If you’re like most parents, you’re proudly documenting your child’s firsts: smile, steps, words. But today’s photo albums are filling up with other firsts as well: electronic toy, iPod, computer. These are digital milestones, but you won’t find them in the parenting book on your nightstand.

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“There’s really is no ‘right’ age to allow our kids to dip a toe into the digital pond,” says the American Academy of Pediatrics’s (AAP) tech expert, Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe M.D., author of CyberSafe. “But if we pay attention, we can decide what makes the most sense for our kids, because the reality is these new milestones are coming whether we like it or not.” This certainly isn’t the technology we grew up with.

Whereas technology once lived in our world, we now live in a world of technology. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that roughly a quarter of all children between the ages of 4 and 6 were using personal computers at least 50 minutes a day—and that study came out four years ago (aka pre-Angry Birds)! “Children today are surrounded by digital media,” says Lori Takeuchi, director of research at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, a research center in New York City dedicated to “advancing children’s learning in the digital age.” “We found that households with kids ages four to fourteen own, on average, eleven consumer- electronics devices.”

0 TO 12 MONTHS: The Button Pusher

  1. Learns cause and effect with electronic toys
  2. Handles iPhone set to “airplane mode”
  3. Should not hold mobile phone while babbling to Grandma

1 TO 2 YEARS: The High-Tech Mimic

  1. Watches educational programming like Blue’s Clues, Super Why! and Dora the Explorer
  2. Tinkers with basic cause-and-effect apps on the iPhone
  3. Starts to imitate Mom’s tech habits

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2 TO 3 YEARS The App-y Toddler

  1. Uses an eReader for storytime
  2. Sorts shapes and finds hidden objects on iPhone apps
  3. Ready for electronic toys that teach numbers, letters, and vowel sounds

3 TO 4 YEARS: The Swiper

  1. Regularly uses a tablet— yours or her own
  2. Plays apps that feature simple puzzles and matching games

4 TO 5 YEARS: The World Wide Wanderer

  1. Uses the Internet under supervision
  2. Plays active video games with the family
  3. Time to create a new definition of “screen time”

Some of the best all-ages games on the Wii are Just Dance Kids and Epic Mickey (splash color on a monochromatic landscape to bring it to life). If you’re not sure about a game’s content, use the Entertainment Software Rating Board app (free; itunes.com). Snap a photo of the game box or enter the game’s title, and you’ll score all the information you need. Keep in mind that your child’s exposure to the digital world compounds as he gets older, so count time spent on all devices toward his daily allotted screen time.

Courtesy: www.parenting.com

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