Digital Na(t)ives?

In Digital Na(t)ives? Variation in Internet Skills and Uses among Members of the “Net Generation, Eszter Hargittai challenges the idea that those who have grown up in the digital age are automatically computationally competent. Instead, she argues that “socioeconomic status is an important predictor of how people are incorporating the Web into their everyday lives with those from more privileged backgrounds using it in more informed ways for a larger number of activities.” (p. 92).

Hargittai explains that “even once people cross the initial connectivity divide, numerous differences remain among them when it comes to how they incorporate the Internet into their lives.” (p. 93). Through a longitudinal survey study on college age students at a large state university, she found “an upward trajectory as we move from students with parents having lower levels of education to students from more educated parental backgrounds.” (p. 103). Essentially, those who have parents with higher levels of education are exposed more to computers and how to use the internet; thus, they use the internet more competently and are able to navigate to more websites. In terms of ethnicity, Hargittai also found that “African American and Hispanic students score lower on resource and experience measures than whites and Asian Americans,” (p. 103) and “women claim lower levels of know-how regarding Internet-related norms.” (p. 104).

Overall, these results are not that surprising, in that they seem to reflect the disparities typically felt by lower socioeconomic status people, minorities, and women. As one who has grown up with parents who did not receive college level education, I am the one who has taught them everything about computers, the internet, and even cell phones. Having to learn this information on my own instead of being taught it has certainly made it initially more difficult to engage in the world of the internet. However, this article was written in 2010—in the past decade, how have these results shifted?


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