Sorry, Millennials, You Don't Have Digital 'Special Powers'

Researchers say concept of a younger generation of 'digital natives' is a myth
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 31, 2017 11:00 AM CDT
Young 'Digital Natives' No More Tech-Savvy Than Older Set
You're not the only one who knows how to use a smartphone, dude.   (Getty Images/pixelfit)

Are you a "digital native" or a "digital immigrant," and does it make a difference? Research recently published in the Teaching and Teacher Education journal indicates the concept of so-called digital natives—aka, those slotted into the "millennials" category and younger, and often thought to be masters of technology and multitasking—is a myth, reports Discover magazine. Why it's important for this myth to be shattered, scientists say, is because companies and educators have been urged to revamp their processes and environments to cater to the supposedly more tech-savvy younger generation, Quartz notes. "The answer is not how we can adapt [to the younger generation]," says lead author Paul Kirschner, an Open University educational psychology professor. "We have to treat people as human, cognitive learners and stop considering one specific group to have special powers."

Previous studies have suggested digital immigrants—those born before the early '80s and, as Nature puts it, thought to be "doomed to be forever strangers in a computer-based strange land"—can handle technological tasks as well as the younger set. In fact, every generation has trouble multitasking (think emailing and watching TV at the same time) because our brains just aren't equipped to fully concentrate on multiple tasks at once. Even Marc Prensky, the educator who first popularized the terms "digital native" and "digital immigrants" in a 2001 essay, is now moving away from those labels and embracing the term "digital wisdom," which he says we can all aspire to. "The Digital Natives/Digital Immigrants metaphor is NOT about what people know, or can do, with technology," his site notes. "It's more about culture and attitudes." (Not taking anything away from this 4-year-old, though.)

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