In this fast paced world, kids can grab the wheel of a toy SUV before learning how to ride a bike, trade in their juice boxes for "beer" (minus the alcohol, of course), and sometimes even master a cell phone before they can read.
"There is this focus on a more savvy, more informed, more inclusive kid today," said Paul Kurnit of KidShop Youth Marketing Company.
Adults shopping decisions might be affected by a sociological change called "age compression" — the idea that kids may be getting older younger and demanding adult products.
And businesses are taking a cue from today’s kids who want to emulate their parents more than ever before.
This, in turn, is affecting what types of products parents are buying for kids this year.
The line between children’s toys and grown-up gifts is becoming increasingly blurred with iPods, portable DVD players and mini-cellphones.
Some cell phone companies are targeting children as young as five.
It’s reached the point where there seems to be a kids version of just about everything "adult." Even beer. For example, a non-alcoholic Japanese beer called "Kids’ Beer" carries the slogan, "Even kids can’t stand life unless they have a drink."
Plus, "tweens" — kids in the general range between 8 and 13 — have big buying power, spending $33 billion a year. So marketers are aggressively targeting the younger elementary school set with adult-like products.
But this new trend brings pressures some parents say they can live without.
"Our parents worried about comic books and The Three Stooges. We have to worry about so much more," said Beth Curren, a Rockville, Md. concerned mother with a son in the third grade.
Along with that added pressure, changes in parents, themselves, have spawned some of these behaviors.
"Today’s parents are hip. Today’s parents wear jeans and listen to cool music," Kurnit said. "Years ago, the baby boomer kids were children who should be seen and not heard. Today’s kids are very much seen and very much heard."
And businesses are certainly seeing the benefits of bringing in a new mass audience of youngsters, grabbing them at a young age and hoping to retain their devotion for years to come.
"If that customer stays with that carrier for a lifetime, that is the overall objective," said Anthony Macaluso, a Single Touch Interactive spokesperson.
But psychologists say treating children like adults can form bad habits for both parents and children.
"One of the most common mistakes made in parenting is to think that the child is a miniature adult," said Prof. Lou Aynard, a psychologist with the Family Outreach Network. "The child is not."