So here is my list, not necessarily in any order of importance. I think for any student, a mini camcorder would be exciting to have. These are small camcorders that can record just about anything. I think it is time for kids to learn how to put together clips to make movies. In fact, many kids already know how to do this--the evidence is on YouTube. What we teachers need to do much like we teach writing is to give the kids assignments that show the student how they can take advantage of this new medium. [for those not normally involved with technology, the word medium (means to come between) is singular while the word media is plural--you okay with that?] For example, if I were once again a fifth grade teacher I might assign to those who have mini camcorders to video someone or someones doing something nice. Then we might talk about...."did you get that person permission or release?" "Did they know you were filming them?" A host of discussion questions come to mind. Fun stuff. If I were an upper level teacher, perhaps saying to students in a civics class, video a problem in our community and write a one page paper as to how the problem can be solved. A stop sign being blocked by trees or a cross walk not easily seen. So--a mini camcorder would be a good gift.
What you say you don't want your kids to be able to sexting--showing themselves naked on the web. I agree but what a chance now to talk to your children and say what is acceptable behavior, perhaps what consequences might happen if they did. As usual, I think talking to them is a good form of educating your child. They will love you for it at some point in their lives.
Cell phones are another gift suggestion. I think the cell phone has changed our society in a quantum leap. Instant communications. If I were a parent today I would want to know I could reach my child whenever it was necessary. Yes, I know this is going to be hard on the teachers. We can't have ringing going on throughout the class day but I think we can say to put all the phones on vibrate and solve that problem. "And no texting except at lunch time!" I think the cell phone is a good device for kids to have.
I have a quandary with my next suggestion. I think an e-reader would be a great idea except there several are still being developed. The Kindle has been out and it is an excellent device. You can put over a thousand books on it. This may get some children to increase their reading. And here is a weird idea--if the child (no matter what age) has dyslexia, they MAY be able to read "better" on a e-reader. I've had a number of students (including myself) who read better of an electronic screen then with ink on paper. No we haven't figured out why yet. But I think the e-readers are a great innovation. Amazon.com has the Kindle, Sony has one on the market and so does Barnes and Noble. Apple is supposed to have a device the first of the year (2010). There is the quandary. Which one?
It goes without saying that I would recommend computers for students. Yes, we have them at school but it is a necessary item for doing homework these days. Many teachers will give assignments that include web addresses. Learning how to search on the web is a present day skill--sorta like looking up words in the dictionary. It was one of my students who taught me how to look up the spelling of a word on Google--she typed a misspelled word in the search box and Google came back and said, "Did you mean" and then spelled the word correctly. I never thought of doing that...now I do it all the time.
However, if you have all the computers that you need in your family, do you have back-up devices for those computers? Hhhhmmmmm? It may not be the most exciting gift but having your computer back up your work every fifteen minutes or so is.....wonderful, particularly if you just erased something and didn't mean to do it. Back up storage devices have come down in price--look them up.
For the youngest child I would want to get them some CDs and DVDs of stories of yore. Yes, there are plenty of the same stuff on television these days but the ability to put in a disc and play it over and over is important in the development of a small child. Along with such discs I would want to get small children books of all types. Even books that may be a bit advance for them--like clothing, they will grow into them.
I wish you all the best for the coming holidays. May you find everything that you want to give and may your stress level remain stable. And don't forget to send a card to your child's teacher....it let's them know you appreciate them. At the high school level, pick your child's favorite and thank them. We teachers will really appreciate your thoughts.