This generation of kids, dubbed "Generation We," are growing up preferring YouTube to television, Wikipedia to encyclopedias and listening to music on their iPods rather than hanging out the local record store.
CNET News reports that as a result of all this interconnectedness, kids - deemed "Generation We" by research firm Iconoculture - have a more global outlook at a younger age.
"What we're talking about is a generation that has the ability to be in touch with each other immediately at earlier and earlier ages. If you asked someone 10 years ago about the necessity of a cell phone for a 5-year-old, they would have laughed and walked away; now you can buy that at Target," said Nancy Robinson, consumer strategist, Iconoculture.
The parents of Gen We are also comfortable with the ubiquity of advertising and media, as well as technology. And they are encouraging their kids to understand it and learn how to customize it for their own use.
"Parents of Gen We's don't see technology as the enemy and don't need to moderate it as much: They see it (as a way to) help them with parenting. They see it as a bonding experience," Robinson said. "As a kind of media Sherpa, they're encouraging kids to not just absorb what media tells you, but to think about how you can change it."
Although television is far from going the way of the betamax, with TiVo, downloadable movies and YouTube, the viewing experience is now more interactive and customizable.
According to a 2004 study of viewing habits, kids spend an average of three hours a day watching TV, the same amount from five years earlier. Yet kids' time spent with other media rose over that same period, a trend evoking the idea that children today are adept at multitasking--watching YouTube videos, instant messaging friends, or listening to music while playing a game.
"Media has moved yet again and managed to reinvent itself in the family--from the hearth to the boob tube to education station to interactive experiential mode," said Iconoculture's Robinson. "It's not about being anesthetized, it's about being engaged."