CHICAGO (CBS) — How young is too young to use a smart phone, video iPod or an iPad?

More and more toddlers and young children are tapping away even as they wobble toward their first steps.

But is it good for them? CBS 2’s Mary Kay Kleist reports.

Four year old Anthony is learning to read and learning to navigate through the apps on his iPad. So are Jacob and Annabelle, who are just two.

Their mom, Laura Shulman, said, “He does a lot of the matching and the thinking things and she does a lot more of the artistic and creative.”

More toddlers are tapping their way into the endless world of educational apps. In fact, half (52 percent) of all kids 8 years old and younger have access to a smart phone, video iPod or iPad.

In a typical day, 11 percent are using one of the devices to play games, watch videos or use other apps.

And they spend an average of 43 minutes a day with their digital device.

Is that OK?

Chip Donohue, an early childhood education expert from the Erikson Institute, says the jury’s still out.

“We don’t know,” he said. “We have a lot of research we still have to do about how much is enough and how much is too much. What we do know is this is a very compelling bit of technology for children and for adults.”

What’s the best age to introduce young children to these devices?

“The comfort level in the field seems to be 2 and above,” Donohue said.

Preschoolers at the Ann Reid Early Childhood Center in Naperville spend 10 minutes every day playing learning games on iPads.

Domenica Aguilera, a teacher at the school, said, “They have a great time seeing visuals, listening to the stories and seeing the pictures that reinforce their learning.”

Early language development expert, Dr. Dana Suskind, agrees that puzzle apps can build math skills and word game apps can increase literacy skills.

But, parents must be involved while their kids use the device. Don’t let it become a babysitter.

“An iPad cannot replace the warm embrace of a mother or a father and rich language interaction,” Suskind said.

Experts say start with just a few apps. Choose apps that both you and your child find fun. And make sure the app prompts conversation between you and your child.

Shulman says the iPad is not interfering with regular play.

“It’s just an addition or complement to their daily routine, which is really cool,” she said.

For Information On The Best Apps And Devices For Kids, Check Out These Links:

Common Sense Media – Best Apps For Kids

Children’s Technology Review

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