Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World

By Don Tapscott (McGraw Hill:NY) 2009.

Don Tapscott believes that the Net Generation processes information and behaves differently than older generations in aptitudes, attitudes, expectations, and learning styles that reflect the environment in which they were raised.   The Net Generation (post-Generation X) is parented by Baby Boomers and these generations differ on numerous levels, especially in ways they communicate and how they perform work.  Tapscott believes that “Net Geners” are smarter, quicker, and more tolerant than their predecessors.  He argues that “The Net Generation is in many ways the antithesis of the TV generation.”

According to Tapscott, there are four key themes of the “New Generation Gap”:

  • The older generations are uneasy about the new technology (which Net Geners are embracing).
  • Older generations tend to be uneasy about new media (which are coming into the heart of youth culture).
  • Old media are uneasy about the new media.
  • The digital revolution, unlike previous ones, is not controlled by only adults.

The Net Generation creates information rather than just consuming it.  The shift from broadcast to interactive is the cornerstone of the Net Generation.  They want to be users and not simply viewers or listeners.  While past generations subsisted with the telephone and television, the Net Generation has grown up with information technology.  They are well-versed in the Internet, e-mail, instant messaging, online communities, media (video and music) downloads, the use of cellular phones, and video games from the very beginning.

Tapscott identifies ten themes of Net Generation culture:

  • Fierce Independence
  • Emotional and Intellectual Openness
  • Inclusion
  • Free Expression and Strong Views
  • Innovation
  • Preoccupation with Maturity
  • Investigation
  • Immediacy
  • Sensitivity to Corporate Interest
  • Authentication and Trust

Characteristics of the Net Generation include being curious, independent, contrarian, intelligent, adaptable, confident, focused, and globally conscious.  The Net Generation is defined by their reliance on and use of technology, their penchant for multitasking technologically and their ability to utilize various media to communicate with the world.  These communication technologies are incredibly different from the ones that previous generations grew up with.  Previous generations have had to learn how to use technology, whereas the Net Generation was raised saturated in technology.  They don’t use it, it just simply is.