Born Digital

In reading an article by Palfrey Gasser regarding the age of the digitally born I found myself falling somewhere in between being a digital immigrant and being digitally born. I classify myself as a digital immigrant, but in reality I am more of a digitally naturalized citizen. I believe the generation I belong to is more of a hybrid generation- those who are no born digitally, but are so adept to the technological changes that they seem to be.

Having two children who are digitally born I can understand the fear most parents have about the new generation as Gasser describes some of the negative aspects of being born in a digital age.Many psychologists, parents, and educators are concerned that the digitally born generation will suffer from game addiction, attention deficit disorder , or other technology related behavioral problems.

I believe like most young parents of my generation that an integration to the digital age is necessary for children. Instead of fearing what might happen to the children born in a digital age, I believe understanding and mentoring is an absolute. Incorporating digital media into my life while also teaching my children ways to do things that are not digital in form, becomes very important. Handing a child a book instead of a Kindle, playing a board game instead of the Wii are just some ways I believe that you can integrate the generations of immigrants and natives.

I also believe that the naturalized citizens play a key role in integrating and facilitating the technological gaps between the immigrants and the natives.I often find myself helping my mother or father with their cell phones, Facebook pages, or Twitter accounts. On the other hand, I am also responsible for controlling the level of play time and intensity that my sons engage in online. Citizens of the digital age play a vital role in administering a necessary balance between these generations of digital media. Many parents already understand and embrace this role openly.

Several couples in a New York Times article entitled, “Twittering From the Cradle” are taking an advanced approach to their children’s ” digital births.”

“Of course, these busy social networkers don’t actually post journal entries or befriend playground acquaintances themselves. Their sleep-deprived parents are behind the curtain, shaping their children’s online identities even before they are diaper-free.” (Sweeney 1)

Recently, my youngest son ran to me extremely upset about his friend’s home phone being broken. I asked my son why he felt the phone was broken, and he informed me that the phone was making a strange beeping noise. I chuckled knowing that the phone number was busy. How many of us even of my generation have heard a busy tone recently? My elder son had a similar experience as discussed in Gasser’s essay, when he told me that he did not know how to write a letter. I was quite taken aback that my son who is a senior in high school did not know how to format a simple letter. Being a parent is both a learning and teaching experience, and during this digital age it is all the more imperative to pass not only our history to our children, but learn our future as well.

Parents, educators, and other immigrants to the digital age will need to adjust and evolve to teach and mold the digitally born children of today. Tempering the amount of games played, protecting information, guarding against cyber bullying, and setting boundaries will be some of the many ways in which the digital immigrants will aid those born digitally. Marc Prensky of  NCB University gives statistics regarding the amount of time children are spending online, gaming, and  using social media.

“Today’s students – K through college – represent the first generations to grow up with this new technology.  They have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using  computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age.  Today’s average college grads have spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading, but over 10,000 hours playing video games (not to mention 20,000 hours watching TV).  Computer games, email, the Internet, cell phones and instant messaging are integral parts of their lives. ” (Prensky 1)

Prensky elaborates on how vital it is that those of us who are digital immigrants must adapt to truly engage and teach the digital natives whose generation and numbers are ever growing.

“The importance of the distinction is this: As Digital Immigrants learn – like all immigrants, some better than others – to adapt to their environment, they always retain, to some degree, their ‘accent,’ that is, their foot in the past.   The ‘digital immigrant accent’ can be seen in such things as turning to the Internet for information second rather than first, or in reading the manual for a program rather than assuming that the program itself will teach us to use it. Today’s older folk were ‘socialized’ differently from their kids, and are now in the process of learning a new language. And a language learned later in life, scientists tell us, goes into a different part of the brain.

There are hundreds of examples of the digital immigrant accent.  They include printing out your email (or having your secretary print it out for you – an even ‘thicker’ accent); needing to print out a document written on the computer in order to edit it (rather than just editing on the screen); and bringing people physically into your office to see an interesting web site (rather than just sending them the URL).  I’m sure you can think of one or two examples of your own without much effort. My own favorite example is the ‘Did you get my email?’ phone call.  Those of us who are Digital Immigrants can, and should, laugh at ourselves and our ‘accent.’
But this is not just a joke.  It’s very serious, because the single biggest problem facing education today is that our Digital Immigrant instructors, who speak an outdated language (that of the pre-digital age), are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language.
This is obvious to the Digital Natives – school often feels pretty much as if we’ve brought in a population of heavily accented, unintelligible foreigners to lecture them.  They often can’t understand what the Immigrants are saying.  What does ‘dial’ a number mean, anyway?'”(Prensky 1)
The information all of the authors are trying to express to those of us who are digital immigrants is the importance to immigrate ourselves fully to our new culture, but to also teach the natives our history. While my accent may not be as thick as others, I too, am a digital immigrant.

Works Cited

Gasser, Palfrey, Born Digital, pp 1-8. URL:

Prensky, Marc, On The Horizon,NCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5, October 2001 PP1. URL:,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.htm

Sweenery, Camille, Twittering From The Cradle, September 10,2008, PP 1-2. URL:




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