As someone who has been exposed to technology since birth, I relate to Prensky’s idea of the “Digital Native”- individuals who have grown up in the digital age and are therefore much more competent with technology. It’s second nature to navigate the internet daily, whether uploading a photo onto Facebook using my laptop, opening Maps to navigate somewhere with my phone or watching catch up TV on a tablet.
Prensky’s second category, the “Digital Immigrant” – those who are have grown up before digital technology was so widely available – is a term I can use to describe my mother. She is someone who, like others in her generation, has been trying to adapt themselves to this new world filled with screens, searching and swiping. My mother has retained, what Prensky calls, her “accent”; she will often use the internet (well, attempt to) as a last resort when confronted with a problem. My mother also shows “Digital Visitor” (White & Le Cornu) traits, only using the internet as a tool and is reluctant to create their own digital identity. With reference to social media, she delivers criticism of my apparently irrelevant posts about everyday life and does not feel comfortable sharing private information online.
A contradictory case is my father, disagreeing with Prensky’s theory, my father is not your typical “Immigrant”, even though his age fits that profile. My father believes we should utilize the internet to our full advantage, for example: he uses online forums such as trip advisor and he is part of Jazz Music and Bridge online communities to share his opinions with like-minded individuals. He exhibits characteristics of a “Digital Resident” – often found using facilities like online banking and views the internet as a place to share personal information. Individuals like my father are evidence that Prensky’s theory is inaccurate, as he does not account for those showing different levels of proficiency and interest in the internet, regardless of their age (Bennet et al).
I believe a scale is the most appropriate way to model an individual’s online personality, it is incorrect to generalize and attribute specific characteristics to large quantities of people. With technology advancing so rapidly, I’d be inclined to say that this model doesn’t give a permanent description; I may be a resident now, however in 20 years, no one can predict what new platforms I may be a visitor to!
- Prensky, M. (2001), Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, On the Horizon, MCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5
- White, D. & Le Cornu, A. (2011), Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement, First Monday, Volume 16, Number 9 – 5
- Bennett, S. (2008), The ‘digital natives’ debate: a critical review of the evidence, British Journal of Educational Technology, 39 (5)
- Featured image: Harley Schwadron
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