I’m currently reading Wikinomics, which is one of the best books ever on the topic. There is a very nice chapter about the new generations of people who’ve grown up digital. Because my blog is dedicated to the net generation or “born on the web” generation, I’m going to give you an extract from the chapter.
All the generations in developed (and increasingly, developing) countries use the Web. Seniors, for example, have time to spend and new motives for going online – communicating with their grandchildren may be the most important. However, a new generation of youngster has grown up online, and they are bringing a new ethic of opennes, participation, and interactivity to workplaces, communities, and markets. For this reason, they merit special investigation. They represent the new breed of workers, learners, consumers, and citizens. Think of them as the demograpgic engine of collaboration and the reason why the perfect storm is not a flash in the pan but a persistent tempest that will gather force as they mature.
Demographers call them the “baby-boom-echo,” but we prefer the Net Generation, as Don dubbed them in his 1997 book Growing Up Digital. Much of the following research we present has been updated from that book in a recent study with our colleague Rober Barnard, CEO of D-Code.
Born between 1977 and 1996 inclusive, this generation is bigger than the baby boom itself, and through sheer demographic muscle they will dominate the twenty-first century. While it is smaller in some countries, internationally the Net Generation is huge, numbering over two billion people. This is the first generation to grow up in the digital age, and that makes them a force of collaboration. They are growing up bathed in bits. The vast majority of North American adolescent know how to use a computer, and almost 90 percent of teenagers in America say they use the Net. The same is true in a growing number of countries around the world. Indeed, there are more youngsters in this age group who use the Net in China than there are in the United States. This is the collaboration generation for one main reason: Unlike their parents in the United States, who watched twenty-four hours of television per week, these youngsters are growing up interacting.
Rather than being passive recipients of mass consumer culture, the Net Gen spend time searching, reading, scrutinizing, authenticating, collaborating and organizing. The Internet makes life an ongoing, massive, collaboration, and this generation loves it. They typically can’t imagine a life where citizens didn’t have the tools to constantly think critically, exchange views, challenge, authenticate, verify, or debunk. While their parents were passive consumers of media, youth today are active creators of media content and hungry for interaction.
They are also a generation of scrutinizers. They are more sceptical of authority as they sift through information at the speed of light by themselves or with their network of peers. Though they have greater self-confidence than previous generations they are nevertheless worried aboutr their futures. It’s not their own abilities that they are insecure about – it’s the external adult world and how it may lack opportunity.
Research show that this generation also tends to value individual rights, including the right to privacy and the right to have and express their own views. Throughout adolescence and later in life, they tend to oppose censorship by governments and by parents. They also want to be treated fairly-there is a strong ethos, for example that “I should share in the wealth I create.” They have a very strong sense of the common good and of collective social and civic responsibility.
Further, this is the first time in human history when children are authorities on something really important. An N-gener’s father may have been an authority on model trains. Today young people are authorities on the digital revolution that is changing every institution in society.
The main tenets of Growing Up Digital have been borne out. However, in the last decade we learned a lot more about how the Net Generation will rewrite the rules for communities, markets, and workplaces.