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Why your 3-year-old needs an iPhone

According to a report, the iPhone isn't the perfect design for an Apple fanboy. It may, in fact, be perfect for a boy (or girl) who is three years old.

I am not concerned about the future, only because I am told that humans will soon be in the clutch and thrall of robots and perfect harmony will be enjoyed by all. However, I must register the initial frisson of disturbia I experienced on reading a report from the Boston Globe magazine that suggests the iPhone may be a wise toy for 3-year-olds.

No, this is not some mocking suggestion that those who use an iPhone do, indeed, have the minds of children less than 4. It is, rather, a fascinating analysis of what happens when you just hand a 3-year-old an iPhone with the initial aim of keeping the little rodent in your life quiet.

It seems the iPhone's happy, colorful design is not only a great attraction for a little child's imagination, but the keyboard tends to suit tinier fingers rather better than larger ones.

Indeed, there is a considerable possibility that the iPhone might just help in children's education, something app developers have not been slow to realize. The Globe tells us that 60 percent of the apps in the education section of the iTunes store target extremely little people.

Now I know there will be those who worry that if you give a little one an iPhone they will be zapped with gamma rays and all sorts of deleterious electronic waves that will seep into their brains and be an enormous health risk.

One might heed the words of Dariusz Leszczysnki, a researcher for the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland, who told a Senate subcommittee: "In my opinion the current safety standards are not sufficiently supported because of the very limited research on human volunteers, children, and on the effects of long-term exposures in humans."

But most of the things parents give children to keep them quiet carry a certain risk to health: plastic toys that kids lick, bite, and try to swallow with the result that all sorts of paint and gunk might enter their bodies; candy that children lick, bite, and try to swallow with the result that they then put on weight; and let's not even start with the quality of teenage babysitting in the world.

I know that some will feel it's better to get children up to speed more quickly so that they can somehow gain additional ingenuity to save us from the difficult prognostications that make our horizons so uncertain.

If putting an iPhone into their hands makes them happier and smarter, and, well, hushed in concentration, then might this not be a good thing?

I canvassed some of CNET's baby makers to see if their children already had special Apple skills. CNET News reporter Stephen Shankland's son, Levi, was already something of a whiz on his Dad's iPhone 3G last December when he was just 3. And Jeff Sparkman tells me that his 2-year-old is already so adept at navigating his wife's iPod Touch that she even looks bored flipping through the album covers. (So, no Sabbath, then, huh?)

You see, there is hope. And perhaps some of you out there are discovering that your smartphones might just be helping your kids get a little smarter. Or, at least, a little more, um, focused.