Extract - Grown-Up Digital: youth culture on the internet

Chances are you know a young person aged 11-31. You may be a parent, aunt, teacher, or manager. You've seen these young people multitasking five activities at once.

Grown-Up Digital by Don Tapscott

Chances are you know a young person aged 11-31. You may be a parent, aunt, teacher, or manager. You've seen these young people multitasking five activities at once. You see the way they interact with the various media-say, watching movies on two-inch screens. They use their mobile phones differently. You talk on the phone and check your e-mail; to them, e-mail is old-school. They use the phone to text incessantly, surf the Web, find directions, take pictures and make videos, and collaborate. They seem to be on Facebook every chance they get, including at work. Instant messaging or Skype is always running in the background. And what's with those video games? How can someone play World of Warcraft for five hours straight?

Sure, you're as cyber-sophisticated as the next person-you shop online, use Wikipedia, and do the BlackBerry prayer throughout the day. But young people have a natural affinity for technology that seems uncanny. They instinctively turn first to the Net to communicate, understand, learn, find, and do many things. To sell a car or rent an apartment, you use the classifieds; they go to Craigslist. A good night to see a movie? You look to the newspaper to see what's playing; they go online. You watch the television news; they have RSS feeds to their favorite sources or get their news by stumbling upon it as they travel the Web. Sometimes you enjoy music; their iPods are always playing.

You consume content on the Web, but they seem to be constantly creating or changing online content. You visit YouTube to check out a video you've heard about; they go to YouTube throughout the day to find out what's new. You buy a new gadget and get out the manual. They buy a new gadget and just use it. You talk to other passengers in the car, but your kids in the back are texting each other. They seem to feast on technology and have an aptitude for all things digital that is sometimes mind-boggling.

But it's not just about how they use technology. They seem to behave, and even to be, different. As a manager, you notice that new recruits collaborate very differently than you do. They seem to have new motivations and don't have the same concept of a career that you do. As a marketer, you notice that television advertising is for the most part ineffective with young people, who seem to have mature BS detectors. As a teacher or professor, you are finding that young people seem to lack long attention spans, at least when it comes to listening to your lectures. Indeed, they show signs of learning differently, and the best of them make yesterday's cream of the crop look dull. As a parent, you see your children becoming adults and doing things you never would have dreamed of, like wanting to live at home after graduation. As a politician, you've noticed for some time that they are not interested in the political process, yet you marvel at how Barack Obama was able to engage them and ride their energy to become a presidential candidate.

You're reminded of the old Bob Dylan line "There's something happening here but you don't know what it is."

There is something happening here. The Net Generation has come of age.

Reprinted by permission of McGraw-Hill. Excerpt from Grown Up Digital. Copyright 2009 Don Tapscott. All rights reserved.

This was last published in January 2010

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