Digital Immigrant

DEFINITION of 'Digital Immigrant'

Digital immigrant is a term coined by Mark Prensky in 2001 used to describe the generation of people who did not grow up in the digital age. People born before 1985 and who have adopted technology at a point later in life are considered to be digital immigrants. The opposite of digital immigrant is digital native – people who have grown up surrounded by technology from an early age.

BREAKING DOWN 'Digital Immigrant'

The idea of “digital immigrant” came from an article explaining why today’s teachers are having trouble teaching students. Prensky argues that young people today are speaking a digital language, whereas teachers are speaking an old accented language (their accent being their reluctance to adopt new technology). He calls for a change in the way children are taught so that they may learn in a “language” they understand.

Some people take issue with the term digital immigrant. The term assumes that people who did not grow up with digital technology from early childhood are accented throughout their lives. This overlooks the role of digital immigrants in creating the technology and their own adaptive capabilities when using it. Moreover, it overlooks the situation of children without access to or interest in technology who may be left behind in the digital age and become digital immigrants themselves.