I’m sure you’ve heard of the demographic groups "Generation X" and "Generation Y" — and there’s a good chance that you fall into one of those two — but did you know there’s also a category for our kids: "Generation Z." While there’s some contention about the exact start & end years, this generation generally consists of children born after 1995 and will cut off at 2021. (Some insist that this group begins in 2001 and accordingly, label it the "9-11 Generation.")
However you define it, today’s kids will be the most connected generation ever in terms of technology and on a worldwide scale.
They will have never known a world without the Internet, notebook PCs, digital cameras, iPods, DVDs, & cellular phones. They will have never known life without MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and a vast sea of other social media stuff that many of us are only just now tentatively dipping a toe into. Generation Z children are, in other words, digital natives. Or to put it another way…
I recently ran across those terms from and the concept really stuck with me. It’s been such a pervasive notion that it’s prompted lots of introspection & raised some very interesting questions.
I’m amazed by how appropriate the concept is, especially thinking in terms of literal immigrants who come to America, with the barriers for entry and the subsequent difficulties that they face once here. As I’ve mulled this over, I keep remembering movies & TV shows where immigrants and/or their children were central to the stories. Thinking the similarities between the concepts of national and digital immigrants, I’m forced to wonder:
- Is my thick immigrant accent coming through when I rail against cell phone text messaging? (A phone, after all, is for talking to someone else!)
- Is refusing to add a DVD player in my car a bit like clinging to archaic Old World values that’re out of place in today’s society?
- By not embracing MySpace, satellite radio, or streaming movies, am I like an aggravatingly stubborn immigrant who struggles with (or simply chooses to remain mostly ignorant of) English language?
- Do my arguments that technology is making us impatient and short-sighted seem like quaint, cranky ramblings about how things were back in the "Old Country?"
What about you — what do you think of the concept of digital natives vs. immigrants? Do you see how it applies to you?