As they would explain if they had time, these teenagers, all members of Generation M (born circa 1980 to 2000), have hundreds more friends than you, the adult, had at their age, or ever. And without having to leave their rooms. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 87 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds, or 21 million children, are regularly online–11 million at least once a day–and so the figures go for pages: 75 percent use instant messaging (82 percent of them by seventh grade) and 84 percent own cellphones and iPods (in a hierarchy of cool colors) as well as laptops, BlackBerrys and other P.D.A.’s. Those who cannot afford them still manage to “get on”–at friends’ houses, Internet cafes or libraries–and 78 percent use school computers to shop online or to check their e-mail.For Gen M (that’s “millennial,” according to sociologists, not “media”), to be “on” with your friends is a birthright. Many first played with computers in preschool, installed (then explained) the family TiVo at age 9 and opened AOL Instant Messenger, or AIM, accounts at 10. “It started in a baby way in second grade,” explains Laurice Fox, 16, a junior at Brooklyn Friends, a private preparatory school. “We all e-mailed because that’s when AOL first introduced AIM. Even if the computer was in the family room, and we were discussing play dates, we were there at the start!”
In the survey of 2,000 people between the ages and 12 and 29, the results showed that freedom of choice was a critical factor. Unlike older generations, the Net generation has many options. In addition, freedom to customize–cars (Pimp My Ride), computers or anything that makes it fit with who they are—is also important.
The Net Generation also wants the freedom to schedule. In the survey, 42 percent of those survey watch TV asynchronously, time-shifted viewing. Television took 24 hours of the week per baby boomer, Tapscott said, but the Net generation watches less TV and the whole way they process information and think is different. “This is not just a life stage difference, this is a generational difference because cognition and information process different because of way they have grown up.”
Read Inside the mind of the Net generation from ZDNet and view the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s presentation: Young and Wired: How today’s young tech elite will influence the libraries of tomorrow (Also from Pew: Teens, IM and Mark Foley.)