IT is the peaceful, idyllic Christmas scene every family dreams of. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, a twinkling Christmas tree in the corner and parents, children and grandparents playing charades or gathering together around a jigsaw puzzle.
But for the vast majority of families, this year’s Christmas Day will be punctuated by the beeping of gadgets as more than eight in ten parents admit forking out an average of £243 on electronic gifts for their offspring this festive period.
Tablet computers, video games, smartphones and digital cameras are the top electronic presents children will find under the tree on Christmas morning, while a quarter of families will join together to play console games rather than traditional board games.
Almost a fifth of parents admit they will spend more than £500 on electronics, according to the report from comparison website uSwitch.com, with the total spend on technology products UK-wide coming to £3 billion.
Nearly a quarter of children are to be given their own tablet computer for Christmas, while 6 per cent may receive a smartwatch – the latest gadget, launched by technology companies earlier this year.
Ernest Doku at uSwitch.com said: “Many families are preparing for a tech-tastic Christmas this year, with many kids demanding the latest gadgets whatever their age.
“For many [parents] this will mean that the pressure is on to juggle Christmas wish lists with household budgets.”
A recent report into this year’s most popular Christmas toys by the Toy Retailers’ Association (TRA), showed that many toys which are not solely regarded as technology items still have some electronic elements.
Interactive furry animal the Furby, plus other robotic toys such as the Robo Fish Bowl and Teksta Robotic Puppy are likely to be among this year’s bestsellers, the TRA said.
The report found a quarter of parents believe they spend too much on gadgets for their children. But despite these concerns, more than a third think they will spend even more next year.
Mr Doku said: “Any parent worried about keeping the cost of Christmas gifts down should make sure they get the best deal, and perhaps think outside of the big names. Some Christmas lists may seem unreasonable and make for expensive reading, but a little bit of savvy shopping could help parents enjoy a peaceful Christmas – as well as a debt-free New Year.”
Once the gadgets have been put away, families are likely to turn to the more traditional side of technology and spend an average of three hours watching television on Christmas Day.
However, a harmonious Christmas is unlikely for the quarter who argue over what to watch. More than a fifth of such television-related tensions will be resolved by view-on-demand apps such as iPlayer and 4OD, but a quarter of households will see family members watch TV in different rooms.
“It is a time when families think they should be doing things all together and that can create tension in some areas,” said Tina Woolnough, spokeswoman for the National Parent Forum of Scotland. “It is good that many families are finding new and innovative ways to spend time as a group.
“Families have their own traditions – some like to do the same things every year and others like to do new things.”
The report found many families are also planning to pursue more traditional Christmas activities. More than half said they will play board games together, and almost a third will play parlour games such as charades.
Top five tech gifts for under 16s
1 Tablet computer24%
2 Video games17%
4 Digital camera12%
84% parents will spend £243 on electronic gifts for their children this Christmas.
16% will spend more than £400
25% of families will play games together on consoles
52% will play board games
31% will play parlour games like charades