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Study proves that ‘digital natives’ do not exist

A study proves that “digital natives” do not exist: digital natives, generations X, Y, Z and now alpha, are a recurring theme on the Web and in the media. OK, boomer! I know. Yet, facts are stronger than fiction.

Study Shows ‘Digital Natives’ Do Not Exist

Digital natives
Study shows digital natives don’t exist – Midjourney has a rather dystopian view of digital natives that is far from reality. Fortunately…

Digital natives have been a recurring theme at Visionary Marketing for years on end. A study by the ECDL (European Computer Driving Licence) foundation sheds more light on this.

As I’m sick and tired of hearing that young people at good at IT and older ones are computer illiterates, I’m sharing this study with my readers and I hope it will be useful to you.

Prejudice against generations is ageism

Suffice it to point out that, having been a lecturer in digital marketing for more than 20 years, I am a strong advocate of the collaboration between generations. I see any prejudice against any generation as ageism, which is a form of racism. 

Coming back to digital natives, facts and figures contradict this myth. Digital natives do not exist.

An ECDL study debunks the myth.

digital natives
While we’re Young is a 2014 films which show two generations at the opposite end of the stereotype. Old people obsessed with youth and techno. Young people attracted by anything vintage (bikes, HI-FI and vinyl records, old TV sets, handmade furniture, etc.) A bit of a caricature, with a touch of truth and irony.
Digital natives do not exist
Generation Y? Digital natives do not exist, ECDL says.

Whatever the generation, with varying degrees of precision, the premises are the same. Digital natives (generation Y, Z, Alpha, etc.) are computer literate.

The rest of us are “digital immigrants”.

Prensky coined the “digital natives” moniker

Marc Prensky, himself a digital native, coined this wacky terminology.

I find the term “digital immigrant” particularly offensive. Mostly when you are an IT veteran and an Internet pioneer.

This is doubly insulting, both to all the dinosaurs over fifty (including Prensky himself), and to immigrants who are no less human than those who populate the countries they migrate to.

Infographics and clichés abound on the Web. Anecdotes too, but none of them passes the test of examination.

Twenty-year-olds are Internet wizards and all others are in the Stone Age and use wax tablets and styli to communicate. Smoke signals too – source.

It is time to set the record straight, thanks to this study by ECDL, which stresses the urgent need for training young people in digital.

As a trainer in this field, my experience is that, even in digital marketing classes, there is a long way to go.

The study shows how computer illiterate some of the so-called digital natives are. In some countries, Austria for instance, more than others.

The impact on society and business

As the ECDL study points out, misconceptions around generation Y/digital natives have serious consequences.

Impact of society, education and business.

Besides, as I have already pointed out, ageism has a serious impact on people’s lives. In Europe, where senior citizens are asked to work until they are 67 years old (in Italy, for instance), ageism is making it hard for many of them to remain in business.

In France, no more than 30% of workers over 60 have a full-time job. And getting a job interview when your CV shows you are over 50 is mission impossible. Unless you possess certain skills.

Ageism is harmful

Not to mention the pressure between generations within businesses.

All this is very harmful and goes against the necessary and healthy cooperation between the various generations. And we all need people around us, some younger, some older, to challenge each other’s points of view and favour diversity.

Inter-generational exchanges spur harmony, personal and collective improvement, and above all business efficiency.

A study on the fallacy of the term “digital natives”

I’ve noticed another thing. The more business managers are out of touch with digital, the more they will sing the praise of “digital natives”.

I’m wondering why. Is it to corner young ones as “geeks”? Does it mean that they do not qualify for management positions?

Regardless, the concept of “digital natives” does not stand the test of time.

The ECDL study goes against the grain.

It concludes that the lack of training of young people in digital skills is a danger. Exposure to technology, even from an early age, does not at all mean that one can use it properly. Let alone, wisely.

Advanced Users Are a Minority in Australia, Austria and Elsewhere

For example, in Australia, according to the ECDL study, a minority of young people can make advanced use of information technology. No more than 15% of the student population. While only 45% of these students have rudimentary skills in this area.

This is a 2015 study. I have a hunch that things have gone worse since then rather than better.

An Educational Disaster

In Austria, the numbers are even worse. A meagre 7% of 15-29-year-olds are deemed to possess good computer skills. Thank God, I believe they must be good at issuing ChatGPT3 prompts, though.

In Italy the results are even more disastrous.

Yet another study on digital natives: ICLS

According to a study by the International Centre for Language Studies (ICLS), carried out over a large cohort, only 2% of students possess critical thinking skills when searching for information online.

Anyone who teaches knows the plague of plagiarism and copy-pasting. The risk, the ECDL points out, is high.

ChatGPT3 and the likes are bound to bring all this to an even higher level.

The situation isn’t hopeless, however. Not all countries are as bad. In the Czech Republic and Denmark, computer literacy scores of young people are somewhat better.

Before you join the crowd of worshippers of the so-called digital native tribe, please do me a favour and read the rest of the ECDL study.

Yann Gourvennec
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Yann Gourvennec

Yann Gourvennec created in 1996. He is a speaker and author of 6 books. In 2014 he went from intrapreneur to entrepreneur, when he created his digital marketing agency. ———————————————————— Yann Gourvennec a créé en 1996. Il est conférencier et auteur de 6 livres. En 2014, il est passé d'intrapreneur à entrepreneur en créant son agence de marketing numérique. More »
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