The rapid-fire, head-spinning way in which technology continues to evolve never ceases to amaze me. Nielsen recently released its Nielsen and NM Incites U.S. Digital Consumer Report, and in it provides a deeper dive into Generation Y—also known as Generation Next, the Millennials, the NET Generation or Boomer Kids. Depending on your information source, these young people were born between 1980 and 2002, making them between 10 and 34 years old. They are generally well-rounded culturally, having been exposed to diversity all their lives and, are accustomed to “playing well with others.” They have also been described by the media as being “pampered, nurtured and programmed with a slew of activities since they were toddlers, meaning they are both high-performance and high-maintenance.” Nielsen broke Gen Y into an even smaller subset: Generation C (as in connected), Americans age 18-34. They make up 23 percent of the U.S. population but an out sized portion of consumers using technology.

Born between the introduction of the VCR and the commercialization of the Internet, this group has taken media consumption to a whole other level. They have redefined their personal connections with new devices and experiences like no other demographic group, watching online video (27 percent), visiting social networking/blog sites (27 percent), owning tablets (33 percent) and using a smartphone (39 percent). Their ownership and use of connected devices makes them incredibly unique consumers, and highly coveted by advertisers and marketers. They represent both a challenge and opportunity for marketers and content providers alike.

But how about the rest of us, how do we stack up technologically?

•For television viewers: 21 percent are 35-49, 20 percent are 50-64 and 13 percent are Black.

•Online video viewers: 28 percent are 35-49, 22 percent are 50-64 and 11 percent are Black.

•Social networking/blog visitors: 28 percent are 35-49, 22 percent are 50-64 and 10 percent are Black.

•Tablet owners: 29 percent are 35-49; 21 percent are 50-64 and 11 percent are Black.

•Smartphone users: 30 percent are 35-49, 20 percent are 50-64 and 12 percent are Black.

•Women surpass men in nearly every digital category: TV viewership (51 percent vs. 49 percent), Online Video Viewers (53 percent vs. 47 percent) and Social Network/Blog Visitors (54 percent vs. 47 percent). Who’s got the power now guys?

•Tablet ownership is the only male-dominated digital category (53 percent vs. 47 percent).

•274 million Americans (as of the end of 2011) have Internet access. That’s more than double the 132 million of connected Americans in 2000. (Remember the Y2K scare that never happened)?

•Flash back: remember the VCR?! (Please don’t tell me you’re still using yours)? It seems like eons ago, but it was just 10 years ago, in 2002, when the DVD knocked out the VCR as the champ in the home video market, and accounted for 2/3 of all videos sold.

•In 2007, a mere 3.2 percent of mobile subscribers owned a smartphone. According to a Nielsen study released this January of more than 20,000 mobile consumers, smartphone penetration is now a whopping 48 percent. Smartphone ownership splits evenly, 50-50, between men and women. Those in the 25-34 age group (Generation C again) showed the greatest proportion of smartphone ownership, at 66 percent penetration.

Apparently we like to multitask while we watch TV. Well, I don’t because I like to concentrate specifically on what I’m watching. But, once again, I seem to be in the minority. Because while watching TV:

•57 percent of smartphone and tablet owners checked email.

•44 percent visited a social networking site.

•Advertisers will like this one: 19 percent searched for product information and 16 percent looked up coupons and online deals.

All of these cool technological gadgets are creating a new generation —kids who are growing up with all things digital. Another Nielsen study of adults with children under 12 in tablet-owning households in Q4 2011 shows that seven out of every 10 children in tablet-owning households used a tablet computer. Seventy-seven percent play downloaded games. Fifty-seven percent use them to access educational apps. And, parents report that tablets entertained their children while traveling (55 percent) or eating in restaurants (41 percent). So much for spending quality time together while at the dinner table, huh? Phones and electronic devices aren’t allowed at the table once food arrives at my house. But that’s just me.

You may not be a Gen Y or even a Gen C, but according to these facts, you are still connected technologically. And everyone knows no technological connection can work without a power source. In this instance, the source of power is YOU. So what’s my mantra? Use your power wisely.

(Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of public affairs and government relations for Nielsen. For more information and studies go to

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