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The Digital Native 2.0

LAKSHMI on September 22, 2017

Three more months to the end of the year and time has flown, as it does when there is an adolescent kid at home. Every year of parenting brings into my life, additional insight and the realization that unless I am doing something drastic, my influence in my child’s life is minimal. It has been said that while the set of genes parents provide (except in adoptive parenting) does play a small role in how the children turn out, a whole lot of environmental and social factors contribute to a greater extent in their evolution, only a small part of which, is parenting style (of course, within reasonable limits of parenting). Studies have shown that the average variation for human traits and disease is 49% due to genetic factors and 51% due to environmental factors. However, the nature-nurture debate is far from being resolved, with the added element of “technology” added to it in this digital age. From my experience of cohabiting with a teenage kid, I can go as far as postulating that nature and nurture can take a hike; technology, in particular, the Internet, is the supreme influence on an adolescent’s life today (à la Matrix).

Despite detractors to the concept of “Digital Natives as people born after the 1980s” in academic circles, the term is closest to reality to a parent of such a generation. For one, a digital native offspring comes with an additional nonbiological, often luminescent appendage. This appendage and its glowing screen seem to have created a completely new set of impulses that the digital immigrant parent is at a loss to comprehend. The environment of ubiquitous information (and misinformation) and the sheer volume of the youngster’s interaction with it, make them think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors - after all the neuroplasticity of the brain is now well-known.

It seems likely that our digital native’s brains have altered structurally as a result of their interactions with technology. There are at least two reasons for such a speculation - first is their elevated skill in the manipulation of technical communication devices when compared to adults (at least compared to me). The second is their ability to parallel process/multitask in their daily activities, which is an extension of the rampant multitasking in the digital domain - e.g. engaging in multiple conversations while having several windows open, each for a different purpose.

As if grouping the post-1980s individuals into the label of “digital native” was not enough, I learn now that we have, typifying the digital age, two versions of them and that my in-house teenager is, is in fact, the Digital Native 2.0. I understand that “DNs 1.0 have been the original creators and users of the first Internet platforms, i.e. the pioneers of the Web, as it was the first generation to attain their secondary socialization on this type of technology” while “DNs 2.0 are children of the cloud and social networks” whose strength lies in “manipulating various wi-fi devices and interactive platforms hosted in Web servers that permit ubiquitous access and use from any device connected to the Internet”. If that is too pedantic, here is an except from a 2014 paper that proposes the two generational-structure of digital natives, which lists the characteristics of DN 2.0.

While such classifications and categorizations are alright from an academic viewpoint, how has this affected my daily life? As a digital immigrant, I struggle to catch up to the digital native kid, exemplifying the generation gap, or “digital divide” as it is called. A few months ago, while filling out a customer response form in a handheld device at a shop, I struggled to use the stylus and the exasperated kid helped me use it, bemoaning my utter lack of common sense. Rather than point out to her inability to cross an un-signaled intersection a few minutes earlier, I chose to use the digital divide to connect with my kid. Instead of looking at her through the glaze of incomprehension or indifference as she rattled off about technology related stuff, I chose to pay attention to my DN 2.0, and here is what I have learned:

  • Nobody checks emails anymore. I need to IM people. (IM= Instant messaging, eyeroll)

  • Updating FB frequently is not good.

  • Instagram is a place where the pictures are supposed to speak a thousand words. Not words.

  • If you are on Twitter, you are a DN 1.0 or earlier version of a human.

Not that the above knowledge I have now gained would be of tangible use, other than affording me quality time with my DN 2.0 - I will now email this article to my colleague to post it in the Mobicip blog, update my FB page with a link to this article, label my Insta photos with captions and descriptions, compress my thoughts into 140 characters and revel at the brilliance of it. My only consolation is that given the breakneck speed evolution of digital tools, it wouldn’t be too long before the next version of the DN is released, and my DN 2.0 would be as obsolete as I am now.

Douglas Adams was right, after all.

“Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”

 
 
Writing credit: Authored by Lakshmi, a Mobicip researcher and parent keen on helping parents bridge the digital divide .
 
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