At YA Highway, Lee Bross has a great post about referencing technology and other modern details in YA novels. Should you mention iPads? Facebook? Texting? Will these be obsolete in the next five years? What about bands or actors, or particular brands?
I tend to shy away from very specific references. I mention cell phones and texting, but don’t dwell too long on them and don’t call out particular brands. So far I haven’t references any particular actor, movie, or band, just because they can all fade so quickly. But I think it’s safe enough to use brands or names that have existed for at least a decade. For the most part, I don’t think you need to reference anything to feel “current.” It’s one thing to completely avoid mentioning these things (is your character really going to send a carrier pigeon to get a message to his friend instead of texting?) but any references for the sake of making your character current will probably feel more false than not.
It can also be fun to invent stores/bands/websites instead of using ones that currently exist. That can keep your novel somewhat more current, since readers will be able to associate the fictional store/band/website with one he or she likes now.
What choices do you make when referencing modern life in your contemporary novels?