen staring going on. What are the symptoms?

Lisa Strohman: A lot of times you see disconnect. A lot of overtired. Some tantruming, behaviorally you will get a lot of push-back, which a lot of parents -- can't tell the difference between whether or not that is normal child teenish behavior. I volunteer weekly in elementary, first grade, third grade, I see it at that age. You see kids disconnected. They're not empathetic to care friends. Friends fall down and they step over them and keep walking. That is new over probably the last 10 years, that kids are not really connecting with one another anymore.

Ted Simons: If they're not connecting, the kid that walks over the fallen kid, can you bring them back? Is it just a question of moving them away from the computer, what do you do?

Lisa Strohman: Moving them away from the computer, and absolutely you can bring them back. The blessing of having what we call neuroplasticity. You are looking at kids being connected and reading less than 40 minutes. A lot of time because of school, home life, already connected so much. Pulling that back as a parent, you need to do.

Ted Simons: So, last point here. I read that kids are not necessarily smarter, not necessarily happier, not necessarily better adjusted even with all of that high-tech gadgetry in front of their faces --

Lisa Strohman: Absolutely true. Research showing the more high-tech that they're becoming, the less absorption is occurring from an educational and academic place. It is not the same to read from a tablet a book as it is to take in the information from an actual textbook. And we're actually seeing research come out and show that these kids aren't getting the information that they once were.

Ted Simons: Something to keep in mind when you start shopping here. Great information. Good to have you here.

Lisa Strohman: Thank you so much.

Psychologist Lisa Strohman: Founder of the Local Technology Wellness Center

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