Are you a Digital Native or a Digital Immigrant?

A Digital Native, in theory, is a person born after digital technologies came into use, and who grew up with them. According to Wikipedia this could be interpreted widely to mean anyone born after the late 1970s, but it tends to mean those for whom computers, cell phones, the Internet, and MP3 players have been normal facets of life since birth. Those of us who were kids during the days of dial-up and brick-sized cell phones count, but think about those born in the last 10 or 15 years. They’ve literally grown up speaking a different language than their parents. They think differently, they learn differently.

A Digital Immigrant, on the other hand, is supposed to be someone born before digital technologies came into use. Apparently there is a difference between the way these two groups think and act because one was exposed to and shaped by digital technology in their formative years and the other wasn’t. There are different levels of adaptation to digital technology among both groups, but think of it as learning a foreign language – it’s harder as an adult than as a child.

What do you think about these terms though? Are they legitimate? To which group do you belong and how do you see that shaping your thoughts and actions?



Filed under Evology, technology

6 responses to “Are you a Digital Native or a Digital Immigrant?

  1. Pingback: Are you a Digital Native or a Digital Immigrant? (via EvologyNow) « Chicago Mac/PC Support

  2. Great article, I feel like for some people, its a little of both. I was lucky enough to go through DOS, the different flavors of Windows and Macs in a relatively short time ~10 years. I haven’t gone through the mainframe days, but I feel having gone through this timeline gives me the ability to call myself a digital native, and still know how an “immigrant” feels like.

  3. martiw

    I enjoy the fast-paced digital evolution as things constantly change in today’s virtual world, but especially how the boundaries that define who is an immigrant and who is a native change and blur as new digital and media opportunities (at least I think they are opportunities) present themselves. I remember, many years ago, when we installed a network at our school. The third and fourth graders caught on so fast, but the ninth and tenth graders were at sea. And this happens over and over again. sometimes in grand and obvious ways and at others subtle and hardly noticeable.

    It’s fun to try to keep up and see things from the perspective of children and adolescents who have never known anything different, but it’s also challenging for parents (and educators) who must simultaneously encourage digital kids on the one hand, while also helping them understand many of the old-fashioned values such as respect, privacy, and justice. My blog MediaTechParenting , a summer project just started in the past several days, will feature posts that aim to help parents and other family members mull over this juxtaposition ( I hope it will be truly ready for consultation by people who attend my parent technology classes this fall).

    Thanks for commenting on my first public day!

    Check out my other blog As Our Parents Age to see some of my posts about seniors and technology (among other topics). This project sidetracked me this past year when I had every intention on getting started with the new one.

    One of my favorite monitors of change (Evology?) in today’s world is the yearly Beloit College Mindset List, published each year by Professor Tom McBride. Each year he publishes the list, some high tech examples and some not, to give the faculty an idea of the thoughts and experiences of students in the entering freshman class.
    Marti W.

    • Hey Marti,
      Thanks for your comment! Your first post was really interesting and I’m definitely going to be checking back regularly. Same with As Our Parents Age. As you can see by my posts, both of your blogs cover topics I’m really interested in.

      It must be fascinating to observe those generational gaps first hand – like between the 4th graders and the 9th graders. I’d love to read more about that.

  4. Pingback: Race Across the Internet « EvologyNow

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