Young people & museums

The problem with “digital natives”

Henry Jenkins and others have been rightly critical of the notion of ‘digital natives’. Their core argument is that digital skills are very unevenly spread across age groups and digital literacy levels are not as they might necessarily seem when you read Pew Internet Reports or similar claiming that “64% of online teenagers ages 12 to 17 engaging in at least one type of content creation” for example.

The JISC Ciber Libraries report released in January confirms deep differences in ability within age groups of users. Behind the rhetoric of ‘digital natives’ lies the risk of masking the very real differences in access to technology, skills and importantly, the intentions and situational relevance behind ICT use.

I’ll deal with ‘intention’ in a separate post.

We have all used ‘digital natives’ as a way of convincing our respective organisations to experiment with social media and online initiatives but we do need to be cautious not to overplay this. If we do we not only make a significant strategic error, we also miss the critical opportunities for our organisations to be part of the solution to digital literacy problems.