Introduction to the Life of Digital Natives

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Elizabeth wakes up on an ordinary Winter morning in 2007. Before she even thinks of breakfast or a shower, she punches the “on” button of her Apple laptop as she wipes the sleep out of her eyes. It boots, hitting the wireless network that invisibly blankets her house. A moment later, she’s automatically logged on to four separate instant messaging networks at once.

As soon as the icons in Yahoo! Instant Messenger light up, a small blue square on the laptop starts to flash. A pop-up box with “yo yo yo” appears on the screen. Her friend Trevor is awake, too, somewhat to her surprise. He was up late at a rave the night before – Elizabeth saw he’d posted on his LiveJournal blog that he was going out.

“Hey Trev,” she types back with one hand, while she reaches for her iPod with the other, “party OK?” Trevor, from some point unknown, sends back a flurry of half-sentences – it was more than OK, apparently – as Elizabeth connects her iPod to the laptop. She punches a few more buttons, convincing iTunes to download a few new songs and a podcast she likes onto the iPod for the walk to school. She opens her e-mail client as the IM window keeps flashing, Trevor punching the “enter” key with each new detail. “TMI!” Elizabeth yells back at him through YIM. He’s given her more info than she really wanted to know about the party.

Ignoring Trev’s persistent messaging – the “TMI” did not sink in, apparently – Elizabeth opens her e-mail client, watching as a few dozen messages, sent her way during the wee hours, float onto her screen. After a quick graze over the message titles and news headlines that arrive in the inbox, much of it looking an awful lot like spam, she decides e-mail can wait til after breakfast. May as well login to Second Life, too, while I’m at it, she thinks, bringing to life her cute avatar, which makes her smile. Time for orange juice.

Let us shift time zones. Imagine a scene in a rural Lancashire town in 1800. Jack, wakes up with a jolt. Dawn is slowly breaking. He can hear his dad making his way out of the front door. He gets out bed and puts his clothes on. He gulps down some hot gruel. "Coming dad!", he shouts. It is 5am. Outside Jack's father talks in hushed tones with other grown ups. "Alright lad", says Jack's father. The entire group of adults and 'little adults' make their way to the mills - a long day shift.

Childhood is fragmented - the digital native narrative neatly amplifies some of the paradoxical images we have of childhood, how we as a society are coming to terms with the socialisation of childhood in the technological environment and the need to understand how we can better manage expectations not only of adults but also those of the digital natives.


From Erin Mishkin's paper (unpublished) on Cyber Bullying:

Constantly Connected: A Brief Look at Youth’s Life Online

There is no debate over the significant role digital media such as cell phones and the Internet play in most teens’ lives. A recent report of a ten-year study on the impact of online technology on the United States indicated that 98% of youth (12-18 years old) use the Internet (USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future, 2004). With such a large number of teens logging on or text messaging, electronic mediums have become the primary means by which the majority of youth remain connected to their social worlds and by which they maintain and reinforce their “established, off- line peer network” (Gross, E., Juvonen, J., & Gable, S., 2002, p. 77) after walking out school doors. In fact, one study that relied on self-reported data showed that youth in their sample “spent a majority of their time online interacting with close, offline friends… the most frequently cited reasons for instant messaging were to hang out with a friend and relieve boredom, and the most common topics discussed in IMs were friends and gossip” (Gross, 2004, p. 642).

A study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project (2001) indicated that for a fifth of all youth Internet users, IMing has become the primary means of communicating with friends. In addition, 56% have more than one email address or screen name, and, of this group, 24% say that they keep at least one of those addresses or screen names secret from their friends or family. Interestingly, 24% of teens have pretended to be someone else while communicating online (Pew Internet and American Life Project, 2001). Still another study based on self-reporting found that “online pretending” was motivated by “a desire to play a joke on friends more often than to explore a desired or future identity” (Gross, 2004, p. 633).

Being connected is not just limited to participating in online activities, however. As additional studies have shown, cell phone usage is especially high among teens—with phones being linked to social status and a tool for “[expressing] belonging in social groups” (Palen, Salzman & Young, 2000, p. 2). Another study conducted in the UK indicated that teens use text messages as a ritual form of gift giving because of the memories and shared meaning associated with the messages.



Relevant Research and Articles

Internet Addiction as a Problem? (2006)

Contemporary Youth and the Postmodern Adventure

Most teens say they've met strangers online (2006)

Online Video "eroding TV viewing" -- BBC article

Look, Mom, It's Me! (Christian Science Monitor, 2006)

Growing Up Digital: How the Web Changes Work, Education, and the Ways People Learn (2000)

Tracking the MySpace Generation (five part series in LA Times, 2006)

They are the future – and they’re coming to a workplace near you (Financial Times, Sept. 2006)

Youngsters 'reliant on mobiles' (BBC News, Dec. 2006)

Positive Uses of Social Networking Sites (pdf by Young Adult Library Services Association)

The MySpace Generation (Business Week, 2005)

Always-on/Always-on-you: The Tethered Self. In Handbook of Mobile Communications and Social Change, James Katz (ed.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, forthcoming (Turkle, S.).

They are the future – and they’re coming to a workplace near you (Financial Times, 2006)

We Can't Ignore the Influence of Digital Technologies (Davidson, 2007)

simple spark (website of web 2.0 applications)

Defining Digital Natives's page on Digital Natives

Martin Owen, The Myth of the Digital Native

Wikipedia entry on Digital native

iPhone Video Converter

Prensky: Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, Part I (2001)

Prensky: Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, Part II (2001)

Prensky: The Emerging Online Life of the Digital Native (2004)

Best DVD to Apple TV converter

Digital Tools for Digital Students (from Apple site - good chart comparing DNs with digital immigrants)

HD Video Converter

Pew Internet & American Life Project Presentation: Digital Natives (2006) (powerpoint)

Digital Media Usage Reports/Studies

eGeneration Australia (2005)

Australian Kids Press Release (2005)

Ages of the Internet (UK) (2006)

Young New Zealanders are Avid Internet Users (NZ) (2005)

Britain - The Land of Online Travellers (UK, 50+ data) (2005)

USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future, The Digital Future Report: Surveying the Digital Future. Ten Years, Ten Trends (2004)

Oxford Internet Survey (2007) - British Internet Users (14+)

Pew Internet: Social Networking Websites and Teens: An Overview (2007)

KIM-Survey: Children & media, computer & internet. Base analysis of the media use of 6 until 13-year old children in Germany (2005)

DVD to Gphone Converter

Emerging trends among primary school children's use of the internet (UK) (2004) (General Findigs, p. 11 et seq.)

Pewinternet: Survey on Internet Use (18+) (2005)

Media and Technology in the Everyday Life of European Society (2003)

Blu-ray Ripper

Statistics: Teen Use of Web, Online Technologies Growing (2005)

The Media Family: Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers, Preschoolers and their Parents (2006)

OFCOM Communications Market Report 2006, p. 14-5

Digital Beginnings: Children's use of popular culture, new media and new technologies (UK) (2005) (age 0-6)

YouTube Video Converter

Pew Internet Project, Generations Memo (US) (2005)

Internet and the Public at Large (2002)

Digital beginnings: Young children’s use of popular culture, media and new technologies (2005)

Young People New Media report (S. Livingstone, LSE, 1999)

Media Literacy

Report on Media Literacy amongst Children (UK) (2006), p. 34 et seq.

Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century, Henry Jenkins (2006)

A Global Imperative: The Report of the 21st Century Literacy Summit (2005)

Video to Gphone Converter

On Multitasking, in the New York Times, Steven Lohr (2007)

UK Children Go Online (2005) - survey of 1,500 kids (9-19) and their parents