“Generation Z,” or children born between the years of 1994 and 2004, have likely never known life without the Internet, cell phones or YouTube. That makes them the most digitally connected generation ever. Although children aren’t permitted to register for an account on social networking sites such as Twitter, Youtube and Facebook until the age of 13, that’s not stopping them from embracing the digital age.
Teens ages 13-17 make up 10 percent of total Facebook users, but let’s not discount those younger than 13 who are using social networking sites. Togetherville, also known as “Facebook for kids,” allows children 10 years and younger to play games, acquire virtual gifts and watch YouTube videos with their friends. The site requires parents to sign up their kids and even allows them to monitor their children’s use in real-time. A separate social network called Scuttlepad, or “Twitter for kids,” asserts that it lets children “tell your friends what you're doing (...just like the older kids do!).”
Brands seem to be taking notice of Generation Z’s online interests. Mattel recently launched the Barbie Video Girl, a toy that makes it easy for girls to create and edit their own video and post it on YouTube. They’re also asking consumers to follow them on Foursquare and Twitter as Barbie travels the US for a chance to win a Video Girl doll. Other YouTube channels, such as Sesame Street and Fred, have racked up thousands of views and prove that even pre-schoolers are familiar with social media.
Gaming & Web
Children are spending about 17 minutes per day playing online games – that includes even the tiniest of tykes. To meet the growing demand, toy company Fischer-Price offers a collection of educational games for infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers, while PBS’s Sid the Science Kid game teaches children all about antibodies, weather and vocabulary.
In 2009, the average child was given his own cell phone at 9.7 years old; that’s actually down from 10.1 years in 2008. Children are spending this time sending thousands of text messages a month, playing pre-installed games, taking pictures and listening to music. And although Leapfrog’s “baby Blackberry” isn’t actually a phone, it certainly teaches tiny tots how to type on a Qwerty keyboard at a surprisingly young age.
Parents are Adapting, Too
It seems that parents are becoming more and more comfortable with their children being active in the digital space and are especially comfortable with it being used as an educational tool. In fact, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, only three-in-10 children have restrictions on media use, and Retrevo.com reports that 31 percent of parents think children under nine are ready to own their first computer.
At this point, it seems there’s no turning back for Generation Z. Whether kids are addicted or just more social, it’s clear that they’re spending more and more time consuming digital media.
-- Christa Keizer, New Media Intern