Digital Natives, Yea or Nay?

Are we doing our children justice?

This week we covered some great content in our weekly readings. One of the areas that got my attention was the idea of “digital natives” vs. “digital immigrants”. When I watch the following video, I question if parents today are failing our children by allowing acts like this to occur.

While iPads and iPhones certainly provide parents with a few minutes to wash their hair or get supper on the table, we must question if we are creating “well-rounded digital natives”, or stereotypical millennials. In today’s world, it seems that many people are looking for the shortest way, the quickest fix, the easiest solution to problems…. and with kids, that can easily resort to technology. But do we question these actions and their longterm results? Does giving an iPad to a baby mean that they will acquire the technological skills to make them a well-rounded, technologically savvy teenager or adult one day? Perhaps they will be able to navigate apps and surface level technology, but what about “smarter” technology like Microsoft Word, and other age old programs on computers that are used for academic purposes (or in the old days…. just plain kids!)? (Jocelyn Carr posted this video about millennials and it depicts an example of what could be seen as millennial’s “technological” intelligence…. And I found my self going “Oh yes, ugh… oh dear!” What do you think?)

This brings me to this week’s readings. When I watched the first video “Do Digital Natives Exist?“, I found myself constantly pausing and rewinding to repeat sections. There were some solid key points made.

First, Prensky’s definition of digital natives got me thinking. A digital native is defined as native speakers of the digital language of computers, video games, and the internet. A digital immigrant is defined as those who were not born into the digital world but later in their lives became fascinated by and adopted many or most of the new technology. Okay, so just to get this straight, if you were born after the internet became “a thing” you get to be a digital native… but if you are an “old foggy”, and were born before it came out (so … when internet was rolling out and one was competent to learn as it evolved…. you are still considered a digital immigrant). Apparently, I have a few problems with this.

First, I am one of those people sitting right on the cusp of that time transition… so what does that make me? An in-betweener? Do I have the unique ability to choose which one I want to be? hmmmm.

Additionally, just because someone lives in a certain place, does not guarantee that learning the native tongue will be innate if they are born there. What if their entire social circle continues to speak the language of their specific culture.  Similarly, just because someone is born as a millennial, does not mean that they will have access to technology, nor does it guarantee that those accessing it, will take their time to educate themselves on quality uses of technology. In my opinion, we have become a society that focuses more so on “social technology”, and finding ways to communicate with others, whether they are right in front of us, or millions of miles apart. Where does the guarantee of “quality technology” come into play?

While I agree that older generations may struggle to understand and immerse themselves into some aspects of technology, I find myself aligning my thoughts much more with David White, when he explained his continuum that rated one’s digital literacy based upon one’s motive to engage with technology.

White also takes the time to clarify what examples of learning technological literacies can include. He names “critically evaluating a range of digital resources, and having the capability to formulate and express cogent arguments online” to start. Understanding that there is more to engaging with apps on a phone is an area that may require further engagement for our future generations if we are to label them “digital natives”. Us “immigrants” best be figuring out how to teach them digital natives, how to be better educated “natives” if this be the case.

When examining White’s model of visitors and residents, we look at these positions through a lens. Those who are using the visitor lens, primarily use the web for tools that leave no footprint behind. These might include: paying bills online, searching for information, booking a holiday, etc.

In resident mode however, those interacting, use the web as a space where engagement does leave a digital footprint. Examples of these interactions include: commenting on posts, having social media profiles, and being active within known online communities.

Where one sits on this continuum, and whether the use is for personal or institutional goals, can change one’s level of experience. While I do think that millennials today tend to “use” technology all day e’ry day…. I don’t think this should be a qualifier to “native” citizenship.

Those who I believe are the most technologically literate and knowing, might possibly be those who indulge in some social media aspects, take the time to understand academic programming skills (Word, PowerPoint, etc.), are able to critically analyze digital resources, while also remembering some of Turkle’s suggestions of the need to disengage every now and again… to be “head’s up, eyes to the sky, left to ponder and appreciate”. Being immersed, knowing how to use technology, but also having the smarts to remember to disengage, is perhaps my ideal vision of the “ultimate” tech savvy profile in today’s day and age.

Where do you lie in the mix?


Photo Credit 

Sorry…. got a Snap Streak on the go…. I’ve got to run! See you next week! 🙂


5 thoughts on “Digital Natives, Yea or Nay?

  1. I feel like I also fall in the in between category. I am very addicted to my phone but I’ve also spent much of my life without having technology available. As a new parent I don’t have the answers. I wish I could see the future for every choice I make as a parent to decide if it will help or hinder my daughter. As a teacher I see both benefits if availability to technology and the negatives. Technology can be an amazing tool for children and they have so much more access than we had as chilsren. On the other side the idea of giving it to a baby as a babysitter takes away all the other things they could be learning through interaction with people and nature.


  2. Great post! The video you included of the baby with the IPad struck a chord with me, as I’m going to try and resist exposing my almost 2-year old for as long as I can… cue the next long road trip! While I do think it’s important to develop my child’s digital literacy in accordance with the technological age in which we are raising him, I do not want to run the risk of desensitizing him to the privilege, that is technology, through over-use. My students do not give near the reaction to videos that I show in class, as I remember giving the sound of the tv cart rolling down the school hallway! In addition, is that baby in a walker with wheels? Those parents are monsters!! LOL!! #mommyandmesupportgrouphumour


  3. I also agree with you preferring Whites’ continuum to the idea of “digital natives” and “digital immigrants.” I really like that White included the idea of using technology for personal or professional reasons. I believe that this is an important contrast for some people that must be included as part of the conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

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