Pew Report dispels the Digital Native myth

While many people align technology adoption and use with age, the facts show it’s not all that easy to stereotype the creators of content in the online media.

Today’s Pew Report on Teens and Social Media amplifies a very real issue in the US. Our teens and young adults are engaging in “new” media, but on a very limited level.

The majority of them are not creating new content.

In fact, the number of them who blog themselves (just 14%) or even who comment on blogs, is dropping.

Many of us celebrate the new democracy offered by the Web. However, when so few of our young people are engaging beyond watching viral YouTube videos or speaking within a small realm of personal IRL friends (or believing that’s who they’re talking to) on the small stage of their individual Facebook accounts, we have a problem. Democracy isn’t served unless people use their voices.

Picture Credit: Creative Commons cartoon by @gapingvoid.

Access is one thing. Content creation intended for a public audience is entirely another.

I’m around a lot of students every day. When they’re asked who has a blog, from a room of 150-200 students, only a handful of hands go up. In a Journalism class.

What are they waiting for?

We need courses that teach young people (and everyone else) that they don’t need a university degree to have a voice. And that every voice deserves to be heard. We need to show young people how to use the simplest of tools – the mobile phones and cameras they all hold – as citizen journalists, not just for sexting (they figured that one out all on their own). We need to show them how easy it is to set up a blog, and just as importantly, how to get people to read it.

Our young people need to be encouraged to be brave, honest, and opinionated – in a public forum. We need to respect their right to speak, and engage with them when they are used.

Until then, democracy is not being served.

One comment

  • Good analysis of the report. I had the same reaction: we need to go beyond quantitative indicators of use. Knowing somebody “uses” Twitter is meaningless. How they use it is the important question.

    Not sure I agree with the need to teach students how to use these tools to secure the future of democracy though. More important to ensure they have critical thinking skills and understand the nature of information on the Internet. If they have that foundation, they’ll figure out the rest.

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