Holiday Shopping & Kids: Toys, Technology & Trade-offs

Manic:  The holiday gift wish list from kids with requests for all kinds of electronic items from conversing dolls to elaborate gaming devices and more.  To further complicate things, age appropriateness must also be considered.  Toys are not simple play things like they were when I was a child back in the late 60s and early 70s.

Managed:  Guest writer and licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Lisa Strohman shares important and valuable advice on how to make that parenting purchasing decision when it comes to selecting gifts for the kids. Before you hit the stores, read her helpful tips first….

Dr. Lisa Strohman says:

Lisa & book






      Toys, Technology & Trade-offs

tree gifts
The holidays are here.  Before being swayed by pleading requests for the latest new gaming device, I urge parents to consider their children’s age and what is appropriate for their developmental stage.

Play helps children grow, learn, and thrive. It is also extremely important for healthy physical, social, emotional and cognitive development. It is through play that children develop their gross and fine motor skills. They gain confidence, decision-making skills and acquire critical thinking skills that will prepare them for adulthood.

This year’s trends in technological based toys appear to be toys that talk, tablets that “grow up” with kids, and robotics that allow children to build. There’s even a new line of dolls that mimic lifelike conversations. While it may sound like a cool feature, these dolls aren’t appropriate for little ones that don’t understand the difference between real and pretend.

The latest gadgets and gizmos are in high demand, but traditional toys often do more to develop healthy minds and bodies. Considering the developmental stage of the child is most important when deciding what is best to for holiday gifts.

Not sure where to begin? Fear not, I’ve compiled a list of suggestions:

For young infant to toddler

  • Toys to reach for, hold, suck, shake and make noise—rattles, large rings, squeeze toys, teething toys, soft dolls, textured balls, and vinyl and board books
  • Listening—books with nursery rhymes and poems, and recordings of lullabies and simple songs
  • Visual mobiles to hang over the crib or car seat that promote interaction and the beginning of eye-hand coordination
  • Toys encouraging imaginary play—baby dolls, puppets, plastic and wood vehicles, building blocks
  • Items that promote motor skills—plastic bowls, large beads, balls, and nesting toys, and, push and pull toys

For toddler through elementary

  • Toys that teach problem solving —wood puzzles, blocks that snap together, objects to sort, and things with hooks, buttons, buckles, and snaps
  • Creative & active play — child-sized kitchen sets, chairs, play food, dress-up clothes, dolls with accessories, ride on equipment 3yrs+, tunnels, sand and water toys sand box
  • For the aspiring artist and fine motor skill development—non-toxic art supplies, paper, child scissors, chalkboard and rhythm instruments
  • To build vocabulary and attention – Picture books short stories, word play games and board gamesAlphabet Book

For Tweens and teens

  • Series books that encourage a connection and more reading
  • Gaming systems with age appropriate, educational games – along with house rules limiting access and time
  • Sports equipment – goal posts, pitch-back trainers, a basketball hoop, a new bikeon bikes
  • Life experiences – tickets to a game or concert , a special outing to a new place

If a tablet or phone is on the list, establish a family contract with rules for use. Other electronics like CD and DVD players can provide entertainment, but remember to keep all electronics out of kids’ bedrooms. Tech toys, games and gadgets can be fun, but starting down this path too early and without rules can deprive children of valuable learning and development.


About our guest writer:

Dr. Lisa Strohman is a Scottsdale-based clinical psychologist and the founder and director of Technology Wellness Center, which provides online resources and expert support to parents. Her first book, Unplug: Raising Kids in a Technology Addicted World was published earlier this year. Dr. Lisa frequently speaks at schools and to parent groups on topics related to children and technology and what parents and educators need to know. She is also a regular guest on Dr. Drew’s radio show and frequently interviewed by the media about technology and child safety. Dr. Lisa’s most important job is mother to her daughter and son, both now in elementary school. To learn more about Dr. Lisa visit her website


Important Steps To Take To Protect Kids From Online Dangers

If you read yesterday’s guest article about understanding the dangers of technology when it comes to our kids in today’s social media and multiple device obsessed world, then you will want to be sure to read today’s post about what steps we can take as parents to reduce the dangers.

Our guest writer, licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Lisa Strohman outlines the crucial steps we can take as parents to protect our children from the online world where the potential bad guys (and bad gals) can lurk.  It is a scary thought and a real danger that is something that we can’t ignore.

So take a look and ask yourself if you are taking these steps.  I know that I can do better on some of these suggestions.  One thing I would add since I have a 17-year-old and a 13-year-old is to accept that your kids may get mad at you when you ask questions and/or place limits on their technology and device time.  Teens and techToo bad because your action could be a life saving action.  Parenting is not easy, especially in today’s fast paced online world.

Dr. Strohman says:

Lisa & book

Protecting Our Children From Online Dangers

In yesterday’s piece, I outlined two very serious dangers our children are vulnerable to when they have access to the Internet without obstruction – pornography, and the risk of connecting with sex offenders.  On a daily basis, interacting with their peers, they are also more vulnerable to cyberbullying and gaming addictions.

Fortunately, recognizing the dangers is the first step and by taking action parents can minimize the risks. So, how do we protect our children?

  1. Assess the situation

The first thing every parent should do is sit down and have an honest conversation with their child about what the Internet is and its hidden dangers.  Then, assess the level of dependence your child or children may already have on technology. bigstock-Boy-Playing-Game-Console-8012650 (1)The Technology Wellness Center has developed the the TUC©, which is a tool designed for parents to assess their children’s level of risk in the areas of physical, emotional, behavioral and interpersonal health.

  1. Monitor usage

Monitoring your child’s online activities is critical during developmental years. You can download every message they send, check their contacts in their phone, connect with them on social media or utilize a program that alerts parents of the use of various key words. How you monitor and the rules you set is a parenting decision and one that will vary by age. What’s important to understand is that allowing young kids unrestricted access to the Internet is similar to dropping them off at a mall without supervision knowing there could be sociopaths and sex offenders present.

  1. Establish rules

Implementing rules and guidelines on what kids can and can’t do on their devices, when they can use them and why is the last step in protecting your kids online.  Most children are very receptive to mandatory rules that are consistently enforced. No child (that I have met) wants to take out the trash and empty the dishwasher, but they do it when it is an expected part of the daily house rules and it is enforced. Internet rules are no different. If you can talk to your children about what the rules are, why they are in place and how you will be enforcing them, then you will be laying the foundation for protecting your kids from online predators and other technology related threats.

Every family needs to determine what will work for them. The important factor in making it work is maintaining consistency and open, ongoing communication (preferably face-to-face).

Thank you Dr. Strohman for these very helpful tips.  You can meet Dr. Strohman and attend a very beneficial FREE event on August 19th in Scottsdale.  This free parenting seminar for the new school year is called the “Do’s, Don’ts and Dangers of Social Media” and I recommend this for parents.  Plus she will have a book signing immediately following the seminar.  You can get details about that here.  If you would like to attend or get more information, email Dr. Strohman at [email protected] or call (480)220-4702.

And be sure to check out her helpful book for parents called Unplug Raising Kids in a Technology Addicted World that I highly recommend. Book cover (1)

Thank you to Dr. Strohman for being a valuable resource for parents. I do believe it takes a village and most especially in today’s technology plus 24/7 social media world.  It is a lot for us to naviagate, much less our impressionable kids and teens!

AZ Local: A Parenting Seminar To Know About Technology & Kids

It seems like everyday I hear about a new form of social media.  No longer just Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.  There is also Snapchat,, Vine and more.  And it is all readily available on smart phones, tablets and laptops with one click of the mouse.  Teens and techIt is truly hard to keep up with and definitely a bit unnerving, so when licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Lisa Strohman offers to write a guest post for this blog, I always say yes.  And good news, Dr. Strohman has a very useful book out for parents called Unplug Raising Kids in a Technology Addicted World that I highly recommend.  Book cover (1)She also has a good event to know about on August 19th in Scottsdale that is a FREE parenting seminar for the new school year.  Called the “Do’s, Don’ts and Dangers of Social Media” I recommend this for parents plus she will have a book signing immediately following the seminar.  You can get details about that here.  If you would like to attend or get more information, email Dr. Strohman at [email protected] or call (480)220-4702.

Be sure to read on because her guest post today outlines some dangers about technology that you may not have considered and I do believe that knowledge is power when it comes to our kids and their technology. Ignorance is not bliss with this very important subject, so take a look…

Dr. Strohman says:

Lisa & book




Understanding the Dangers of Technology

For parents there is nothing more worrisome than something that threatens the wellbeing of our children. Unfortunately, I’ve found that many parents aren’t taking into account the threat that stems from technology.

Parents no longer have the luxury of assuming that when their children are at school or at home they are free from danger. When I speak to parents about the risk of sexual predators, cyber bullying, pornography or gaming addiction, many are dismissive and don’t believe it could affect their children. In the last 10 years working as a psychologist, I’ve learned that it happens all the time. Not only does it happen, it happens to families that have sweet, smart, kind kids with great, loving, involved parents. The Internet allows children to go into corners of the world that are unregulated and unsupervised.

Six is the average age for a child receiving their first phone, and nearly all phones are now equipped with Internet access and data plans that rarely come with usage restrictions. What parents need to understand is children have little to no impulse control. The combination of naiveté and age can create a recipe for disaster.

According to the latest statistics from the Pew Research Center, nearly 92 percent of teens go online daily and 24 percent admit they are constantly connected. earphones-friends-hand-With such easy access to the Internet, it is impossible for parents to monitor all of their child’s online activity.[1]

After talking to countless teens and counseling families, I see technology as the new gateway drug. While this may seem a bit dramatic, to help explain I am sharing two very serious dangers our children are now more susceptible to as a result of our increasing dependency on technology.

Sex Offenders

Sex offenders prey on children by tapping into their insecurities and finding a way to instill a trust. Fortunately and unfortunately, the Internet is a convenient tool for accessing personal information. For the most part, parents are willing participants: posting birthdates, sporting associations, school functions and pictures that have traceable meta tags online for all to see. What many parents don’t realize is sex offenders use these tools to learn what they need to feel liked and important. They use the information to get closer to children through flattery, interest, and sympathy – the very things insecure adolescents crave.


Most parents are shocked when I tell them that research indicates nearly 53 percent of boys and 28 percent of girls younger than 15 have viewed pornography online.[2]  When you look at the statistics for children up to the age of 18, studies report nine out of 10, or 87 percent, of boys and one out of three girls, 31 percent, admit to accessing porn online.[3]  The porn industry is a $97 billion industry worldwide and many of these sites are enlisting children as their newest clients. More alarming, one of the most lucrative aspects of pornography involves children and many children are unaware that they’re entering the pornography industry when they participate in the creation of sexually explicit videos. Once these videos or other graphic material are online there is very little that can be done to remove it.

Knowing and understanding the dangers that potentially face your child online is the first step to preventing these negative interactions from happening.  Tomorrow we will share part 2 of my article for this blog.  I will share with you some important tips on how to directly combat misuses of technology. Crucial stuff for parents to know in this day and age.



[2] Brown, J. & L’Engle, K. 2009, Communications Research, 36(1), 129-151, X-Rated: Sexual attitudes and behaviors associated with U.S. early adolescents’ exposure to sexually explicit media.


[3] Carroll, Jason S., et al. “Generation XXX: Pornography Acceptance and Use Among Emerging Adults.  Journal of Adolescent Research 23.1 (2008) 6-30. (Study examined population of emerging adults, aged 18-26)


Managing Screen Time: Teaching Kids To Disconnect To Connect

Manic:  The sheer amount of our electronics these days.  It seems that all ages are connected to a cell phone, the internet, email, an electronic game, etc. most of the time.  So connected that we become disconnected.

Managed:  Happily welcomed Dr. Lisa Strohman‘s guest article on this very important topic.  Dr. Strohman is a clinical psychologist who specializes in educating parents and children on the effects of technology overuse or addiction.  Connecting with our children is very important, and believe me, especially so when they reach the crucial teenage years, which is exactly where we are now.  So read on for her very helpful advice on this tricky topic.  And be sure to look at the information at the end of this article to see how you can attend a free seminar to hear Lisa talk more about this.  Her seminar is a very beneficial tool for parents.

Lisa says:

Managing Screen Time: Teaching kids to disconnect in order to connect

By Dr. Lisa Strohman JD, PhD

Parents are overwhelmed, unsure of how they can gain control. They frequently ask, “How much screen time is too much? And how can we get control or even know what our kids are doing online?” earphones-friends-hand-

Many parents find it all so daunting they give up before trying. Feeling overcome by the amount of time their children are spending online is becoming a common concern. We see news stories discussing the good, bad and ugly of technology and our increasing connection to screens.

The first step in determining if technology is negatively impacting your kids is to pay attention to how your kids act during and after watching TV, playing video games, or spending time online. If they are watching and using age appropriate media, their behavior is positive and their screen-time is balanced with plenty of healthy screen-free activities, there is little reason for worry. If you find them constantly glued to a screen, making more friends online than on the playground and sneaking behind your back to log online, you have reason for concern.

There is research that supports a link between heavy media use and health and behavior issues like:

  • Obesity
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Academic challenges
  • Aggression

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), one of the only established organizations to make recommendations on screen time, advises parents that children under two-years-old should have no screen time. For older kids, the AAP discourages screen time beyond two to three hours a day.

To protect children from the negative impact of technology, parents should consider creating a  technology use schedule and adopting rules for the entire family. To gain control, I recommend a few initial steps:

  1. Reduce the number of devices or screens kids are allowed to use
  2. Determine guidelines on the types of online games or activities they can use
  3. Preview programs they can watch and games they play
  4. Set enforceable screen-time limits
  5. Keep an open dialogue with your kids about the dangers and pitfalls
  6. Include the whole family in conversation to determine household rules and consequences

Take time to learn what your children like watching and playing. Try to understand why they use the apps they are using and what shows and games they are interested in. Most children will go through periods of heavy and light media use. Parents need to focus on teaching the importance of balance and encouraging activities offline.

We know technology is ever changing with new apps, games and social media platforms being introduced almost every day. Setting limits and gaining control is not an easy undertaking, but there are resources available to parents that can help keep children safe and healthy. Before giving up on, learn what you can do to manage and monitor your kids’ activities on their smartphones, game consoles, computers and tablets. It’s never too late.


About our guest writer:

Dr. Lisa Strohman - Black topDr. Lisa Strohman is a clinical psychologist who specializes in educating parents and children on the effects of technology overuse or addiction.  Visit to learn more and to take her proprietary Technology Use Continuum (TUC) assessment to gauge a child’s risk for technology addiction or overuse.  In addition to counseling, she hosts free educational seminars for parents and educators. To learn more visit


Scottsdale Psychologist Tackles Technology Addiction  

Free Seminar Identifies Four Major Areas of Impact 

 Wednesday, March 4th

***Free seminar for parents on Wednesday, March 4th

WHAT:           Are your kids glued to their smart phones, hooked on their iPads or attached to their gaming devices? Dr. Lisa Strohman, clinical psychologist and founder of Technology Wellness Center, is inviting the public to Minimizing & Monitoring:  Combating the Four Areas of Impact.  The seminar will focus on how technology overuse can impact a child’s physical, emotional and behavioral well-being, and threaten interpersonal skill development. Dr. Lisa will provide tips for monitoring children’s exposure to suitable content and offer tools to help manage and minimize screen time.

Dr. Lisa is an expert in technology wellness issues and is dedicated to providing resources to combat the social and emotional issues resulting from technology use.


WHEN:           Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 9:30 – 10:30 AM

WHERE:         LifeScape Medical Associates @ 8757 E. Bell Rd., Scottsdale, AZ 85260

      WHO:         The event is open to parents, educators and adults working with children.

     COST:         FREE to attend, but seating is limited. Attendees must register at       


CONTACT:       Phone: (480) 220 -4702 or Email: [email protected]