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Should Baby Use The PC?

With growth almost in the triple digits, software for babies has become a hot new product category.

But is it good for your little ones? Robin Raskin, editor in chief of Family PC magazine, gives CBS News This Morning a crash course in babyware.

Software for children under 5 is the fastest growing software category in the United States with $51.2 million in sales in 1998.

A burgeoning area of that is a new category for children younger than 2 called "lapware," because the babies are meant to sit on a parent's lap.

Sales of lapware accounted for $13 million in sales in 1998, and that figure is expected to rise about 50 percent this year.

But should kids smaller than 2 be using computers at all?

Proponents feel that computers are a part of the world, something found in many homes. Babies are interested in them. Working on the computer is an activity parents can do with their kids and they can learn a lot from this.

Opponents feel that young children should be playing and experiencing things, not looking at them on a monitor and that this amounts to just more mindless media consumption.

"The one thing researchers agree on is that the ages from 0 to 3 are the most important in the development of your child's brain, and all the connections are being made then," Raskin says.

Raskin's Lapware Tips for Parents
1. Lapware means Mom, Dad, should be there, not just sitting passively talking and reinforcing what the children learn, but having a conversation, pointing to the screen.
2. Respect your child's short attention span. Don't set aside an hour for computing time a day. Keep it short. Mix it up. The computer is not the only thing in a child's repertoire.
3. Most important, play, play, play. This activity is about having fun. If you see your kid has lost interest, it's time to move on.

"Good for the brain, bad for the brain," says Raskin, noting that research has been inconclusive. "But [babies and parents] are having a really good time," she adds.

The following are some popular programs:

BabyWOW! With this babyware, there are no right and wrong answers. Whatever the kids do is OK, notes Raskin.

The program uses photography and real images that a kid might see in the world

"So they learn to understand pictures, much like a picture book and what happens afterward," she explains. "All it isÂ…press, something happens, press, something happens, which is a great way for parents to get the dialogue going."

The software, which costs about $30, has eight languages. Many think that this is the time that kids learn the sounds to make foreign languages later on in life.

Reader Rabbit: This program is much more cartoonlike. The idea is for kids to meet Reader Rabbit and start to understand opposites, emotions, seasons, concepts for tots might to add to their vocabulary, says Raskin.

JumpStart Preschool: A teddy bear guides parents and their children through this program. Costing about $20, it includes lots of animal sounds and beautiful colors to engage babies and keep their attention, she explains.

Take the CD and play it a car or anywhere away from the computer, she adds.

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