AUSTIN (KXAN) - If you have children and some sort of touch-screen device, like an iPhone or iPad, then you likely already know how well they can use it. You likely also know a lot of children want one for Christmas.
KXAN News went to see Santa Claus at Barton Creek Square Mall in Southwest Austin and asked children what was on their wish lists this year. We found the answer is pretty universal.
Ten-year-old Bruno Beschorner from Austin said he only has one thing on his list, and that is an iPad 2.
Six-year-old Dean Young from Round Rock also said he wants an iPad 2, because it is so thin.
We even asked the expert himself, Santa Claus, who is listening to every request and making a list he does not really need to check twice.
"iPods, iPhones... i-anything," said Santa Claus.
Touch-screen phones and tablets like the iPad are at the top of lots of wish lists this year, and some parents are just trying to keep up.
"He knows how to work it better than I do," said Round Rock mom Anitra Young. "He takes my iPhone, and he's better at it than I am."
"Mostly Apple products, like iPad and i.. i.. iPod touch, right?" said Austin dad John Scannell as he struggled to remember what the devices were called.
So what's a parent to do? All those educational apps are supposed to help children, but is that iPad a good gift for a child?
KXAN went to the University of Texas' Learning Technology Center and asked the director, Dr. Paul Resta.
"There's both cognitive processes that are involved, and there's also motor processes that they're able to take action on the screen," said Resta. "They're able to control it. They've already made those connections."
The long-term effects of children using touch-screen devices are not yet known. Resta said it is just too early in the research process. He said there are great uses for books on a tablet, but tablets should never take the place of a hard copy.
Bottom line -- when trying to decide whether to buy an iPad or other tablet as a gift, parents should ask themselves one question: "What's the most appropriate and powerful ways to use it?" asked Resta. "Not to let a child just be sitting in the corner spending the day on that device as opposed to playing with other children and engaging in physical activity."
If parents monitor what children download and sit with them as they use the device, Resta said there can be value in getting that tablet for the holidays.
Santa Claus and his team of elves at the North Pole are ready to fill all of the orders.
"They've got to," said Santa Claus. "I mean we came and asked these children what they want so we've got to come across, I guess."
Of course there is always the cost factor. The devices can be expensive, but there are many tablet options. Some cost much less than an iPad.
Resta suggested a website from the Tennessee Board of Regents eLearning Initiative on which parents can plug in the type of device they have, the subject they want children to learn and age level, and it will direct them to apps that fit their needs.
Stores feel children's demands for iPads and iPhones
Brookstone manager Brock Berry at Barton Creek Square Mall sees the tablet demand this season, too. He said about half of his customers during this holiday shopping season have been buying the tablet and phone accessories, and many of those accessories have been for children.
Some of the more popular items at his store have been a Bluetooth keyboard for the iPad, speakers for iPads and iPhones and even a drone that is flown by downloading a free app for it.
"You can fly it with your iPhone or your iPod touch or with the iPad," said Brock Berry. "It's really sturdy. Fly it indoors or outdoors.It goes 60 feet high and 300 feet away from the iPad."
Parents have also been buying the I-Guy, a protector for the iPad with handles for a child to hold. It helps provide a shield around the outside of the tablet just in case it is dropped.
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