They are your sons and daughters. They populate your neighborhoods, their thumbs spastically banging out two-way conversations composed entirely of over-punctuated and under-constructed sentences. They may even work for you. Eventually, you will work for them.

This is Generation Z, and they have never known a world without the Internet, cell phones or iPods.

Experts disagree on when exactly Gen Z begins. Some argue that the inaugural members were born as early as 1991 and as late as 2001 [sources: Hawkins, Schmidt], while others contend that anyone born after 1995 is part of Gen Z [source: Walliker]. What is not in dispute, however, is what sets this generation apart from any that came before, and that's the unique era in which they are being raised.

This group, which today ranges from 11 to 20 years old, has lived their entire life with instant access to mountains of data on any topic that flutters through their imaginations. They've never known the frustration or sheer physical effort of rifling through the M-O volume of the encyclopedia to find out about the Magna Carta. They're technologically savvy and just as likely to spend their time writing and programming video games as simply playing them.

But they're also coming up in a world shaped by 9/11, Columbine and the War on Terror. They have a sense of social justice, philanthropy and maturity that comes with growing up during one of the most severe economic recessions in history.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at who these kids are, why their approach to life is different from the generations to come before them, and what their impact on society is likely to be. It's in your best interest to keep reading because this group is only getting larger and more influential.