Digital Natives

Lukanne Lowe

It has been said that young people are ‘digital natives’ and  the younger generation are known as being internet savvy due to more exposure with the digital world. Helsper and Eynon (2010) state that “breadth of use, experience, self-efficacy and education are just as, if not more, important than age in explaining how people become digital natives” (p. 504).

1. age – the youngest generation who has grown up with technology and does not know any other context;

2. experience – those who have been on the Internet the longest, while they might not have grown up with the Internet when young, they have been ‘submerged’ in it for the longest period of time; or

3. breadth of use – those for whom the Internet is integrated into almost every aspect of their everyday lives independent of their age or experience.

It has been said that mainly the generations born in the last two decades are good users of digital technology. Helsper and Eynon’s definition of a digital native is “someone who multi-tasks, has access to a range of new technologies, is confident in their use of technologies, uses the Internet as a first port of call for information and uses the Internet for learning as well as other activities” (Helsper & Eynon, 2010, p.506). With this in mind, it is not fair to say that only the people born in the last two decades can be called digital natives, personally I know many people born before the last two decades who are confident in using technology as it is a part of their job requirement or their first port of call in different situations. People born before the new digital era are said to be called ‘digital immigrants’, characteristics of digital immigrants include: not going to the Internet first for information; printing things out as opposed to working on screen; and reading manuals rather than working things out online. Times are changing and technology is developing fast, it is all around us and it is so important to know about technology and how to use it. Majority of people have access to and use the internet for information even in libraries where information could just be gathered from books. I strongly believe that it is the breadth of use and experience are the perfect ways in describing someone who is internet savvy and a confident user (a digital native). Helsper and Eynon (2010) claim that if characteristics of a digital native are determined by age, then older generations are lost and there is no solution between adults and younger people is out of sight. “However, if being tech savvy is determined by exposure and experience, then collaboration and learning is possible in environments where younger and older generations interact” (p.505).

New technologies have changed the way young people, socialise, communicate and even learn. Bennett and Matont (2010) add, “young people are said to be different to all generations that have gone before because they think, behave and learn differently as a result of continuous, pervasive exposure to modern technology. Various labels have been applied to these young people but the two most common are ‘digital natives’ and ‘Net generation’” (p.322). Just because younger people have had more exposure to digital media throughout their lives, it doesn’t always mean that they are better skilled and more comfortable and confident with digital media. Personally speaking, I need to have a lot of exposure and experience with media or a media site before I feel like I can call myself a ‘savvy’ in that area.

To the younger generation, technology is the norm because they have grown up with digital technologies all around them. For them, technology has always existed and is habitual. without technology life would seem quite difficult and people would become quite impatient beings. Helsper and Eynon (2010) which reads “For some, new technologies have been such a defining feature in the lives of younger generations that they predict a fundamental change in the way young people communicate, socialise, create and learn” (p.503). Looking around I see so many people looking down at their devices as it is the first point of reference in almost any situation. Even though it is so handy to have access to the internet, GPS and modes of communication, I had a change of thought when I watched a youtube video titled “Look Up” a film for the online generation. it was really inspiring and made me realise that it is important to learn and teach others about technology because it is a major part of  our lives. However, we also don’t need to rely on it so much in everything we do, we need to live our lives and make the most of the events and people around us to really make memories and build relationships.



Bennett, S., & Maton, K. (2010). Beyond the ‘digital natives’ debate: Towards a more nuanced understanding of students’ technology experiences. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(5), 321-331.

Helsper, E.J., & Eynon, R. (2010). Digital natives: where is the evidence? British Educational Research Journal, 36(3), 503-520.

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One thought on “Digital Natives

  1. Wow! Your last clip “Look Up” was such a powerful eye-opener to the way technology can enslave us. You’re right, wherever I go, people are looking down at their iphones, ipads or have their ears blocked with ipods. Technology is a great tool but should never be a substitute for ‘living’ life. Thanks for sharing this!


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