Dispelling the Myth of the ‘Digital Native’!

Dear Commons Community,

Two professors, Eszter Hargittai and Brayden King, from Northwestern University, have developed a 10-week course entitled Managing Your Online Reputation which seeks to educate and protect young people from how they represent themselves on the Internet.   As reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“…the course developed by Ms. Hargittai and Mr. King uses cautionary tales, it also seeks to train students to build robust, productive online identities through which they can engage topics of interest, command audiences, and advance their careers. The course draws on social-science research about reputation and crisis management. The professors believe it to be one of a kind…”

Critical to this course is dispelling the myth of the young savvy digital native as promoted by Mark Prensky and others:

“…Ms. Hargittai and Mr. King say that the familiar narrative about tech-smart young people is false. Their course grew out of years of research conducted by Ms. Hargittai on the online skills of millennials. The findings paint a picture not of an army of app-building, HTML-typing twenty-somethings, but of a stratified landscape in which some, mostly privileged, young people use their skills constructively, while others lack even basic Internet knowledge.

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.”

This course appears to be a most worthwhile endeavor for assisting students in understanding the dangers as well as the benefits of the Internet.  Dispelling the myth of the digital native is most apropos.



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