The myth of the “digital native”
The phrase “digital native” connotes a mastery of and facility with digital tools which most young people lack–they are adept as digital consumers, but that largely implies an extreme susceptibility to the manipulations of advertisers.
Mastery should mean having a depth of understanding and an historical perspective on the thing mastered, and facility should mean having the skills, tools, and motivation to create in the digital landscape. While many youth are thus adept, as a generation the digital consumers need lots of helpful context-framing and coaching from all kinds of immigrants.
An unstated assumption of the “digital native” myth is that these kids who grew up with the internet already a part of their lives are somehow internet experts by birth. On the contrary, my experience working with students K-12 is that most do not have much understanding of the internet’s potential and uses, nor the critical and analytical skills to harness its power for their own uses. In terms of the internet, I am the native, present since it was only browsed with the original Netscape Mozilla dragon. I have watched it grow from a fascinating but tiny world of academic and community connections, where almost anyone could become a “friend” and quickly earn deep levels of trust, without ever a face-to-face meeting, into the vast and infinitely complex social web of deceit and chicanery and creativity which it is still becoming. We all need each other, and all can contribute, and all need help of one kind and another from time to time…