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For 2010, kids and tweens in our YouthBeat survey put Disney at the top of their list of both “most watched” and “favorite” TV channels. But ask any 6-12 year old you know and you’ll find that Nickelodeon continues to wield significant influence on the tastes and preferences of today’s youth. In both 2009 and 2010, iCarly (whose Miranda Cosgrove was featured in a piece on young stars in last weekend’s New York Times Magazine) supplanted Hannah Montana as the show that kids and tweens want to see. And SpongeBob is their go-to-guy when it comes to cartoons that tickle their funny bones.

This weekend, for the 24th time, Nickelodeon will air the Kids Choice Awards. The Grammys, Oscars and Emmys might bring artists more cache, but no other awards show puts you on the radar of the future generation of listeners and viewers than this one. Nickelodeon puts the power in its audience’s hands, quite literally, by allowing youth to vote on the show’s web and mobile sites.

But while awards shows tend to be a litmus test of the “new,” this year’s list of nominees and presenters will probably appeal to parents as much as kids, and will likely look just as familiar to older siblings as they do to kids and tweens themselves. Jack Black will host and KCA veterans Justin Timberlake and Brittany Spears will both appear (remember her 1999 performance of Hit Me Baby One More Time?).  Timberlake might be playing the elder statesman, receiving an award for his commitment to Green issues and other charity work, but the ghosts of boy bands past will be adequately represented by Nick’s own Big Time Rush. And Will Smith (1997 Kids Choice Hall of Fame Award Winner and most KCA decorated celeb of all time) might not be nominated, but son Jaden (Karate Kid) is and his hair flipping daughter, Willow, will perform.

But this year’s ceremony is not just about passing the kid culture baton from one generation to the next. It’s also about kids and tweens asserting their own taste and choosing their own heroes. For every old school (and let’s face it, older) potential winner (Jay-Z, Donkey Kong and America’s Funniest Home Videos to name a few) there are those who belong to this group of youth alone. We don’t know if Justin Bieber or Joe Jonas will be on the scene 10 or even 5 years from now…Before you decide, take a lesson from Nickelodeon: count on kids to pick the winners.