Digital Native

DEFINITION of 'Digital Native'

Digital native is a term coined by Mark Prensky in 2001 used to describe the generation of people who grew up in the digital age. Digital natives are comfortable with technology and computers at an early age and consider technology to be an integral and necessary part of their lives. Teenagers and children today are generally considered to be digital natives as they mainly communicate and learn via computers, SNS, and texting. The opposite of digital natives is digital immigrants – people who have had to adapt to the new language of technology.

BREAKING DOWN 'Digital Native'

The idea of “digital native” 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.

However, this concept is controversial. Prensky's call for change assumes that all children view technology and digital life as an extension of themselves. Those who challenge the idea of “digital natives” maintain that the young people’s comfort with technology is taught and that children in low socio-economic standing or who lack an interest in learning, could be left behind in the digital age.