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  • George Samuels

Who Are The Digital Natives?

What do we call children who are born into a highly technological or digital society? Where knowing how to operate an iPad comes before learning how to walk? Children of the 21st century are able to utilize technology before they are even able to form words and, as a result, require new modes of communication.

As we discuss more and more about the importance of preserving stories for future generations, we should probably ask, “Who are these children we seek to leave legacies for?” For the purpose of this article, we shall refer to them as the “Digital Natives.” In realigning the indigenous spirit with that of the Western (digital) world, the “Digital Native” (DN) is a perfect bridge.

Mark Prensky originally coined the term in his work Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants in 2001[1. Wikipedia – Digital Native]. He describes DNs as people who were “born digital”, while Digital Immigrants are those who have had to make the reluctant shift into the digital world (think parents and grand-parents pre-1980s).

Since Digital Natives are so naturally drawn to technology, it’s best to speak to them through their natural tongue. Mobile devices, computers, etc., are the new storytelling mediums. Oral traditions certainly have their place, but to reintroduce the old ways in old ways, is counter-intuitive. We need to introduce ancient wisdom in new ways, ways that are natural for DNs. Just like the indigenous should be taught through modes and mediums that are natural to them, so should be true for Digital Natives. And with the mixing and blending of races and cultures, even the current generations of indigenous are becoming tech-savvy.

There’s a story about an Olympic runner who broke a previously held myth that no one could ever surpass the 4 min. mile. As soon as he did, various other people around the world started to follow suite. What caused this shift? How were people suddenly able to do so, without necessarily knowing about it? This is the magic and mystery of the world we live in.

As the millennials start using technology more and more, even children in remote parts of the world are picking up on this collective “knowledge.” So once they’re given the opportunity and means to develop something, they’re least equipped to handle the changes. This is promising for communities that are typically looked at as “lost cases”, with parents or family lines still carrying the unhealed wounds of settler oppression.

The new generation of DNs have the benefit of learning from the struggles and hardships of generations before them. With a collective raising of consciousness (as exemplified in movements such as social media, social entrepreneurship, Self Development, toppling of outdated systems and governments, etc.), these next generations have an opportunity to bring technology back in harmony with nature. Harmony between the rational minds of the West, and the feeling hearts of the East.