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Chatting 'bout an IM generation

Utilizing tech that simplifies life in the Digital Age, teens are the chief communication architects of their homes and the future, OnHollywood panelists conclude.

LOS ANGELES--Power is in the hands of the IM set.

A buzzword here at the OnHollywood conference this week is the "IM generation"--a young age group that has adopted instant messaging and texting more than any other form of digital communication.

Tony Perkins, founder of OnHollywood and organizer of the AlwaysOn Network, launched the event on Tuesday night by saying that the IM generation is driving innovation.

Perkins' statement was followed by a Thursday discussion led, in part, by a group of young panelists. It focused on how teenagers tend to not look at their gadgets and Web applications from a utility perspective but instead as the best way to connect with their friends.

As for gadgets on teenagers' most-wanted list, cell phones seem to take the top spot, followed by iPods and computers. And for modes of communication, texting comes before IM, at least for girls, and comes before Facebook, according to a small survey among high school students conducted by panel moderator Ben Bajarin, a digital-media analyst at Creative Strategists.

"Silicon Valley has branched out. It's now not only techie Silicon Valley kids (who have) everything--they influence the East Coast kids," said panelist Jon Lunetta, CEO of MyFilmU, an online network focused on college-age filmmaking talent.

The panel went on to discuss a perceived consumer shift and the importance for companies of understanding the demands of the younger generation. Teenagers do, after all, influence their parents' spending as well as the way they communicate.

Members of the IM generation, the panel concluded, are typically chief of the household when it comes to technology. They convince their parents to buy TiVos and then teach them how to use the digital video recorders. They won't stand for media networks controlling their TV-watching schedules; their attention spans are short.