Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Generation gap?

My three-year-old looks for her

If you want to feel old and soon-to-be-obsolete, watch a three-year-old use an iPhone or navigate YouTube.

Kids are sponges for information. We don't have to show them how to fasten a button or choose the right puzzle piece. And that's by necessity: because just about everything in their world is new, they are masters of "figure it out." They observe, reason, and replicate behaviours, learning by trial and error what works. That, combined with their total lack of concern about potential embarrassment or failure, among other things, makes them far more efficient learners of languages than adults.

It also makes them perfect little candidates for social media.

A couple of weeks ago, Fisher-Price launched three new iPhone apps targeted at two-year-olds, prompting Mashable to ask, "How many 2-year-olds do you know with an iPhone? Fisher Price seems to think there’s a fair few out there..." Kidding aside, Mashable's Amy-Mae Elliott recognizes the market for these apps is really parents who may want something to occupy a busy toddler for a few minutes in a grocery store line. And while the prospect of a toddler with her own iPhone sounds nuts, the fact is, today's toddlers are so surrounded by technology that they adapt to it naturally.


Today's kids live in a digital world: there's no arguing it. They help their grandmothers with the TV remote; they understand touch-screen, finger-pinch technology (or, at least, how to use it). They "get" website navigation and how to use a mouse; for a great example of online content aimed at toddlers, check out Sesame Street's website. They instinctively know that swiping the screen of a handheld device will advance the pictures. That touching an icon in a menu will open a game. That if you click on the triangle inside the circle, you'll get video; and if you click on the little square at the bottom right, the video will fill the whole screen.

They live in a world where special YouTube channels and blogs built just for them are a quick destination for entertaining, safe content... even if you're not old enough to spell out a URL on a keyboard.

So, what does this have to do with PR?

Today, maybe not that much, unless our clients are in the youth or education markets.

But as babies like my daughter grow into tweens (God help me, a mere decade from now!), teens and young adults, their habits, tastes, and expectations will increasingly form critical mass -- and will drive how we communicate.

So. If you're hesitating to "go 2.0" and join the online conversation, now's the time to get going. Because if you think online communication is growing rapidly today, just wait till these kids are old enough to become consumers. There'll be no turning back.


  1. The "soon-to-be obsolete" part reminds me of a passage from Stephen Colbert's book "I am America and so can you"...something about being creeped-out by kids playing dress-up.

    He says that while many parents think it's an adorable activity, Colbert is terrified. Why is my 5-year-old trying on my shoes? Make no mistake, they're planning to replace us!