No, this is not a joke. Roughly 80% of children five and under use the Internet at least once a week in the U.S., according to an analysis of seven studies by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and the Sesame Workshop, titled "Always Connected." But don't worry: kids are still watching way more TV.
The individual studies cited in the report (which seeks to correct the disproportionate focus on teens and tweens when it comes to the effect of media) contain some revealing and occasionally surprising findings: for example, one survey found that 60% of kids under age three are watching video online -- compared to just 20% for kids ages 8-18; this difference is attributed in part to the fact that the older cohort may have less time for media in general because of school.
Meanwhile good ol' TV still dominates media consumption among the very young, who watch an average three hours per day, accounting for 47% of their total media consumption. But as with adults, this TV consumption increasingly overlaps with other kinds of media: a Nielsen study showed that 36% of kids ages 2-11 consumer online content and TV at the same time.
While these findings may be alarming to some (personally they make me feel a little dizzy and nauseated) they shouldn't be totally shocking, considering the prominent role that media in general already played in the lives of young children in this country. Frankly, parents have long resorted to the sight, sound and motion of video content -- whether on TV or online -- to pacify and distract children. TV has always served as an electronic babysitter, and now devices like the iPad are fulfilling a similar function: I was interested to learn last year that children's programming is one of the top content categories on the iPad, in part because of the "pass-back factor," meaning its ability to pacify on long car trips.