If this isn’t exciting to newsmedia companies, I don’t know what is.

In a recent study among children ages 4 to 14, tablets had the highest increase in usage of all devices: 13% in 2012, up from only 3% in 2011.

Here is why I think it’s good news: 

So far, every step of the evolution of information technology has taken a toll on newspapers.

  • Internet changed the game for distribution. All of the sudden, distribution was immediate and worldwide. But still, dial-up modems were slow, and the experience of consuming news was nothing compared to the power of print. Checking news was mainly a thing you did at the office.
  • Then home-based broadband turned the PC into an always-on device – much like television – which made access a lot easier and improved the experience of consuming news. But still, although distribution was slow, the printed newspaper could deliver a better user experience than the traditional Web page.

    The smartphone took immediacy and convenience of news delivery to a whole new level. Always on, always close to you. Through notifications or text messages, you don’t even have to check the news. According to your preferences, the news comes to you.
  • Last but not least, the tablet dealt an irreparable blow to the advantage of news on paper. The same intuitive navigation – touch and slide instead of touch and turn. The same serendipity – overview or close up with a simple touch. Same visual impact. (Well, almost – a masterfully designed tabloid spread is still a knockout.)

In short, the tablet combines all the advantages of new technology with the powerful user experience of print. I still think The Sun’s TV commercial from 2009 – making fun of Apple’s iPhone marketing – is right on the spot about the power of print. But that was before the iPad.

So how is it that the bad news may now turn into good news?

According to “Kids and Consumer Electronics: 2012 Edition” — a study conducted by market research company NPD Group based on 3,235 completed surveys of U.S. adults with children ages 4 to 14 in the household – tablet usage is highest among younger children, stressing the importance for manufacturers to make their devices easy to use. Usage of the more sophisticated devices such as computers and video games tends to increase as kids get older.

The study also found that households with children ages 4 to 14 own an average of 10 different devices, with kids using an average of five of those.

“Kids are using tablets to game, watch movies and TV shows, read books and listen to music – even occasionally for taking pictures – so they have embraced the utility of these devices quite rapidly,” said Russ Crupnick, industry analyst at NPD Group.

Smaller-sized tablets are on the rise. Google already has the 7-inch Nexus. And a new study by ComScore of tablet ownership in the United States reveals a surprisingly strong market share for the Kindle Fire, particularly among families with middle income and female users.

With Apple about to enter the market with its rumored iPad Mini, the device will probably further gain popularity among children.

“Imagine how more child-friendly a lighter, smaller iPad would be? No need to prop it up on a stand or a cushion, just let them use it as they would a book,” Guy Daniels of TelecomTV reported.

Although 78% of U.S. consumers, according to a study by CouponCodes4u, would choose the upcoming iPhone5 over the iPad Mini, 21% would consider buying an iPad Mini for their children.

Thus tablets combine the intricacies of new technology with the virtues of an old-fashioned user experience that made print so powerful. Put them in the hands of children – and newsmedia companies are given a golden opportunity to reconnect to youngsters, to be a fun and relevant part of their life early on, to build a relationship and, yes, to develop brand awareness. Not as something old, but as a new friend.

Do newspapers of today have the guts and imagination to create or find that content, to wage war to attract the young audience, much like Pulitzer and Hearst did with comic strips in the late 19th century?

I look at my daughter, who turned 2 the other week, navigating the iPad with ease, creating her own playlists on YouTube, launching Angry Birds in every imaginable direction, discovering the planet through Google Earth, and playing with images in Photo Booth. She doesn’t even allow me to use it anymore, when we’re together. “Mine,” she says, brutally pressing the home button, interrupting whatever I’m doing.

Kids love them, which “places these devices at the center for discovery and evangelism of new services and applications, as well as for brands and entertainment of all sorts,” as the NPD market research report concluded.