Multitasking begins as early as age 2, according to the NPD Group's "Kids' Leisure Time II" report.
Kids between the ages of 2 and 12 years old spend more than a quarter of their leisure time doing two or more activities at the same time. Favorite pastimes among the sample group included reading, using the computer, spending time with friends, listening to music and watching TV.
Kids today have plenty of leisure time, with 2-to-11-year-olds averaging roughly 68 hours a week, and 5-to-12-year-olds averaging 58 hours. Toddling 2-to-4-year-olds are true layabouts, averaging 94 hours of leisure time every week.
The NPD study concurs with a large-scale study of media behaviors among children and teens conducted in 2004 by the Kaiser Family Foundation. In that study, children ages 8 to 18 spent a quarter of their media time multitasking with other media. Children ages 8 to 10 were just as likely to multitask as teens.
eMarketer Senior Analyst Debra Aho Williamson says that juggling different types of media is a skill that children can use as they grow.
"One of the critical skills children learn as they grow from tweens to teens is how to manage and work with the multiple media inputs that are part of their everyday lives," Ms. Williamson says. "This multitasking is something that teens and even tweens are becoming extraordinarily good at doing."
Youth Trends has also studied tween media consumption, and it found that 40% of those surveyed said that they think going on the Internet is better than watching TV. Slightly more girls than boys feel that way.
Boys, on the other hand, are more likely than girls to say that playing video games is better than watching TV. More than half agreed with the statement, compared with 23% of girls.
Ms. Williamson says the variety of media kids encounter has implications for the future of marketing.
"One of the key questions about this generation is whether they will be the first to fully embrace a media-anywhere/everywhere model," she says. "Rather than associating short-form programs with television, two-hour programs with movie theaters and songs with CDs and radio, tweens and young teens may be the first generation that will come into adulthood fully expecting to obtain their media on a variety of platforms."