Roughly four out of five kids age 5 and younger use the internet at least once a week, according to a sobering new report from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, a nonprofit affiliated with Sesame Workshop. The report, which analyzes data from seven recent studies, says many kids are already multitasking with several forms of media. Are toddlers day-trading, like that baby in the E*Trade commercials? Playing World of Warcraft? Here's one window into "Generation Internet":
What can infants and toddlers possibly do on the web?
Watch YouTube, for one thing. In one of the studies reviewed, more than 60 percent of children 3 and under watched video online. Toddlers also use the web to video-chat with grandparents and friends.
How did kids used to spend their time?
Interacting with media has long been a major pastime, but in the 1960s, kids spent only six hours a day on media — TV, radio, books, and movies — compared with 10 hours and 45 minutes today. Despite the rise of new technologies, TV still makes up the lion's share of kids' media consumption — 47 percent. That works out to three hours a day for most kids. But according to a Nielsen study, some of that time is spent mixing media: 36 percent of 2- to 11-year-olds watch TV and use the internet at the same time.
Should we despair?
Not necessarily, says Sesame Workshop president Lewis Bernstein, as long as parents keep kids' internet use in balance with everything else. The report also has some good news for traditionalists: Even with all this new-media browsing, kids are still spending the same amount of time reading old-fashioned books.