iTots love to interact with new smartphones

 

Charlotte Stapleton peels off her bright blue gloves — a
“fashion statement,” according to her mom — and gets down to work.

Her tiny hand sweeps
over the screen of the iPhone 4, Apple’s
latest smartphone. Up pop photos of her as a dinosaur at Halloween. She points
and taps. Up pops a video of her with her younger sister, Peyton, rolling on
the floor. She giggles, then taps again. Up pops Nickelodeon’s popular
Victorious series starring Victoria Justice. Charlotte hops around the living
room in apparent ecstasy. Her dad, Stephen, 33, smiles from the kitchen. He has
seen this all before.

Charlotte, 3, began
mastering her mother’s iPhone two years ago. “She’s always been drawn to it,”
says Ainsley Stapleton, 33, a CPA. “She would sit there, unlock it, then there
was no stopping her.”

She’s
still going full speed ahead, finally landing on one of her favorite apps, an
animated video of The Wheels on the Bus. As the famous children’s song plays on
and on, she opens and shuts the bus doors, makes the bus driver’s arm rise and
fall, moves the windshield wipers back and forth. All with the flick of her
finger.

Ainsley Stapleton says her daughter constantly begs for
her high-tech playmate, but Mom has her limits. “I don’t let her talk on it,”
she says with a smile. Not a problem, really. Charlotte is a girl of few words,
rarely looking up from her iPhone.

Call
them iTots. Wunderkind of the 21st century. One-, two- and three-year-olds who
know their way around an iPhone or an iPad better than you do.

Some start waving their
pudgy little hands over those glowing screens before their first birthday.
Think 6 months.

Kids aren’t dreaming of a white Christmas anymore. Sleds?
Trains? Front teeth? Surely you jest. All they want for Christmas are two new
apps. They also want their own iPad.

 

Apps for kids

This is not news to Mike Elgan, who has dubbed the iPad
the children’s toy of the year. Apple’s computer tablet was introduced in April
and sold more than 3 million units in the first 80 days.

“If the iPhone was natural for children, the iPad will be
even more natural, simply because it’s larger,” the columnist for Computerworld
magazine wrote. “I think the iPad will spark a revolution in children’s
culture. I’m convinced that starting this year, and especially next year, iPads
will be the No. 1 most requested holiday and birthday gift by everyone under
the age of 18, and especially under the age of 12.”

 

Strike a balance

Could today’s tiny tots be following their Baby Boomer
elders — tuning in, turning on, dropping out? Casey and Bieler both concede
they’re worried about their children becoming anti-social with their high-tech
obsessions, sitting alone for hours with their electronic babysitters.

“We monitor it, though,” Casey says of Riley. “During the
day, he’s active. He doesn’t get the iPad until early evening. But when it’s
time to go to bed, a meltdown could happen.”

It’s hardly a surprise that today’s toddlers are so
tech-savvy. The high-tech equipment is all around them.

According to studies done at Adzookie.com, which places
ads on smartphones, almost 5 million households with kids under 6 have
smartphones. And 50% of iPhone moms let their kids use their phones; 29% of
those moms have kids under 4. An additional 4.7 million households with kids 6
to 11 have smartphones.

Not that they need their moms’ phones. Five percent of
kids ages 6 to 9 own their own, and the number is growing every month.

It’s just part of childhood now. For better or worse.

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