Baby & a laptopThere’s a good article, “So Young, and So Gadgeted,” in the June 12 New York Times, by kids’ tech guru Warren Buckleitner. It’s meant to serve as a guide to parents about what tech gadgets currently on the market are appropriate for kids of which age. But I think it’s better to simply use it as a guide for when kids are ready for the Web. And although some parents seem really eager to get their little geniuses online ASAP, most kids can’t handle the Web in general until they’re able to read well.

Younger children can only function online when they are monitored by someone who is either an adult or a pretty good reader, or when they’re using developmentally appropriate game sites like these or these. Buckleitner reminds us that “Babies and toddlers cannot use a mouse until at least age 2 ½.”

And the vast majority of kids aren’t really ready to face the Web on their own until the age of 8 or so. It’s too confusing and too filled with ads and distracting animations to work well for kids any younger. That doesn’t stop some parents, though:

Some parents eagerly provide their children with technology. “My 4-year-old has been on the Web since he could sit up,” said Samantha Morra, a mother of two from Montclair, N.J. “My 6-year-old has an iPod and wants a cellphone, although my husband and I aren’t sure who he’d call.”

So ignore the names of the tech products and expensive Web site subscriptions Buckleitner mentions (after all, that’s his job), and read what’s left. Remember that kids’ use of the Web will explode as their literacy skills increase; the more they can read, the more they’ll be able to experience online. The more their keyboarding skills grow, the easier it will be for them, too.

Buckleitner knows what he’s talking about, but his job is to review expensive tech products that most kids will never have the chance to use. And most of the kids in your libraries are only going to be looking at the stuff that’s available free. The more we familiarize ourselves with the game sites and the Web sites suitable for younger (and lass literate) kids, the bigger help we’ll be.