The Net-Generation is here. Eighty-eight million offspring produced by 85 million baby boomers have eclipsed their parents in size and impact. The youngest of these kids are still in their diapers, and the eldest are just turning twenty. The N-Geners are most numerous in North America, but there are similar echoes, albeit less in strength, occurring in Europe and the Pacific Rim.
What makes this generation different from its predecessors is not just its demographic muscle, but it is the first to grow up surrounded by digital media. Computers and other digital technologies, such as digital cameras, are common place to N-Gen members. They work with them at home, in school, and they use them for entertainment. Increasingly these technologies are connected to the Internet, an expanding web of networks which is attracting a million new users monthly. Constantly surrounded by technology, today's kids are accustomed to its strong presence in their lives. Today's kids are so bathed in bits that they are no more intimidated by digital technology than a VCR or a toaster. And it is through their use of the digital media that N-Gen will develop and superimpose its culture on the rest of society. Boomers stand back. Already these kids are learning, playing, communicating, working, and creating communities very differently than their parents. They are a force for social transformation.
There is nothing more important to parents, policy makers, marketers, business leaders and social activists than understanding what this younger generation intends to do with its digital expertise. This book is based on the belief that one can learn much more about a whole generation from the children who are most advanced in their adoption of this technology.
Growing Up Digital was written in cooperation with over three hundred N-Geners, and their opinions and views were recorded in a series of forums and conferences run with the help of New Paradigm Learning Corporation, York University and the FreeZone network. Interviews with a wide range of parents, educators, business leaders, cyber-gurus, policymakers and marketing experts helped in creating this book.
In addition, this Web site was designed by N-Geners. Five members of the KidsNRG team did the major construction and coordination of the site in Toronto in conjunction with ten members of the Growing Up Digital forum who reside in three different countries.
Combining Demographics and Technology
Demographics, the study of human populations, is key to understanding trends in business, politics, real estate prices, demands on government services, electricity use, etc.
Population factors, the basis for demographic studies, are usually collected by government agencies like the U.S. Census Bureau and Statistics Canada
The Echo Becomes the Net Generation
The current wave of youth coincides with the digital revolution which is taking shape. Together these factors are poised to change all aspects of society.
The penetration of the digital media has always been greatest among the households with children - increasingly parents are equipping their homes with computers and access to the Net. And just as when TV was "the new thing", most families now want to own computers.
The Net - The Antithesis of TV
Many people think the new media and television are analogous because they both involve screens. For years now both Net surfers and young TV viewers, referred to as "screenagers", have also been considered couch potatoes.
Those who say that the Net is all about a bigger crop of couch potatoes not only have a cynical view of humanity, they also ignore the budding experience with interactive technologies. Unfortunately for these commentators (and fortunately for kids) the similarities between the two technologies end with the screen.
TV is controlled by adults. Kids are passive observers. In contrast, children control much of their world on the Net. They do not just observe, they participate.
This makes the Internet fundamentally different from previous communications innovations such as the development of the printing press or the introduction of radio and television. These are hierarchical technologies - inflexible and centralized. By contrast, the new media is interactive, malleable, and distributed in control. The new media will do what we command of them. And tens of millions of N-Geners around the world are taking over the steering wheel.
Growing Up Digitalis now available in bookstores everywhere! To purchase the book over the Internet, visit Amazon.com.