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Dan Frakes' 3-year-old daughter likes to play in the sand, finger paint and sing along to "The Wheels on the Bus." The preschooler can do these things the good old-fashioned way. She can also do them in a decidedly new way: by using dad's iPhone. Colorful and interactive applications such as finger painting, bubble popping and sing-alongs for the iPhone and iPod Touch have proliferated for the junior consumer, raising questions about when to introduce young children to new technologies.
"Kids -- including toddlers -- increasingly have no barrier and no inhibitions when it comes to technology," said Gareb Shamus, editor of Toy Wishes magazine. "And there's no question that toy companies are using technology in devices for younger and younger children." He added, "The iPhone is a very practical device. I have real business applications on it, and my kids have their game applications on it. I see it as having educational value for everyone."
For many parents, handing a young child an iPhone is the modern-day version of extracting a set of shiny, jingly keys from a purse or pocket. It is a slightly desperate tactic to keep an antsy child seated at a table, standing in line at the checkout counter or cooperative on a trip.