Benefits of Growing Up Digital

"Digital Natives"

21st Century Learning

Today's children have been categorized as "digital natives".  Digital natives are people who have grown up only knowing a world with computers, mobile phones, and other "connected" smart devices.  Digital natives are said to be fluent in today's social technologies.  Most parents and teachers are categorized as "digital immigrants".  Digital immigrants are people who adopted these technologies later in their lives.  In this way, technology is like a second language for these people. 

Advantages

Our children are lucky.  As digital natives, they live in a world where within seconds they can call up any fact that they want.  They can have instant access to the latest songs, films and photos with little effort.  They have the ability to  interact with friends across the globe within seconds both by typing and talking.  They can get help on homework from friends and experts without even leaving the house.  They can easily create impressive media such as music, movies and images and publish it for everyone to share and comment on.  And, they do.  They are digital natives.  They do not know life without the ability to do these things.

It has been argued by Prensky (2001) that because of their connected upbringing, digital natives brains are "wired" differently than the brains of digital immigrants.  At the minimum, they demonstrate unique characteristics such as:
  • they are more creative, multimedia-oriented,
  • they fear failure less,
  • they are more social,
  • they are more likely to be actively involved,
  • they are expressive,
  • they have electronic friends,
  • they multi-task more,
  • they have developed and share a common language (do u no it?),
  • they are more comfortable operating with different kinds of inputs (visual, audio, kinesthetic) rather than with text-only,
  • they are more global,
  • they are risk takers,
  • they want to modify, create and produce,
  • they want to be flexible and responsive to opportunity,
  • they are striving to be independent.

Disadvantages

While these seem like positivie characteristics, they also display characteristics such as:
  • they are impatient,
  • they are egocentric,
  • they don't want to be tied to a commitment,
  • they focus on the superficial,
  • they are overloaded with information,
  • they view technology as a need,
  • they feel a sense of entitlement,
  • they struggle with evaluating quality of information.

What Can We Do?

As with any culture change in society, there will be positive and negative impacts on our kids.  As parents and teachers, we need to find ways to help our children cope with these changes.  But, as a digital immigrant, what hope do you have of keeping up?  Unfortunately, there are often no clear-cut answers of right and wrong here.  But, what you can do is inform yourself of the issues and speak with your children about the issues.  This site is dedicated to providing you with resources that do just that.
 
Resources:
Front-line report: "Growing up Online"  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/kidsonline/view/main.html

Hochbert, A. (2007, September 17). Back to School: Reading, Writing and Internet Safety : NPR. NPR. Retrieved November 4, 2009, from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14427020&sc=emaf.

Prensky, Marc. (2001).   Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants.  MarcPrensky.com.  Accessed at http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf.

Raines, Lisa. (March 2007).  Chacteristics of a Digital Native.  Click O' The Mouse.  Accessed at  http://lraines.wordpress.com/2007/03/28/characteristics-of-a-digital-native/.

Wessling, E. (2009, October 13). Sächsische Zeitung [online] - Politik: Warum wir im Netz von unseren Kindern lernen müssen. SZ-Online.de. Retrieved November 3, 2009, from http://www.sz-online.de/nachrichten/artikel.asp?id=2286722.