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Gadget Givers Urged to Consider Ramifications
Date:12/14/2012

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Dec. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Gifts of electronic gadgets, like smartphones and laptops, no doubt bring glee to the teens who receive them. But people thinking of gifting such devices to a kid might want to consider the broader ramifications.

"With teens and these types of gifts, we're really talking about their ability to connect with the larger world," said Dr. Jonathan Pletcher, an adolescent medicine specialist at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. "These gifts come with a responsibility to talk with kids about the rules of engagement, and you have to be willing to have those talks."

"This is not a gift you can just give and walk away," he said. "It's like a new bike. You have to be willing to put in the time."

Take cellphones, now ubiquitous in teens' and younger kids' lives. According to the Pew Research Center, three-quarters of teens have a cellphone, and most use those phones to text one another.

When that texting takes place can be problematic.

"If you're reading a text, you're not looking at the road," said Dr. Barbara Gains, director of trauma and injury prevention at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. In addition, she said, "there have been reports of pedestrian injuries where kids were so busy texting that they've walked out in front of cars."

What's being texted can cause problems, too.

More than one-quarter of all teens have sent a naked picture of themselves to someone else, a practice known as "sexting," according to a report published online July 2 in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. And another study, published last December in Pediatrics, noted that text messaging has become a popular way for bullies to harass people.

One thing parents and other gift-givers probably don't need to be worried about, though, is any permanent eye damage from youths staring at a tiny cellphone screen.

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