Confronting the Myth of the ‘Digital Native’

It’s one thing to be able use a service like Facebook or Instagram, and to use it well; it’s quite another thing to code a web page by hand, tweak a CSS file, or design the navigation for a large website. While I don’t expect my English students to be professional programmers, I do aim to expose them to code, so that they have some sense of what it takes to make the technology work.

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In one multiyear study that Ms. Hargittai conducted on students’ Internet use at the University of Illinois at Chicago, about one-third of the survey respondents could not identify the correct description of the ‘bcc’ email function. More than one-quarter said they had not adjusted the privacy settings or content of social-media profiles for job-seeking purposes.

“It is problematic that there are so many assumptions about how just because a young person grew up with digital media, which in fact many have, that they are automatically savvy,” Ms. Hargittai says. “That is simply not the case. There are increasing amounts of empirical evidence to suggest the contrary.”

“Because a 2-year-old can swipe their finger on an iPad, suddenly every young person, every child, is just universally knowledgeable about digital media,” she says. “But there is so much more to using digital media than turning it on or starting an app.” —Confronting the Myth of the ‘Digital Native’ – The Digital Campus 2014 – The Chronicle of Higher Education.