12 December 2018
Digital Natives Vs Digital Immigrants
Did you grow up with computers and cell phones surrounding you or did you live in a time without them? There has been a debate over the past few years over the terms digital natives vs digital immigrants. Digital natives are people who were born in a time when technology surrounded them whereas digital immigrants are people who grew up without technology and were just recently introduced to it. Some people agree that because digital natives grew up with technology, they automatically know everything about it. Others, like Danah Boyd, disagree and think digital natives actually do not know a lot of very important skills about technology. Danah Boyd specializes in researching how technology intertwines with society. She later wrote the book It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens to record all of her findings from research. Boyd believes that there are many problems with those terms. She thinks that calling the youth digital natives decreases equality among the people because we assume that young people know everything about technology that we disinclude them from all learning opportunities. In this paper I will analyze Boyds point of view about how she disagrees with the terms digital natives and digital immigrants and challenge it with an outside text that supports and includes all of the aspects of those two terms. I will also look at Boyds claim that the youth needs to develop digital literacy skills and expand on that with an outside source that explains in detail the skills that all young people should know. Finally I will look at how not knowing certain media skills can lead to bad things happening.
The two terms digital native and digital immigrants have sparked debate within our community. After reading a chapter out of Danah Boyd’s book, I learned that just because today’s youth was born surrounded by cell phones and computers doesn’t mean they know the ins and outs of every aspect of technology. She believes this creates a divide between the two categories because society places digital natives and digital immigrants into two separate places in the community. The first category being that young people have all the knowledge about technology, and the second being older people who are clueless and unhelpful when it comes to technology. Boyd points out that “it obscures the uneven distribution of technological skills and media literacy across the youth population, presenting an inaccurate portrait of young people as uniformly prepared for the digital era and ignoring the assumed level of privilege required to be “native.”” (Boyd 179). She points out that because of these assumptions that the youth has all the knowledge about the internet, they aren’t getting the proper education on them. She also states that because of this, society is creating a loop because the teachers are actively participating in inequality of technology because some youth does not have as great access to it than others. From personal experience, I agree that youth does not know everything about the internet because I believe mostly every website I see and I cannot tell the difference between biased or fake websites. I think it is important to assume everyone knows nearly nothing about the internet because then everyone can have the same learning opportunities. Ofer Zur, a licensed psychologist, and Azzia Walker, author of the book Therapy in the Digital Era, worked together to write an article about digital natives and digital immigrants. Ofer Zur and Azzia Walker created an article, “On Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives: How the Digital Divide Affects Families, Educational Institutions, and the Workplace,” that challenges Boyds argument by showing all the elements to digital natives and digital immigrants. These authors believe that youth automatically have a greater advantage than elders because they grew up with technology surrounding them. In the article they talk about the different categories of being a digital native and a digital immigrant. They point out that “[w]hile most digital natives are tech-savvy by virtue of their being born around technology, others do not have a knack for technology and computers, or even an interest or inclination to learn more.” This shows that they expanded on these two terms in their article. Zur and Walker believe that digital immigrants can be separated into avoiders (people who avoid technology altogether), reluctant adopters (people who realize technology is a part of society but engaging in it feels unnatural), and enthusiastic adopters (people who do their best to keep up with natives on technology). They also believe that digital natives can be separated into avoiders (people who do not feel the need to be technologically active), minimalists (people who only use technology when it feels necessary), and enthusiastic participants (people who thoroughly engage in the use of technology). This is a completely different view of technology and challenges Boyds point. By separating digital native and digital immigrants into several categories, it captures all sorts of people and their stances on technology. Boyd on the other hand disregards those terms in total because she doesn’t believe that the youth are experts just based off their time of birth. Boyd finds it naive to think children know everything about technology because she “often found that teens must fend for themselves to make sense of how technologies work and how information spreads.” (Boyd 182). This shows why society should not place the youth and the elders in different categories when it comes to social media because in reality, children don’t know much about technology at all according to some studies Boyd created that will be talked about in the next paragraph. Overall Boyd disagrees with the terms digital native and digital immigrants whereas Zur and Walker think digital immigrants and digital natives are supposed to be divided into separate categories.
Being born into a society where the internet surrounds you can lead to many assumptions that the youth has all the skills and knowledge about it just because they grew up with it. According to Boyd, the youth actually has little to no real awareness about how the internet actually works. She simply states that “[t]eens may make their own media or share content online, but this does not mean that they inherently have the knowledge or perspective to critically examine what they consume” (Boyd 177). She also points out that becoming literate on a certain subjects takes time and effort regardless of how old you are. Simple skills like knowing when something is biased or fake, understanding algorithms, and knowing how to fact check are important things that most teenagers have no idea how to do. Boyd believes that this is important because these are critical skills that are needed to understand the internet from day to day. A director of blended and networked learning, Mike Caulfield, has been working in educational technology since 1977. He is very interested and determined in changing the way digital literacy is taught. Mike Caulfield’s article “How “News Literacy” Gets the Web Wrong” extends Boyds argument by providing education about how to evaluate unfamiliar sites. He provides three main tips and then extends on each of those. Caulfield says the simplest way to do it is to “[c]heck for previous fact-checking work, go upstream to the source, [and] read laterally.” The main outtake from these pointers is to “check for previous work until there is no more previous work, get as close to the original as you can until you can get no closer, and read laterally until you understand the source.” This set of skills is important to know for many things in day to day life such as reading the news or writing a school paper. Most students, according to Boyd, do not even know what the “difference between a web browser and the internet” is. This just confirms that students do not know nearly any important skills about the internet that people like Caulfeild can teach them. By providing people with information about how to differentiate real or fake or biased sites it helps our society grow into a better place all around. Boyd believed digital literacy and having the correct knowledge about technology is extremely important for everyone to know. Boyd interviewed several students about the website wikipedia and nearly all of the children replied with the answer that their teachers told them it was an unreliable source to use for research. Boyd was fascinated by the false information teachers have given to children because she believes that “[w]ikipedia isn’t simply a product of knowledge; it’s also a record of the process by which people share and demonstrate knowledge” and “[w]ikipedia can be a phenomenal educational tool, but few educators I met knew how to use it constructively.” (Boyd 188-189). This quote shows that the youth is not being taught the correct digital literacy skills necessary to navigate the internet properly. This also connects back to Caulfield because websites like his can really help today’s youth learn things that are important about the internet. All in all Boyd thinks that young people are not properly educated when it comes to technological skills even if society believes they are. Caulfield’s article extends on that by providing specific skills that Boyd believes all people, not just youth, should know.
As I talked about in the paragraph above, having digital literacy skills is extremely important for day to day use of the internet. Skills such as being able to tell the difference between a fake news site and a real one is very important. Boyd points out that “[i]t is dangerous to assume that [anyone is] automatically informed” (Boyd 177). By using the word dangerous, it gets the readers to realize that this isn’t just a small problem, but it is causing dangerous things to happen around the world. An article written by Cecilia Kang and Adam Goldman called “In Washington Pizzeria Attack, Fake News Brought Real Guns” extends on the danger point that Boyd makes. The article talks about how a man read a fake news website that he thought was real saying that “Comet Ping Pong, a pizza restaurant in northwest Washington, was harboring young children as sex slaves as part of a child-abuse ring led by Hillary Clinton.” In result of this, he brought an illegal weapon to the pizza place in search of these children. As a result of this man not being educated on how to tell whether a website was fake or real, he got arrested. Thankfully in this case nobody was hurt, but if people don’t get the right education on digital literacy like Boyd thinks they should, then occurrences like this one will continue to happen. This just shows that with all the fake websites out there, everyone needs to be educated on digital literacy. Society shouldn’t assume that one group of people automatically know more about the internet than the other because realistically everyone needs to learn more about the internet. If we want to make a change, then everyone need to ditch the terms digital native and digital immigrant and assume that everyone has the same understanding of the internet and then go on to learn from there.
After all my findings and research, many people have different views on whether to label the youth as digital natives and the older people digital immigrants. Danah Boyd believes that labeling people with these terms is wrong because the technological generation does not know every single aspect about technology. She also thinks that this creates digital inequality because when people assume that youth knows everything, they get left out of many important learning opportunities. Authors Ofer Zur and Azzia Walker use these terms but divide them into different categories based on how engaged a person is with social media. Their point of view challenges Boyds because they believe the use of the terms digital native and digital immigrant is very relevant into today’s society. Boyd also thinks that knowing digital literacy skills is very important for everyone to know. She also says that knowing how to properly use the internet and being able to tell if a website is fake or real is very important. If people aren’t educated then bad things can happen. Author Cecilia Kang and Adam Goldman go on to extend this point of Boyds because it talks about a man that read a fake news site and it resulted in him bringing illegal weapons to a wholesome pizza restaurant. Author Mike Caulfield extends the digital literacy point and talks about some of the most important skills that are needed for day to day use of the internet. All in all Boyd thinks that the terms digital natives and digital immigrants should be abandoned and everyone of all ages should be taught digital literacy skills to prevent bad things from happening and overall make the world a better place to live in.
Boyd, Danah. “Danah Boyd.” “Living and Learning with Social Media”, www.danah.org/.
Boyd, Danah. “The Social Lives of Networked Teens.” It’s Complicated, 2014, rws100wiki.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/99522203/boyd_literacy_digital_natives_OCR.pdf.
Caulfield, Mike. “Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers.” Pressbooks, Self-Published, 8 Jan. 2017, webliteracy.pressbooks.com/chapter/four-strategies/.
Goldman, Cecilia Kang and Adam. “In Washington Pizzeria Attack, Fake News Brought Real Guns.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 Jan. 2018, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/05/business/media/comet-ping-pong-pizza-shooting-fake-news-consequences.html.
Zur, Ofer, and Azzia Walker. “On Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives: How the Digital Divide Affects Families, Educational Institutions, and the Workplace.” Zur Institute , 1995, http://www.zurinstitute.com/digital_divide.html.