Just how wide is the digital-native divide?

I’ve used this story so many times in the courses I teach, and so many people have asked for a reference to it, so I reproduce the details here – you simply can’t make this stuff up.

In training senior corporate executives, I try to convey the depth to which social networking, texting, ubiquitous connectivity and technology are interwoven into the lives, work, thinking and attitudes of the digital native generation i.e. the ones who have grown up with the information revolution since birth, who have never known a world without the Internet, or texting, or mobile phones/email/browsing etc.

Here‘s an example of how differently (for better or worse) the workings of the digital native brain really is.  Two girls in Australia, aged ten and twelve – under the official age limit for Facebook BTW – got stuck in a storm drain.  How did they reach out to the world for help?  They took out a smartphone and updated their facebook status, saying they were lost in a drain on Honeypot Road, then waited for one of their friends to call the rescue brigade.

Let me just make sure you caught that – they took out a PHONE, and used it to update Facebook.  They were holding a phone, but never thought to dial 000 (Australian 911).

When I say “they see the world differently than we do”, I’m not talking the usual generation gap between tweens or teens and their parents.  I mean they see the entire world through the lens of technology.  For those of us over 40, technology is a distinct subject, a topic, a tool, a discipline.  For many under 20, it’s like running water or electricity. There is simply no conception of technology as distinct from daily existence, nor a comprehension of living, working, playing or socializing without it.

When I’m training corporate executives, this is how wide the gulf is I am trying to cross, to educate on the physical and information security implications of their employees, their spouses and their children Facebooking, Tweeting, Plurking, Foursqaure-ing and Flickr-ing through their days.

Soldiers uploading cell-phone photos of them standing on a tank, not realizing the photo is geotagged and they just placed their unit down to the LAT/LONG on some enemy map?  Seen it.

CEOs who have been threatened by activists, disgruntled ex-employees or the simply deranged whose future whereabouts are disclosed to the minute by a child tweeting from the family vacation? Happens all the time.

Are these technologies all bad?  Of course not.  But do business people, family members, USG personnel etc. need to understand the implications of their online activities and footprint?  I guess my feeling on that question is obvious…

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this blog are mine alone, and do not represent the views, policies or positions of Cyveillance, Inc. or its parent, QinetiQ-North America.  I speak here only for myself and no postings made on this blog should be interpreted as communications by, for or on behalf of, Cyveillance (though I may occasionally plug the extremely cool work we do and the fascinating, if occasionally frightening, research we openly publish.)

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One Response

  1. […] and Youtube!” and her phone was “blowing up” with calls from angry family and friends. As I said before, this generation has a relationship to their phones and social networks that us “old people” […]

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