Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives

Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital NativesBorn Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser, Published by Basic Books, 2008. 375 pages.

Two law professors look at the issues affecting young people today, the first generation to grow up surrounded by the ubiquitous Internet and all the new social media that it makes possible.

Will the identities young people create by their youthful activities on the Web come back to haunt them later in life? Will digital piracy totally destroy the music industry, the film industry, the publishing industry, and others? If so, what will take their place? Will all high school research eventually be limited to the first page of Google results? How are we supposed to deal with the 988 billion gigabytes of digital information that the world will produce in 2010? What new types of learning, business and activism are being made possible by the Internet?

These and the other questions discussed in this book are not new questions to most of us but the authors’ presentation of the issues are very thoughtful, current and comprehensive although, perhaps because of their legal training, they may overemphasize the legal aspects of some of the issues. Their discussion is enriched, although not as much as it could have been in my opinion, by the numerous interviews with young people that they used as part of their research.

When the authors consider the unique problems facing these “Digital Natives”, in most cases they see two groups of people responsible for alleviating the problems. Parents are of course one group that should be teaching and guiding their children on the Internet. However, parents are often not knowledgeable enough about new technology to help their children with it. So the group that will probably soon bear much of the responsibility for preparing children for the brave new digital world is their teachers and librarians. I believe this is why the American Association of School Librarians made this book their One Book One Conference choice for discussion at their National Conference in November of 2009. We are possibly on the verge of a major push to have the schools educate young people on living in a digital world and librarians need to be thinking about what their place in this process will be.

– Reviewed by Bob Sibert