Not ‘digital’

Good article – Understanding low and discontinued Internet use amongst young people in Britain, addresses concerns about young people who are not ‘digital’ and the increasing disconnect with the current supposition that all young people are.

being young and therefore supposedly ‘digital’ – according to today’s societal norms – actually made it much harder for them to seek help. Simply recognising the fact that not all young people are digitally literate or active is important for the people who interact with them: for example teachers, potential employers, social workers, government employees, and job centre staff. We need to allow for the possibility that young people may need support in using the Internet, enable them to identify problems with their skill sets, and move forward with educational initiatives to ensure that all young people have an opportunity to fully explore the online world and develop the skills needed to support that process while they are still in education.

The “digital native” idea, while catchy, has always struck me as misguided. Living and working in Silicon Valley, we raised our kids in the epicenter of the digital revolution. Sure our kids and their friends are digitally literate as judged by many pundits. Our younger son could “double-click” before he was two – that is Silicon Valley mom speak for “my kid is ever so technically advanced.”

But it has little to do with being born in the 1980s and everything to do with being bright, inquisitive kids in a time and place where every home had parents who worked in high tech or higher education or both (Stanford University is the neighborhood school). These parents had high expectations for their kids and provided the support necessary – personal, academic, financial, technological. These are the kids who are featured as the “digital natives.”

That can not be said for the kids who lived a few miles away in a neighborhood with one of the highest crime and murder rates in California where survival is a full-time learning experience. Even among contemporaries born in the same hospital on the same day, the digital divide is real and wide.

Digital literacy is not inalienable right by year of birth. Digital literacy is skill, knowledge and understanding that can be learned by everyone with the opportunity, motivation and encouragement.


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