In order to help us answer that question, we're asking those of you who are parents of a child aged 12 or under to do a short survey accompanied by your child. With this survey, co-hosted by Boston research firm Latitude, we're hoping to discover what kind of web apps kids want but don't necessarily have right now.
We've previously looked at the most popular websites for kids and it was clear that entertainment sites had the greatest affinity with under 12s. There are strong social networking aspects to those sites and many of the popular ones come from television companies like Nick, Cartoon Network and Disney.
Virtual worlds like ToonTown and Club Penguin are particularly popular with kids right now. In a recent New York Times article, University of California cultural anthropologist Mizuko Ito claimed that "children who play these games would see less of a distinction between their online friends and real friends." She also said that these types of online virtual worlds make kids "more likely to participate actively in their own entertainment" - in comparison to us oldies who grew up watching TV from the couch.
We know that kids under 12 have been born into a world with myriad Internet-connected devices - PCs, mobile phones, video game systems and many more. Because they're native to this device-laden world, kids understand technology more easily.
I got a lesson in this over Christmas, when attempting to set up the Wii I'd just given to my daughter. I was grappling with a stubborn Wii console setting, getting a bit frustrated that it wasn't doing what I wanted. Suddenly the remote was grabbed from my hands by my 8-year old. She promptly fixed the setting, in one click.
Kids are also born multi-taskers and have a "desire for immediacy," as a recent USA Today article put it.
Given all of these skills and an intuitive grasp of technology, I often wonder if kids are really getting the types of web sites and apps that they want. Is there something beyond entertainment from big corporations like Disney, for kids under 12? What's more, because kids have a lot of technology-fueled creativity, can they help inform innovations for grown-ups?
These questions are a big part of why we're running the survey, which includes asking kids to draw a picture of "what would be really interesting or fun to do on your computer/the Internet that your computer can't do right now?" So we encourage you to sit down with your child and do the survey. In return we'll share the results with you on ReadWriteWeb and Life-Connected (Latitude's blog). Click here to begin the survey.