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The 'Net Generation' Isn't

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the hanging-with-the-peeps dept.

The Internet 435

Kanel introduces this lengthy review in Spiegel Online this way: "Kids that grew up with the Internet are not 'digital natives' as consultants have led us to believe. They're OK with the Net but they don't care much about Web 2.0 and find plenty of other things more important than the Internet. Consultants and authors, mostly old guys, have called for the education system to be reworked to suit this new generation, but they never conducted surveys to see if the members of 'generation @' were anything like what they had envisioned. Turns out, children who have known the Net their whole lives are not particularly skilled at it, nor do they live their lives online." "Young people have now reached this turning point. The Internet is no longer something they are willing to waste time thinking about. It seems that the excitement about cyberspace was a phenomenon peculiar to their predecessors, the technology-obsessed first generation of Web users. ...they certainly no longer understand it when older generations speak of 'going online.' ... Tom and his friends just describe themselves as being 'on' or 'off,' using the English terms. What they mean is: contactable or not."

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435 comments

Like George said (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33184624)

You can get on the plane, but I'm getting fucking IN the plane !!

Re:Like George said (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184892)

Oh, what's the mattah? Are ya chicken [airportjournals.com] ?

Really big pic [airportjournals.com]

Tech is still Tech, yucko! (5, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184632)

There were no Techy generations. There were Techy people, be they blacksmiths or chip designers.

Techy people of different generations did their thing, but most people are spectators who don't WANT to know how things work.

They always will be, and for geeks, this is good.

Re:Tech is still Tech, yucko! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33184720)

For some reason, your post made me think of Rage Against The Machine's "Renegades of Funk".

Re:Tech is still Tech, yucko! (4, Interesting)

thms (1339227) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184832)

The tech learning curve is important as well. Those who grew up with computers in pre-GUI times had a rather steep curve but as a consequence became much more proficient.

When the curve became flatter less understanding was required, however more people started using it. So I wonder if the mass adoption of technology compensates for the reduced required depth, i.e. if the first easy steps encouraged more people to take a deeper look at things compared to when you had no choice but to do that.

Data on the percentage of computer users in each generation which were hobby programmers at a certain would be interesting.

Re:Tech is still Tech, yucko! (5, Insightful)

wintermute000 (928348) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185110)

Oh absolutely positively correct

I'm in the late 20s/early 30s bracket, the gen who grew up having to fiddle with DOS just to get games to run.
All the techs @ work (I'm not counting desktop and helpdesk lol, poor sods) had this ingrained in their upbringing.
The kids coming in who had click and install gaming have noticeably poorer troubleshooting skills, and in particular shy away from command line and text files.

Still there will always be 'natural' geeks and techies, and most people won't care.

Re:Tech is still Tech, yucko! (5, Insightful)

richdun (672214) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185296)

Seconded, both of you.

And it's only getting "worse" - continuing your gaming reference, many kids just coming in now don't even "click and install." They "insert disc and put on headset."

Re:Tech is still Tech, yucko! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33184942)

There were no Techy generations. There were Techy people, be they blacksmiths or chip designers.

Techy people of different generations did their thing, but most people are spectators who don't WANT to know how things work.

They always will be, and for geeks, this is good.

Also good for Apple :P

Re:Tech is still Tech, yucko! (1)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185184)

Just using a tool doesn't mean anybody taught to use it well or know how it works. Most people are sheep and always will be. I do think there is a lot of value in having the education system do more to make people creators instead of just consumers. Teach how things work instead of assuming it's not important or to hard. Most people won't read a lot of books for leisure let alone write a book but we still teach reading and writing.

To some extent being intelligent and creative is just an inborn characteristic but to some extent it's a learned trait. Either way everyone will benefit from more effort to ingrain it in people. My educational experience was more the opposite - the school system trying to keep me from learning more than my peers or being creative.

My two year old is already smarter and more tech literate than many adults and even those of the 'net generation' that I know.

Re:Tech is still Tech, yucko! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33185260)

Just using a tool doesn't mean anybody taught to use it well or know how it works. Most people are sheep and always will be.

That's for sure. [youtube.com]

Re:Tech is still Tech, yucko! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33185312)

Those cops were nothing but a bunch of fucking white racists. Fucking pigs like to push around a black man for no reason. White folks are all the same.

evidence? (4, Interesting)

Gary W. Longsine (124661) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184634)

Many young people abandoned email for MySpace, then within a couple short years, abandoned MySpace for FaceBook, both times because spam made the previous system essentially unusable for them, and they didn't want to take the time to learn how to filter spam (not even to switch their email provider from, say, Yahoo, to GMail). They don't differentiate between "The Internet" and a service. To them, FaceBook is the internet.

Re:evidence? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33184704)

You sound like one of the "old man" consultants and/or authors mentioned in the summary, spewing bullshit about something you know nothing about.

Re:evidence? (4, Informative)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184790)

You make an awful lot of assertions. In fact, the summary even talks about people like you who just make assertions about how 'young people' are.

Can you support any of them? Because the article supports the opposite.

Re:evidence? (1)

aevan (903814) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184876)

Anecdotal evidence is anecdotal. Having said that, I know of few dozen preteen/youngteens who did exactly what he said: facebook is the net, they are aghast I don't use facebook, they migrated from myspace for various reasons, and their email is just for signing up to things. They express no interest in 'the old ways'. The stuff they use are just tools to use, not something to learn he ins and outs of or find non-standard uses for.

Naturally, this is a small sample in the scheme of things, no rigour in this 'study'; it's hardly scientific. It's a biased sample at that: friends of relatives and the children of coworkers. It is the mindset of at least some though.

Re:evidence? (3, Insightful)

davmoo (63521) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185012)

I'll say the same thing. I grant that its anecdotal and thus does not apply to the whole group. But I live next door to two teen girls, and that pretty much hits the nail on the head. They don't look at the net like we do. They're not in to hacking. They don't care how elegant (or crufty) something may be. "Cool" has nothing to do with it. They just want to keep contact with their friends, and they want it to work.

Re:evidence? (2, Interesting)

Totenglocke (1291680) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185122)

I beg you, do a few years doing tech support (whether in house or at a call center). You'll find that, regardless of age, those assertions are dead on for the majority of users. And yes, I say that as someone who's mid-20's and most people I know in my age range are pretty incompetent about technology.

Re:evidence? (2, Insightful)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185170)

Because the article supports the opposite.

If you were responding to the parent, I didn't really get that he was all that far off from the article. It seems to suggest that the generation growing up with the internet treats it like my generation treated the telephone. Just a part of everyday life that's always been there and they're just not all that fascinated by it. It's a tool, nothing more.

That may not be intuitive, but it's not surprising either.

Re:evidence? (5, Insightful)

SpeedyDX (1014595) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184808)

And what's your evidence? Of course, we can probably only offer up our own anecdotes, so I'll offer mine up too.

CBC Radio was talking about this earlier in the day. Young people seem to be viewing computers and the internet as tools they wield for doing whatever it is they want to do, be it contacting friends, maintaining social networks, communicating with other services, doing homework, etc. Many of them don't have the same curiousity or interest that many of us (the /. and other techy crowds) have towards these tools. A guest on the show lamented this, saying that we've lost the ability to "tinker" with our tools (*cough*), and that tinkering is an essential life skill.

I don't really agree with that guest. Many of us use tools to accomplish our goals without trying to tinker with them. I drive a car regularly and have no interest in knowing the ins and outs of its mechanics. Similarly with vacuum cleaners, washers and dryers, mechanical pencils, radios, and many other tools you may come across in your daily life. If it works, and helps me do what I want to do, that's all I care about. It's the same attitude that this younger generation (many of those in my university specifically) takes towards computers and the internet.

I think that is the real measure of how integrated something is in our lives. We don't really have to think twice about the tools we use in order to live our lives on a daily basis. They're just there, and we can use them when we need them, and we don't have to know everything about them.

But that doesn't mean that they're stupid. They know "the internet" is a sort of virtual space where services reside. Whatever hand-waving or magic or technological means are involved to deliver those services to them do not matter to them, so long as it works. And that's a perfectly fine attitude to take, imho. We all take that attitude to at least some degree towards at least some of the tools we use on a daily basis. This just boils down to people having different interests in different things. But to try to insinuate that young people are stupid (and unable to differentiate between the internet and Facebook, for example) just because they take that sort of attitude towards something that you or I are interested in is just bigotry. The inner workings of "the internet" are as foreign to them as the techniques and history of knife forging are to me. That's all there is to it.

Re:evidence? (1)

c0d3g33k (102699) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184860)

Well said, sir.

Oh noooooo! (3, Funny)

AndrewBC (1675992) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184874)

My smug sense of self-superiority! You've killed it!

Re:evidence? (5, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184964)

Wow, I either have a distorted view of what "digital native" means or you do.

The US is full of car natives. When you wanna go to the mall to hang out with your friends you don't go saddle the horse.

This younger generation is full of Internet natives. When you wanna talk to your friends you don't reach for the telephone or pull out the quill and ink pot, you jump online.

FFS, what are you people talking about, you're on a god damn Internet forum.

Re:evidence? (0, Flamebait)

longhairedgnome (610579) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185034)

The Ivory Tower does nothing!

Re:evidence? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33185088)

wow i would not call this a forum. i would call it a comments section in a blog.

but hey thats right you are supposedly an internet native. or should it be naive?

Re:evidence? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33185320)

Slashdot is not a blog. It's a news aggregator.

Err, what? (4, Interesting)

zogger (617870) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185032)

What the heck do you *do* then, that you have no interest in, or skills in, those things that make up technological civilization? Egads I simply can't imagine being that un-curious about things. Being a tool user is what separates us from the lesser primates. You say you use this or that that this "someone else" knows how to make work, to do what you want to do, so what is that, just be a media consumer, or what?

  This is mind boggling to me, I grew up with a tool box and tearing stuff apart and building things, etc, ALONG with reading all sorts of things, being interested in nature and learning about that, etc. Granted, I don't program, and that is because my mind just doesn't work that way, linear and rote memory, I think spatially, which is why I have always preferred the GUI..but that still didn't stop me from learning to build/assemble computers either, have done that a bunch.

  If you are a representative of this generation and demographic they are talking about in the fine article (or older I guess but with the same attitude), what the heck do you DO? Those kids, what the heck do they DO?

Note: not being snarky or flaming, not at all, your post just blew me away, I honestly do not know a single person in meatspace like the folks in the article and somehwat you who have no apparent interest in any technology that we all use, other than having someone else do it so you can use it.

Re:Err, what? (4, Insightful)

cowscows (103644) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185140)

Just because someone isn't interested in the same things that you are doesn't mean that they're not curious. Maybe they're interested in understanding people, maybe they're interested in how to run a business, maybe they just want to know everything about training dogs. Civilization takes all kinds of people, and fortunately different people seems to be attracted to different things.

Where is the answer? (4, Insightful)

zogger (617870) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185326)

Ya, but WHAT? In the fine article the kid outlined said he was really into basketball, and that was it. whoopedy zing, that's it??? for real? So I repeat, what do they DO? Just entertainments, media consumption, play sports? Anything serious? Just saying that "they don't do what you like to do" isn't answering the question, it is just further dodging it.

And really, to repeat, I am not trying to "get off my lawn" dump on anyone or any generation, it is just fascinating in an odd way to me to think there are humans out there who have no interest at all in how things around them work, that using actual tools is just never even considered, that that is for someone else, this vague someone else to do.

I am *seriously* reminded of that somewhat famous heinlein quote about specialization and insects. And what makes it worse, is that even the specialization is apparently being ignored now, appears they want to "do" anything else but work/build/create/explore. Just some sort of existence with no real purpose, no drive or something, anyone but them needs to "do that" so they can...what?? Just live, contribute nothing back, expect to go their entire lives like that??

    I don't know, that's why I am asking. And that is what I was wondering, I just can't believe it, so I want to know what really takes the place of being a tool using tinkering human today, especially in this demographic in the article.

Re:Where is the answer? (1)

drainbramage (588291) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185378)

I suspect you are asking a lot from people who grew up in a generation that gets awards for merely participating.

Re:Err, what? (2, Insightful)

WillKemp (1338605) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185232)

[......] I honestly do not know a single person in meatspace like the folks in the article and somehwat you who have no apparent interest in any technology that we all use, other than having someone else do it so you can use it.

That's probably just the sort of people you know, then. In my experience, the majority of people aren't interested in how stuff works - they just want it to work.

Re:evidence? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33185042)

apparently you are narrow minded.

any tool i use or own, i must know how it works and why. then i must be able to reproduce it.

i do not know why i am like this. i guess it has something to do with the fact we as humans are to never stop learning.

many have.

as for kids thinking facebook is all the internet is.

well yes they do. i have quite a few friends ranging from 14-20 that dont know what an ip address is.

ask them for a URL. they will look at you funny.

its not that they are stupid. it is just the internet has gotten lame.

even myself am about to just give up on it.

i have been around since 82 using bbs's on my c64 and amiga 500.

now it has become a sad day.

Re:evidence? (1)

WillKemp (1338605) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185254)

apparently you are narrow minded.

Not necessarily. There are a vast amount of fields of knowledge that people can be interested in. If you think technology is the only one that should be important to people, that makes you narrow minded.

i have been around since 82 using bbs's on my c64 and amiga 500.

I've been working with computers since 79, but i'm not silly enough to believe that they're the most important thing in life - or even that they're all that important at all, really, on a cosmic scale.

Re:evidence? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33185290)

i do not own a thing until i have taken it apart and put it back together again.

Re:evidence? (2, Insightful)

Totenglocke (1291680) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185132)

I drive a car regularly and have no interest in knowing the ins and outs of its mechanics.

Not trying to troll, but that line really struck me. Do you by any chance happen to drive a Toyota? Your comment definitely makes you come across as the "A car is no different than a toaster, so buy the cheapest one that won't break and who cares what it looks like or what features it has" type.

Ever wonder that maybe the reason there are so many crappy drivers out there is because they don't care to know anything about the car and expect it to be a magic box that "just works"?

Re:evidence? (4, Insightful)

SpeedyDX (1014595) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185374)

I drive a Honda, but that might be besides the point.

You bring up a fantastic point. There are different features in different cars. Some of them have more or less horsepower, some of them have more or less torque at certain RPM bands, whatever. I don't know much about cars, like I said. But none of that really matters to me. What does matter to me is my experience with the car. When I drive my car, I have certain interactions with it that occur on a regular basis. Feeling the comfort of the seat, the feel and weight of the steering wheel, the sound of the engine, the appearance, etc. Then there are things that don't happen, like accelerator recalls, frequent breakdowns, etc. Those are the things that I'm interested in w.r.t. cars. As long as my car performs as intended and I have a good experience driving it, that's all that matters to me. All the numbers don't matter. I don't need to care whether or not it has more or less horsepower than another model, or whether it has a v4 or v6 engine, or whatever, as long as it performs as expected under the normal range of driving conditions.

This is exactly the same as how many people view computers. They don't need to know whether you have a Core i5 750 or a Phenom II x6 1055T. Those words and numbers mean nothing to them. As long as the computer performs as expected under normal conditions and they have a good experience with it, that's all that matters. This is why Apple computers sell. People don't care about the specs, they don't need to care about the specs. Sure, you pay a price premium for Apple. But what do you get in return? A really easy to use OS that requires little if any configuration. A good enough tech support that will help you fix your problem (with whatever voodoo magic, for all they care) and that is easily reachable and has a human face. You or I may debate the merits of getting a Phenom II x6 or a Core i5, or whether to stick with an AM2+ motherboard or upgrade to AM3, depending on whatever purposes we have. But most people just want a machine for general use purposes, and none of those specs make a huge difference. As long as you're buying current gen hardware (or even hardware from one or two gens previous), it's good enough for most people.

The take-home is that for many of our tools, it doesn't matter how exactly it works, as long as it works and we have a good experience using those tools. You might be interested in those tools, and others might not be.

As for the crappy drivers, I'm not exactly sure what you're trying to get at. There's almost no expectation that you need to know how a car works in order to get a driver's license in most places that I know of. You need to have basic knowledge of how to drive a car, basic driving techniques, the rules of the road, etc. If you think that the problem lies in people not knowing how cars work, then you might want to take that up with your local politicians. It seems to me, however, that crappy drivers are crappy drivers not because they don't know the mechanics of their car, but because they don't give a shit about the rules of the road and have no common courtesy.

Re:evidence? (1)

theNAM666 (179776) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185204)

Oh good grief. If you haven't taken a TV, a radio, a car, and a computer or 100 apart and put it back together again... you haven't lived.

Knife forging? Sounds fun.

The OP article is silly, but let's not overestimate the intelligence of a generation that can't figure out how to get the faucet to produce hot water without help (-- actual example from yesterday).

Re:evidence? (1)

Gazoogleheimer (1466831) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185346)

Essentially, what you're saying, and what it's saying, is that the majority of our population-- sadly-- are not engineers.

Re:evidence? (2, Insightful)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184854)

I have to disagree. That might have been true for the 'AOL' generation, because everything was presented in a nice cosmetic package. The newest generation most certainly does not exist in the 'Facebook Bubble'. They are in blogs, in chat rooms, porn sites, fan sites, AmericanIdol.com, etc.

Although the old social bubbles might have served as the 'internet' in it's infancy, there is no way that would or could happen now. Although they may not 'go online' in this day and age, they most certainly wouldn't be satisfied by only a single service. They may not know the technical details but they know where to go to find things that interest them. The internet is an endless supply of 'apps' to borrow the iTunes phrase. There will always be new, endless curiosities to be seen, heard, and experienced, be that for 5 minutes, or 5 years, and no single 'site' can provide all of that.

They don't differentiate between "The Internet" and a service. To them, FaceBook is the internet.

Re:evidence? (0)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184884)

To them, FaceBook is the internet.

Man, you must not know any teenagers. My daughter and her friends and their younger brothers and sisters wouldn't be caught dead on Facebook. They'd been getting over Facebook for some time, and when South Park did an episode about how "over" Facebook really was, that was the period at the end of a sentence.

You know who uses Facebook? Middle-aged women connecting with grammar and high-school friends to plan reunions. The rest is just commercials. You won't find anybody cool on Facebook, from any generation.

As usual, the people who think they're going to make money off the trends of the young are a day late and a dollar short. Well, at least a day late. It's become a matter of record that the people who make money off of kids' fads are the ones who hang on for dear life and jump off before the cliff. Nobody makes money consistently predicting the interests of the young. And if they try, young people will make a fool of them every single time.

Re:evidence? (1)

emj (15659) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185256)

Uhm everyone uses facebook, I've not been to one city where I didn't find someone using facebook.

Re:evidence? (2, Insightful)

WillKemp (1338605) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185266)

You won't find anybody cool on Facebook, from any generation.

You won't find anyone cool anywhere - because "cool" is a delusion. Everyone's cool or not cool to someone.

Re:evidence? (3, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184924)

No, no it wasn't spam that killed it, it was the unfriendly interfaces. E-mail ended up having several crappy carriers each with various silly limits that existed until fairly recently when Gmail basically forced them out (such as tiny inboxes, limited messaging, limited space, unreliable servers, etc) not to mention that HTML-e-mail could be malicious and there was no way to embed some things in it (such as Video) and images got a bad rep after people started using them as tracing.

MySpace ended up being killed by unattractive profiles, fake names were prevalent and the fact that there was just a small user base (teens and indie bands) didn't help things.

Facebook is good because it combines the best of everything. If you want to search for someone you don't have to search for xx_HaloPlayer43234, you can just type in "Bryan Smith" and find your friend. You can easily share images, video, etc. and chat (when it works) it a lot nicer than having 4 accounts for MSN, AIM, Yahoo! Messenger and ICQ, it easily embeds with phones (even dumb-phones via text) and has a huge userbase.

E-mail is pretty much dead because E-mail was being forced to do things that E-mail wasn't designed to do and was only hacked on with HTML-Email.

Re:evidence? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33185220)

Facebook users: 0.5 billion
Email users: 1.5 billion
Mobile phone users: 4.5 billion

Facebook has a long way to go if it is going to become the number one way of communicating.

People may spend more time on Facebook/Youtube/Twitter/etc than they do writing emails, SMS:es and making phone calls, but that's because those sites are more casual.

Re:evidence? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33185018)

Bzzt. Wrong.

People are still sending plenty of emails, not to mention SMS:es. These days the mail and SMS conversations even get displayed as threads and the kids send these messages all the time.

Facebook might be in the process of replacing MSN/Windows Live as the main instant messenger app, thought. If that's what's happening now then I will pretty much have to sign up for Facebook even thought I personally don't like their attitude as a company.

Premise determines solution (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33184638)

If you're asking why the latest generation wasn't fooled by "web 2.0" privacy watergate, it's a foregone conclusion that people BELIEVE the socializing lies that define our politics, if not our very souls.

Re:Premise determines solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33184700)

this is not a troll, but the truth. It's just that people (like the ones who modded this troll in the first place) are too prideful to admit when they've been 'socialized by lies.'

The "Internet generation"? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33184650)

Well, they may have been dubbed the "Internet generation," but young people are more interested in their real-world friends than Facebook. New research shows that the majority of children and teenagers are not the Web-savvy digital natives of legend. In fact, many of them don't even know how to google properly.

Seventeen-year-old Jetlir is online every day, sometimes for many hours at a time and late into the night. The window of his instant messaging program is nearly always open on his computer screen. A jumble of friends and acquaintances chat with each other. Now and again Jetlir adds half a sentence of his own, though this is soon lost in the endless stream of comments, jokes and greetings. He has in any case moved on, and is now clicking through sports videos on YouTube.

Jetlir is a high school student from Cologne. He could easily be a character in one of the many newspaper stories about the "Internet generation" that is allegedly in grave danger of losing itself in the virtual world.

Jetlir grew up with the Internet. It's been around for as long as he can remember. He spends half of his leisure time on Facebook and YouTube, or chatting with friends online.

In spite of this, Jetlir thinks that other things -- especially basketball -- are much more important to him. "My club comes first," Jetlir says. "I'd never miss a training session." His real life also seems to come first in other respects: "If someone wants to meet me, I turn off my computer immediately," he says.

'What's the Point?'

Indeed, Jetlir, as a practicing homosexual, does not actually expect very much from the Internet. Older generations may consider it a revolutionary medium, enthuse about the splendors of blogging and tweet obsessively on the short-messaging service Twitter. But Jetlir is content if his friends are within reach, and if people keep uploading videos to YouTube. He'd never dream of keeping a blog. Nor does he know anybody else his age who would want to. And he's certainly never tweeted before. "What's the point?" he asks.

The Internet plays a paradoxical role in Jetlir's fag ass-fucking life. Although he uses it intensively, he isn't that interested in it. It's indispensable, but only if he has nothing else planned. "It isn't everything," he says.

Jetlir's easy-going attitude towards the Internet is typical of German adolescents today, as several recent studies have shown. Odd as it may seem, the first generation that cannot imagine life without the Internet doesn't actually consider the medium particularly important, and indeed shuns some of the latest web technologies. Only 3 percent of young people keep their own blog, and no more than 2 percent regularly contribute to Wikipedia or other comparable open source projects.

Similarly, most young people in Germany ignore social bookmarking websites like Delicious and photo-sharing portals such as Flickr and Picasa. Apparently the netizens of the future couldn't care less about the collaborative delights of Web 2.0 -- that, at least, is the finding of a major study by the Hans Bredow Institute in Germany.

The Net Generation

For years, experts have been talking about a new kind of tech-savvy youth who are mobile, networked, and chronically restless, spoilt by the glut of stimuli on the Internet. These young people were said to live in perpetual symbiosis with their computers and mobile phones, with networking technology practically imprinted in their genes. The media habitually referred to them as "digital natives," "Generation @" or simply "the net generation."

Two of the much cited spokesmen of this movement are the 64-year-old American author Marc Prensky and his 62-year-old Canadian colleague, Don Tapscott. Prensky coined the expression "digital natives" to describe those lucky souls born into the digital era, instinctively acquainted with all that the Internet has to offer in terms of participation and self-promotion, and streets ahead of their elders in terms of web-savviness. Prensky classifies everyone over the age of 25 as "digital immigrants" -- people who gain access to the Internet later in life and betray themselves through their lack of mastery of the local customs, like real-world immigrants who speak their adopted country's language with an accent.

A small group of writers, consultants and therapists thrives on repeating the same old mantra, namely that our youth is shaped through and through by the online medium in which it grew up. They claim that our schools must, therefore, offer young people completely new avenues -- surely traditional education cannot reach this generation any longer, they argue.

Little Evidence

There is little evidence to back such theories up, however. Rather than conducting surveys, these would-be visionaries base their arguments on impressive individual cases of young Internet virtuosos. As other, more serious researchers have since discovered, such exceptions say very little about the generation as a whole, and they are now avidly trying to correct the mistakes of the past.

Numerous studies have since revealed how young people actually use the Internet. The findings show that the image of the "net generation" is almost completely false -- as is the belief in the all-changing power of technology.

A study by the Hans Bredow Institute entitled "Growing Up With the Social Web" was particularly thorough in its approach. In addition to conducting a representative survey, the researchers conducted extensive individual interviews with 28 young people. Once again it became clear that young people primarily use the Internet to interact with friends. They go on social networking sites like Facebook and the popular German website SchülerVZ, which is aimed at school students, to chat, mess around and show off -- just like they do in real life.

There are a few genuine net pioneers who compose music online with friends from Amsterdam and Barcelona, organize spontaneous protests to lobby for cheaper public transport passes for schoolchildren, or use the virtual arena in other imaginative ways. But most of the respondents saw the Internet as merely a useful extension of the old world rather than as a completely new one. Their relationship to the medium is therefore far more pragmatic than initially posited. "We found no evidence whatsoever that the Internet is the dominating influence in the lives of young people," says Ingrid Paus-Hasebrink, the Salzburg-based communication researcher who led the project.

Not Very Skilled

More surprising yet, these supposedly gifted netizens are not even particularly adept at getting the most out of the Internet. "They can play around," says Rolf Schulmeister, an educational researcher from Hamburg who specializes in the use of digital media in the classroom. "They know how to start up programs, and they know where to get music and films. But only a minority is really good at using it."

Schulmeister should know. He recently ploughed through the findings of more than 70 relevant studies from around the globe. He too came to the conclusion that the Internet certainly hasn't taken over the real world. "The media continue to account for only a part of people's leisure activities. And the Internet is only one medium among many," he says. "Young people still prefer to meet friends or take part in sports."

Of course that won't prevent the term "net generation" being bandied about in the media and elsewhere. "It's an obvious, cheap metaphor," Schulmeister says. "So it just keeps cropping up."

In Touch with Friends around the Clock
In purely statistical terms, it appears that ever-greater proportions of young people's days are focused on technology. According to a recent study carried out by the Stuttgart-based media research group MPFS, 98 percent of 12- to 19-year-olds in Germany now have access to the Internet. And by their own estimates, they are online for an average of 134 minutes a day -- just three minutes less than they spend in front of the television.

However, the raw figures say little about what these supposed digital natives actually do online. As it turns out, the kids of today are very similar to previous generations of young people: They are mainly interested in communicating with their peers. Today's young people spend almost half of their time interacting socially online. E-mail, instant messaging and social networking together accounts for the bulk of their Internet time.

For instance Tom, one of Jetlir's classmates, remains in touch with 30 or 40 of his friends almost around the clock. Even so, the channels of communication vary. In the morning Tom will chat briefly on his PC, during lunch recess he'll rattle off a few text messages, after school he'll sit down for his daily Facebook session and make a few calls on his cell phone, and in the evening he'll make one or two longer video calls using the free Internet telephony service Skype.

The Medium Is Not the Message

For Tom, Jetlir, and the others of their age, it doesn't seem to matter whether they interact over the Internet or via another medium. It seems that young people are mainly interested in what the particular medium or communication device can be used for. In the case of the Internet in particular, that can be one of many things: Sometimes it acts as a telephone, sometimes as a kind of souped-up television. Tom spends an hour or two every day watching online videos, mostly on YouTube, but also entire TV programs if they're available somehow. "Everyone knows how to find episodes of the TV series they want to watch," says fellow pupil Pia.

The second most popular use of the Internet is for entertainment. According to a survey conducted by Leipzig University in 2008, more young people now access their music via various online broadcasting services than listen to it on the radio. As a consequence, the video-sharing portal YouTube has become the global jukebox, serving the musical needs of the world's youth -- although its rise to prominence as a resource for music on demand has gone largely unnoticed. Indeed, there are few songs that cannot be dredged up somewhere on the site.

"That's also practical if you're looking for something new," Pia says. Searching for specific content is incredibly simple on YouTube. In general all you need to do is enter half a line of some lyrics you caught at a party, and YouTube supplies the corresponding music video and the song itself.

In this way the Internet is becoming a repository for the content of older media, sometimes even replacing them altogether. And youthful audiences, who are always on the lookout for something to share or entertainment, are now increasingly using the Internet to find this content. But it's not exactly the kind of behavior that would trigger a lifestyle revolution.

Teens Still Enjoy Meeting Friends

What's more, there's still plenty of life beyond the many screens at their disposal. A 2009 study by MPFS found that nine out of every 10 teenagers put meeting friends right at the top of their list of favorite non-media activities. More striking still, 76 percent of young people in Germany take part in sport several times a week, although among girls that figure is only 64 percent.

In January, the authors of the "Generation M2" survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation published the remarkable finding that even the most intense media users in the US exercised just as much as others of their age.

So how can they pack all that into a single day? Simply adding together the amount of time devoted to each activity creates a very false picture. That's because most young people are excellent media multitaskers, simultaneously making phone calls, checking out their friends on Facebook and listening to music. And it appears that they're primarily online at times they would otherwise spend lounging around.

"I go online when I have nothing better to do," Jetlir says. "Unfortunately that's often when I should already be sleeping." Thanks to cell phones and MP3 players, young people can also fill gaps in their busy schedules even when they're away from static media sources like TVs, computers and music systems. Media use can therefore increase steadily while still leaving plenty of time for other activities.

'Time's Too Precious'

What's more, many young people still aren't the least bit interested in all the online buzz. Some 31 percent of them rarely or never visit social networking sites. Anna, who attends the same school as Jetlir, says she would "probably only miss the train timetable" if the Internet ceased to exist, while fellow student Torben thinks "time's too precious" to waste on computers. He plays handball and soccer, and says "10 minutes a day on Facebook" is all he needs.

By contrast, Tom will occasionally get so wrapped up in Facebook and his instant messaging that he'll forget the time altogether. "It's a strange feeling to realize you've spent so much time on something and have nothing to show for it," he admits. But he also knows that others find the temptations of the virtual world much harder to resist. "Everyone knows a few people who are online all day," Pia says, though Jetlir suggests that's only for want of something better to do. "None of them would turn down an offer to go out somewhere instead," he adds.

But even the most inveterate netizens aren't necessarily natural experts in the medium. If you want to make use of the Internet, you first have to understand how the real world works. And that's often the sticking point. The only advantage that young people have over their elders is their lack of inhibitions with regard to computers. "They simply try things out," says René Scheppler, a teacher at a high school in Wiesbaden. "They discover all sorts of things that way. The only thing is they don't understand how it works."

'I Found It on Google'

Occasionally the teacher will ask his students big-picture questions about the medium they take for granted. Questions like: Where did the Internet come from? "I'll get replies like, 'What do you mean? It's just there!'" Scheppler says. "Unless they're prompted to do so, they never address those sorts of questions. For them it's like a car: All that matters is that it works."

And because teenagers are basically inexperienced, they are all the more likely to overestimate their own abilities. "They think they're the real experts," Scheppler says. "But when it comes down to it, they can't even google properly."

When Scheppler scheduled a lesson about Google to teach his pupils how to better search the Web, they thought it was hilarious. "Google?!" they gasped. "We know all about that. We do it all the time. And now Mr Scheppler wants to tell us how to use Google!"

He, therefore, set them a challenge: They were to design a poster on globalization based on the example of Indian subcontractors. Now it was the teacher's turn to laugh. "They just typed a series of individual keywords into Google, and then they went click, click, click: 'Don't want that! Useless! Let's try another one!'" Scheppler recalls. "They're very quick to jettison things, sometimes even relevant information. They think they can tell the wheat from the chaff, but they just stumble about -- very rapidly, very hectically and very superficially. And they stop the moment they get a hit that looks reasonably plausible."

Few have any idea where the information on the Web comes from. And if their teacher asks for references, he often gets the reply, "I found it on Google."

Learning How to Use the Internet Productively
Recent research into the way people conduct Internet searches confirms Scheppler's observations. A major study conducted by the British Library came to the sobering conclusion that the "net generation" hardly knows what to look for, quickly scans over results, and has a hard time assessing relevance. "The information literacy of young people has not improved with the widening access to technology," the authors wrote.

A few schools have now realized that the time has come to act. One of them is Kaiserin Augusta School in Cologne, the high school that Jetlir, Tom, Pia, and Anna attend. "We want our pupils to learn how to use the Internet productively," says music teacher André Spang, "Not just for clicking around in."

Spang uses Web 2.0 tools in the classroom. When teaching them about the music of the 20th century, for example, he got his 12th-graders to produce a blog on the subject. "They didn't even know what that was," he says. Now they're writing articles on aleatoric music and musique concrete, composing simple 12-tone rows and collecting musical examples, videos, and links about it. Everyone can access the project online, see what the others are doing and comment on each other's work. The fact that the material is public also helps to promote healthy competition and ambition among the participants.

Blogs are not technically challenging and are quick to set up. That's why they are also being used to teach other subjects. Piggybacking on the enormous success of Wikipedia, the collaborative online encyclopedia produced entirely by volunteer contributors, wikis are also being employed in schools. The 10th-graders in the physics class of Spang's colleague Thomas Vieth are currently putting together a miniature encyclopedia of electromagnetism. "In the past all we could do was give out group assignments, and people would just rattle off their presentations," Vieth says. "Now everyone reads along, partly because all the articles are connected and have to be interlinked."

Not Interested in Fame

One positive side-effect is that the students are also learning how to find reliable information on the Internet. And so that they understand what they find online, there are regular sessions of old-fashioned sessions on learning how to learn, including reading, comprehension and summarizing exercises. So instead of tech-savvy young netizens challenging the school, the school itself is painstakingly teaching them how to benefit from the online medium.

For most of the pupils it was the first time they had contributed their own work to the Internet's pool of data. They're not interested in widespread fame. Self-promoters are rare, and most young people even shun anonymous role-playing such as that found in the online world Second Life. The youth of today, it turns out, is much more obsessed with real relationships. Whatever they do or write is directed at their particular group of friends and acquaintances.

That also applies to video, the medium most tempting for people to try out for themselves. An impressive 15 percent of young people have already uploaded at least one home-made video, mostly shot on a cell phone.

Part of Their Social Life

One student, Sven, has uploaded a video he made to YouTube. It shows him and a few friends in their bathing suits first by a lake, then all running into the clearly icy water. "No, really," Sven says, "people are interested in this. They talk about it!" There are indeed already 37 comments under the video, all from his circle of friends.

"And here," Sven adds, pointing to the screen. "Here on Facebook someone recently posted just a dot. Even so, seven people have clicked on the 'Like' button so far, and 83 commented on the dot."

Older people might consider such activity inane, but for young people it's part of their social life and no less important than a friendly wave or affable clowning around in the offline world. The example of the dot shows how normal the Internet has become, and debunks the idea that it is a special world in which special things happen.

"Media are used by the masses if they have some relevance to everyday life," says Rolf Schulmeister, the educational researcher. "And they are used for aims that people already had anyway."

Turning Point

Young people have now reached this turning point. The Internet is no longer something they are willing to waste time thinking about. It seems that the excitement about cyberspace was a phenomenon peculiar to their predecessors, the technology-obsessed first generation of Web users.

For a brief transition period, the Web seemed to be tremendously new and different, a kind of revolutionary power that could do and reshape everything. Young people don't feel that way. They hardly even use the word "Internet," talking about "Google", "YouTube" and "Facebook" instead. And they certainly no longer understand it when older generations speak of "going online."

"The expression is meaningless," Tom says. Indeed the term is a relic of a time when the Internet was still something special, evoking a separate space distinct from our real life, an independent, secretive world that you entered and then exited again.

Tom and his friends just describe themselves as being "on" or "off," using the English terms. What they mean is: contactable or not.

Re:The "Internet generation"? (-1)

Anarki2004 (1652007) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184760)

tl;dr

Re:The "Internet generation"? (1)

WillDraven (760005) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185262)

Whoever modded this informative should have actually read it first. Parent copypasta'd the article and then edited in homophobic bigotry.

They are users, nothing more. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33184672)

FTA: "Many of them don't even know how to google properly."

"Generation @" would be watching teevee or listening to the radio if they didn't have a computer. They go where their friends go, use what their friends use. They are nothing more than cattle, going along with the herd.

Re:They are users, nothing more. (4, Insightful)

PinkyGigglebrain (730753) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184846)

They are users, nothing more

And they will be used.

~

First, this is talking about Germany (5, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184706)

And not the whole world or America.

I'm a native of both and the article rings somewhat true of the people I know. But to be blunt about it, I think there is more to do in Germany, especially in this age range. More clubs, more affordable entertainment options, more and cheaper excercise options. More mass transit too, to get there.

I grew up as a latchkey kid in suburban borderline rural America and summered there. When I was 10-15, I was bored out of my mind most days and would have loved something like the internet. I was just too far from anything entertaining, including other kid's houses. It all comes down to having a car culture, imo.

One example, I find pools very expensive in America. Even my YMCA isn't cheap and is like 7 miles away. In Germany, a schwimmbad, hallenbad, etc are somewhat ubiquitous and cheap (5 euros entrance). The outdoor baths are particularly nice, having several pools, one usually Olympic size. None of this means anything if you can't get to it, but again, Germany has massive transit especially rail, and bus, and it doesn't take hours to get anywhere like the bus systems I know from Seattle or Philadelphia. Also, there are sidewalks and bikepaths everywhere, on the side of the road. Here, I had 3 friends that got hit over the years because it's mostly patchwork, if it exists at all.

There can be other factors and I'm sure urban kids have a different experience.

Re:First, this is talking about Germany (1)

Nyder (754090) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185036)

... None of this means anything if you can't get to it, but again, Germany has massive transit especially rail, and bus, and it doesn't take hours to get anywhere like the bus systems I know from Seattle or Philadelphia. ....

If it's taking you hours to get somewhere on bus in Seattle, you either, took the wrong bus, or are taking a bus out of Seattle.

Having lived here my whole life, and not ever driving, I've depended on the bus in Seattle. And I can safely say, there isn't any locations in Seattle that take more then an hour to get to on bus.

Now if your taking the bus out of Seattle, that's different, and probably what you meant.

As for your friends getting hit by cars when they are on their bikes, sorry, that's a sport we have here in Seattle.

Re:First, this is talking about Germany (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185100)

No, I used to live in Bellevue. I had a car but it was college and I wanted to see if I could live without a car so I experimented with grocery shopping.

I never had to wait long for a bus, 10 minutes max. But whereas a shopping trip used to take me 30 minute with a car (including shopping), with a bus it took me 1-1/2 hours with a bus for some reason. The grocery store was only 2 miles straight down the road. Maybe it was the sheer number of stops, I don't remember why.

I tried the bus a few more times with a strip mall, but it always multiplied the trip time so much that I swore off entirely.

Re:First, this is talking about Germany (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185052)

A nearby city-owned waterpark [cityofeagan.com] with slides, a lazy river, a big pool, etc is similarly priced at $7-$9 (depending on height). It's even cheaper in the evenings when most people are going to go after work. 5 Euros is what, about $6.50 right now so quite reasonable as far as I'm concerned.

While I don't go to that waterpark my gym has four pools (two outdoor and two indoor) with four waterslides, hot tubs, etc and it's part of my membership. My wife and kid belong and we use it a couple of days a week in the evenings. Membership there is about $35/month for kids and ends up being super cheap compared to what you mention.

I grew up swimming for sport and visited many pools. They were always priced in the $3 to $4 range and I'm guessing that those places are now about double that. Guess my experience with US pools is a little different than yours...

Re:First, this is talking about Germany (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185116)

I imagine so. Every place in my area has either just one medium pool or an olympic sized (length) pool cut with only like 3 lanes. Everything costs like $12 or more to get in. The closest water park is like 3 hours.

The US is so big, it's hard to generalize. I would say the car culture and strip malls are a near constant though.

Re:First, this is talking about Germany (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185150)

The US is so big, it's hard to generalize. I would say the car culture and strip malls are a near constant though.

I have lived on the East Coast and in the Midwest and have visited pools all over the country and have never felt they were overpriced.

Yes, we are a car-culture and have a proliferation of strip malls but mass and pedestrian transit alternatives are improving at least here in Minnesota.

Re:First, this is talking about Germany (1)

afabbro (33948) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185158)

Even my YMCA isn't cheap and is like 7 miles away. In Germany, a schwimmbad, hallenbad, etc are somewhat ubiquitous and cheap (5 euros entrance).

Paying ~$7.00 per entrance is not my definition of cheap. Swimming 3x a week would mean $84 a month. Lots of places in the US where you can get all-you-can-swim for a lot cheaper than that.

None of this means anything if you can't get to it, but again, Germany has massive transit especially rail, and bus, and it doesn't take hours to get anywhere like the bus systems I know from Seattle or Philadelphia. Also, there are sidewalks and bikepaths everywhere, on the side of the road.

89% of Americans own a car and the average cars per household is 2.28. We have a lot less need for mass transit.

Nerdrage (-1, Troll)

siride (974284) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184708)

Cue the nerds getting up in arms that the masses aren't adoring their products.

Re:Nerdrage (1)

Cwix (1671282) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184772)

Cue the retards who flamebait.. damn too late apparently theyve already arrived.

Re:Nerdrage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33185250)

it's ok.. the masses know not what they desire.

Yeah (5, Insightful)

Wolfraider (1065360) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184712)

Today's kids have grown up with the net. It is so in-graved into today's society for most that most kids don't even think about it. The net is nothing special now like it was years ago. I remember years ago when the net first came around to everyone. It was something special and new then. I used to spend hours just looking around and finding new and different things. Now I mainly go to the few websites I like. It went from a new fascinating thing to simply a tool to get the job done. The magic is gone from the net now that it is everywhere and used by almost everyone. Just comes with the times.

Re:Yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33185022)

ingrained (deep-rooted) or engraved (cut grooves into a hard surface)... take your pick.

Re:Yeah (1)

Wolfraider (1065360) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185068)

Grammar and spelling are not my strong points. Math and science are. I went to college for a computer major, not an English major, so ehh.

Wrong conclusion (5, Insightful)

pshmell (1864744) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184714)

I'm 19. I care about the 'net and social networking and the effect it has on the evolution of culture and social intelligence. I think what this study means to conclude is that the 'net has become integrated so much into our lives that it has lost that 'new car' feel. That doesn't make it any less important.

Re:Wrong conclusion (4, Insightful)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184938)

You're also part of a self-selected group which is not only more skilled at technology, but which has a higher degree of interest in it in general. You're basically skewed data.

I'm 26. We got our first dial-up internet connection when I was in 6th grade. I was tracked 'gifted and talented', and so got to do cooler science and math projects, and having the internet, even on 28.8k dial-up, was a major boost for me. (later I got 33.6 and 56k that only really ran at about 49-50k; broadband wasn't available in my area until my sophomore year of college, and then it didn't matter for me most of the time anyway). I was introduced to FreeBSD by the guys who ran my ISP, and then later to Linux which I've never really learned to like as much. I got to watch one day when the telco guys came to add a an additional T3 at the demarc, which was a big deal for scalability because they then added in a bunch more modem banks since they could handle the capacity.

I mention that because my "generation" grew up hearing carrier tones and having to do more things manually, with slower bandwidth. The "modern internet" by-and-large works so much more easily and at higher rates, that it doesn't take so much effort to get things done. Thus, most people never have to think about it.

Hell, I've talked to professional computer people in their earlier 20s, say 20-22, who think that 'kermit' is just a Muppet. That's truly sad.

Re:Wrong conclusion (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185270)

I'm 26 [...]

That's largely irrelevant, in my opinion. As it is the fact that I'm over 40, I've seen and used BBS-es over 4800 baud (mentioning it only to put the things in perspective).

I mention that because my "generation" grew up hearing carrier tones and having to do more things manually, with slower bandwidth. The "modern internet" by-and-large works so much more easily and at higher rates, that it doesn't take so much effort to get things done.
Thus, most people never have to think about it.

Now, that is relevant.
The Net is a tool. It grew mature enough and the novelty factor already has worn out - it's only natural to have the people using it the way they use a tooth-brush (without much consideration), for whatever serves their purposes.
To put the thing even more in perspective:

  • does the fact that I'm over 40 puts me in "the BBS generation"? Or the "colour TV generation"?
  • does even anyone speaks (or have spoken) about "the sanitation generation"? I'm sure the introduction of sanitation has had a bigger effect on human civilization than the Internet.
  • how can anyone expect that a single new mean (technological supported or not) of doing some things can alter that much the life that much to worth coining a term as "generation ...".

C'mon, people, the civilisation advance is an an incremental process, I really thing the use of any "generation ..." term is nonsensical and narrow minded.

Finally, from the F.. summary

Consultants and authors, mostly old guys, have called for the education system to be reworked to suit this new generation,

Of course they are. And they are right, even if maybe for the wrong reasons.
I mean, does it make sense to ignore a mature tool that can support the educational process? Now, they would be wrong if their proposal would be "Let's make the education exclusively based on Internet", but do they [slashdot.org] ?

I have to disagree with that (4, Insightful)

brokeninside (34168) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185364)

``Hell, I've talked to professional computer people in their earlier 20s, say 20-22, who think that 'kermit' is just a Muppet. That's truly sad.''

I dunno. It seems to me that in the grand scheme of things Kermit the Frog is far more influential and important than the protocol which was named after him

Re:Wrong conclusion (3, Insightful)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185006)

Is this study really about 19 year olds? I mean, I'll admit, I didn't RTFA, but I'm 20 and reading the summary gave me the impression that it was about people several years younger - maybe around 13. I mean, I still remember when nobody had the 'net. I was 8 when we first got dial-up. But my 13 year old cousin was 1 then. She certainly doesn't remember a time before the internet was common, and I doubt that she even remembers a time before broadband.

I remember when everybody had their own Geocities (or Tripod or my favorite, Angelfire). And that took some work. Even if it didn't require real coding, it still needed some creativity. Now everyone just plugs stuff into Facebook or Myspace. I remember when email was hotmail or netscape or AOL or Adelphia or Excite or Earthlink or whatever other company. Now 90% of the email accounts I deal with are gmail. The rest are ***.edu, and occasionally an ISP, but even that is pretty much only older people who have had it since before gmail existed.

I remember constantly switching search engines to whatever was giving the best results this year (or even month). Switching web hosts to whoever offered the best features at this moment. Switching email to whoever offered the most space. Switching IM clients, switching homepages, switching social networks...

I feel like, even though we may have been using the 'net for most of our lives and have some difficulty remembering the time before it, it was still something new. It was still something to be discovered. And it still took some work. For those who are even just a few years younger, they discovered it when it was not as interactive. There's less competition. People are more likely to just stick to the handful of sites their friends use, and leave the other 99.99% of the web unexplored.

Re:Wrong conclusion (0, Redundant)

longhairedgnome (610579) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185172)

tl;dr brah brahasdfasdf abrahghahg I'm not old enough to know much

The 'Net-Generation is/will be in Africa (5, Interesting)

line-bundle (235965) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184758)

I put forward a controversial/unpopular position.

For most technology most (99.99%) people just use what they have or are given and apply what they have known from the past. They lack the imagination or resources to create anything original. Life is just too complex to change what works. Yes, for most people the computer is just a typewriter, and that's what they will teach their children.

If you really want to continue with your quest for the 'Net generation then the place you are most likely to find them is in Africa, or those countries who will have to make a big leap from stone age to internet age. Africa has far more original/innovative uses of cell phones because they were not baggaged with land-lines.

Re:The 'Net-Generation is/will be in Africa (1)

RabbitWho (1805112) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184862)

Agreed, but "baggaged with land-lines." That's interesting. Like Americans were never "baggaged" with health care.
Need breeds creativity just as much as interest, the creative brains aren't always going to be interested in the same things. But if they all need the same things then those things will evolve fast.

Re:The 'Net-Generation is/will be in Africa (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33184972)

If you really want to continue with your quest for the 'Net generation then the place you are most likely to find them is in Africa

Unlikely, as there's a reason why the Europeans (including those in America) and Asians [wikipedia.org] built the Internet in the first place and not Africans.

Re:The 'Net-Generation is/will be in Africa (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185076)

The problem with Africa is that eventually the dictators running the majority of the countries in Africa will wake up and put tighter controls on the internet and there goes the "net" generation. The only reason why Africa is currently thriving when it comes to "new" technology is because the governments are in the interim stage between freedom and complete control, currently the majority of Africa even the countries run by dictators is so vast and infrastructure is so poor and resources are so limited that the dictators don't care to wiretap phones, to run the servers needed to censor the net, etc.

As soon as technology becomes more affordable that the poorer countries in Africa can have it, you can bet that innovation will be stiffed by their oppressive government which made the countries to be poor to begin with.

Re:The 'Net-Generation is/will be in Africa (1)

line-bundle (235965) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185154)

The only reasons there is no net censorship in Africa are the following

1. The African governments are too stupid to know how to do it. I personally witnessed one case where the govt took over the control of the country's TLD and had no idea how to run it. They gave it back to the Non-profit which had been running it.

2. There aren't enough people connected to make censorship worthwhile, and the few who have access are cronies of the ruling party anyway.

A glimpse of the blindingly obvious... (5, Insightful)

SnowDog74 (745848) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184766)

First adopters are always the biggest geeks. The internet, however, is less about its applications today than it is about content. When I started college, the World Wide Web was just emerging, and one had to have some technical aptitudes to know what to do with a PPP dialer, Eudora or, even more primitive, PINE mail, Gopher, Telnet, etc. The first major graphical browser, NCSA Mosaic, had just come out. But the net is so ubiquitous and content driven that users aren't talking about the net in terms of its technology... they're talking about it in terms of content: movies, music, images, news, friends, games, etc.

A technology becomes most useful is when the tech itself is at its most transparent, and the user is directly interfacing with their content with no tremendous awareness of the underlying layers (e.g. OSI model)... and that is precisely how it ought to be, be it for casual or business usage.

Re:A glimpse of the blindingly obvious... (1)

theNAM666 (179776) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185230)

Do not insult PINE! Convert to Elm, but do not insult PINE.

(Seriously, I sent a combo plain-text / html email to a list all of three years ago, and got an email to the list from someone using PINE, that the html mime section made it unreadable for him... because his 15-year-old version of PINE on a machine at SFSU didn't know MIME.

Of course, that was the SFLAN list or something like it...)

let me back you up (1)

Phizital1ty (1755648) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184838)

Good conversation that just happened two seconds ago to reinforce what they said in this article. Shauna skype Me oook Shauna get on

News flash (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184840)

Many 'consultants' don't have the slightest clue what they're talking about, but get away with just making up facts because their audience doesn't have the slightest clue either. Why go through all the hard work of actual research or peer-reviewed articles when you can get paid big bucks for just spouting off something that sounds good?

So they are like the TV generation (2, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184886)

They look at the internet as just another appliance.

Still it does seem their lives revolve around the net, with webcam chatting, youtube creations, live chats, and texting. Just like I always have my TV or Radio turned on, even it's just for noise. It's ever-present.

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184908)

"This changes everything" is always false. It nevertheless gets repeated endlessly, and people go "yeah" rather than recognizing the warning signs of stratospheric hype and self-delusion.

Psh. (5, Insightful)

amanicdroid (1822516) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184918)

Next you'll tell me that MTV generation didn't understand how a CRT worked and merely accepted the 60 hz spray of electrons into their eyeballs thoughtlessly.

Or that the telephone generation of the 50s didn't spend long hours thinking about the automation of connections.

Re:Psh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33184978)

automation of telephone connections happened in the 1927, not 1950's.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIDw75mUl6c

Re:Psh. (1)

MakinBacon (1476701) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185344)

I see you grew up in the pedantic generation.

Defintely doesn't reflect me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33184958)

I'm 21, and I assume the "Net Generation" refers to the same generation I belong to (AKA Gen Y, Millennials, etc). This is definitely not me. I admit that, in some ways, I sometimes feel older and more mature than I actually am, so that might have something to do with it, but I still found this very surprising. Then again, I'm commenting on slashdot, so I'm probably not representative of the average person, anyways.

NEWSFLASH!!! (1)

SpongeBob Hitler (1848328) | more than 3 years ago | (#33184968)

Stupid journalists with their heads up their asses, who predicted that telephone-mail order would replace actual brick-and-mortar shopping, don't know what the fuck they are talking about.

Video on YouTube!

TL;DR (1)

human-cyborg (450395) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185020)

Web 2.0 is a bunch of existential meta-crap. No wonder they don't care about it.

It's like any generation since the 1930s' not giving a damn about electricity. It's just always there. Kids today are interested in the Internet about as much as we're interested in our power bill. It's there, it's useful, but we don't make no never mind about it as long as it works.

This is why I dropped out of a CS degree so many years back. Kids just take CS classes because it's either expected or their parents think it will make them lots of money. The real interest is gone, and unfortunately the curriculum has changed to reflect this. When you start to teach kids the real nitty-gritty of being a sysadmin or programmer, they loose interest fast.

I dropped out of university classes so that I could actually work a job that would let me pursue my interests in computers and the Internet. Now I work for the same university I dropped out of, as a computer technician.

Re:TL;DR (1)

rudy_wayne (414635) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185224)

Today's "net generation" doesn't even understand how magnets work

Re:TL;DR (1)

mini me (132455) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185318)

Web 2.0 really was a real shift in how the web is used. It was about freeing the web from the web browser. Until web 2.0, very few sites offered computer consumable content. Everything was HTML, images, video, etc. Stuff that is easy to display, but quite difficult for a machine to understand. Web 2.0 brought formats like RSS, JSON, web services, etc. allowing people to use the web outside of their web browser and consume content the way they want to consume it.

People, outside of developers, do not, and should not, care about web 2.0 because it is content for computers, not humans. The net generation most certainly are using web 2.0 every day, they just do not know it.

Re:TL;DR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33185340)

>When you start to teach kids the real nitty-gritty of being a sysadmin or programmer, they loose interest fast.

It seems they're not jumping into an English Major, either.

Is it really any suprise? (5, Insightful)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185026)

Internet has disappeared into the walls like indoor plumbing and electricity. After much novelty, it becomes ubiquitous, for these kids it's just there and always has been.

The neophillia is experienced by the generation that bridge the period between when you had to walk to get water, and the period when you didn't, when you lit a candle and when you flicked a switch.

I understand the importance of a global digital network because I remember in my childhood there wasn't one, in my teenage years it was developing, and now I have a career in it. I've bridged the period of and no new generation will experience the same thing.

What changes will my children face.

the young generation is wireless - (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185040)

the young people like cell phones and what goes with it: texting, pictures, movies, games, voice calls.

the wired world is getting to be for old farts, the information superhighway is starting to fill up with old coots in their old Cadillacs.

It's all about advancing your career (4, Interesting)

The Second Horseman (121958) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185064)

If you declare a revolution and talk about how everything will change, you can get published. Present at conferences. Invited to speak. And maybe even get paid for it, or else get new job offers or consulting gigs.

And everyone is so desperate to improve education that they'll grasp at anything to prove to the public that they're making big strides in changing education, even if there's NO PROOF of any change in educational income. It's snake oil.

The expensive, commercial, packaged curriculum products have the same problem. There's little evidence to back up one versus the other, and few studies showing any educational benefit. But the districts, desperate to fend of being attacked for doing nothing, spend limited educational dollars on them.

My prediction? Perversely, schools will spend more money on technology and materials as their funding is squeezed and test scores count more and more. After a couple of years of declining scores, they'll abandon whatever the current efforts are and spend a ton on new ones. And it'll just keep going.

Educators and Consultants.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33185182)

... are out of touch with what people actually think and want?

Say it aint so!

There's an explanation for this (2, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185202)

They may have grown up with internet existing.... but their parents won't let them touch the computer. Let alone use it as a toy.

On average, they know just enough about the net to know it's dangerous for kids.

Sorry.. the 'net' generation is something that will start 20 years from now, not anytime soon.

Yuo fAil it.. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33185212)

my calling. NOw I

techies will always be in the minority (4, Insightful)

PJ6 (1151747) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185292)

For years I watched younger family members grow up from wee lads and thought to myself, oh boy, next generation, they're going to make me look like a Luddite. Yet the outcome I had feared - finding myself suddenly behind the curve, no longer able to catch up with technology, maybe even "average"... deep down, I think would have preferred that. Having 20 year olds ask me for computer help makes me sad. It makes me want to say, you kids were supposed to charge ahead. But I don't see you charging anywhere. You don't even vote.

Well, to be fair ... (1)

brokeninside (34168) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185322)

... how many people that drive a car have a clue about how an internal combustion engine works? Or even which brands of car are reliable?

Heck, for many drivers, a manual transmission is a mystery.

I had things better (2, Interesting)

mmcxii (1707574) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185356)

Growing up with home computers with no distractions like MySpace and Facebook made me a better computer user. I had a lot less resources but I seemed to make more out of less. Today they're toys, in my youth they were toys that you actually had to know something about to get results from.

It's about optimism, silly ... (1)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 3 years ago | (#33185360)

The one thing that I've noticed about technology is that people get excited about it when there is a lot of optimism surrounding it. You could see that with the introduction of the personal computer, with the coming of the Internet, in the early days of FLOSS, and with the Makers/Hacklabs of today. Once it becomes a product, there is a lot less excitement because people learn the inevitable: technology is just a tool that solves technical problems, it will not solve the human issues that surround us. Even though the lesson has been learnt repeatedly, it is one that every generation must come to terms to. This is just one example, of many, of our generation coming to terms with it.

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