IT'S HARDLY NEWS that, when it comes to modernity, kids are always way out ahead of grown-ups. But this Christmas especially, kids have shown their state of advancement in an area that we grown-ups will have to master in a hurry if we're to share the future with our offspring. We're speaking of the world of computers-the little monsters that now take the shape of children's toys, but will undoubtedly be running our homes and lives in a very few years.

If you don't believe it, just wander around town and look at the electronic gadgets that will be under thousands of Christmas trees tomorrow. They start with one that are said to teach youngsters how to add or to spell or, even, to compose music. Then come the games-football, an electronic version of that old paper-and-pencil "battleship," tic-tac-toe and black-jack, not to mention the variety of the video-game world. After that there are the serious ones-calculators that perform mathematical funtions we never heard of and devices that play better chess than we ever dreamed of playing. In between are the toys, like a small R2D2 robot that was scamping around the floor of our newsroom last week with its owner controlling its direction by radio.

Children brought up on this new generation of "toys) will shift to home computer at least as easily as earlier generations shifted from "Monopoly" to buying real houses. They may not know the details, but they will know the basics, just as parents knew something about deeds and tax assessors and landlords who raise the rent before they ever met one.

Once you think about it, this isn't a bad way to introduce a new lifestyle. If you can beat the computer at blackjackt, the idea of using it to buy groceries may not seem so terrifying. If it can beat you at chess, the temptation to use it to rob your bank may be diminished.

How will we old dogs learn all these new tricks, when we are faced with computers designed to take out the garbage and rake the leaves? Ask the kids, of course.