It’s no secret that the teens we work with are born digital. 13 to 19 year olds have had technology in their lives every day of their lives. And, they have had the web as a tool for viewing, using, and finding content every day of their lives.
What does it really mean to be born digital?
Does it mean that teens are unaware of how to manage their privacy and identity in only environments?
Not really. As recent research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project shows, in many instances younger people have a better sense of reputation management in online environments than many adults. Why? Probably because online reputation management has been a part of younger people’s lives every day of their lives. Right, born digital.
Does it mean that teens don’t have any interest in non-technologically-based tools and resources? Not really. Teens are still reading traditional print magazines, books in physical form, hanging out with friends in malls, going to the movies in groups, etc. But, now teens have more choice selecting the format and setting that makes the most sense for a particular need or purpose. Perhaps it’s a school night and mom and dad say you can’t go to the movies with friends. OK, no problem, everyone open up YouTube and start watching the latest popular videos, and while you’re at it, have a discussion about what everyone’s watching using a web-based chat or talk module. That’s right, born digital.
Does it mean that teens don’t need help figuring out the best way to use tech tools or get advice on which tools to use for a particular purpose? No, not really. There are lots of instances in which teens can use help, support, and advice related to using technology, even if they have used it every day of their lives. Adults might forget this because many teens are proficient and fearless when using tech. But, knowing which buttons to push and how to move around, knowing not to worry if a wrong key is pushed, knowing that it’s OK to make a mistake with a tech tool because almost everything can be fixed, doesn’t equate with complete expertise. Lack of fear, etc. doesn’t correlate to media literacy, information literacy, and other key skills needed to be effective users of technology. Right, born digital.
What I often find is that librarians make assumptions about what it means to be born digital. Assumptions are never a good idea, especially when making decisions or planning for programs and services. The best way to find out what born digital really means is to talk with teens about technology in their lives. Ask them how they define technology? What do they think technology is really good for? What do they wish adults who were born analog knew about technology? The only way to really understand what it means to be born digital is to ask someone that is actually in that category.
And, of course, you can also watch some YouTube videos.