In the early ’90’s, when Internet or the Electronic Highway, was just starting, Don Tapscott noticed changes in the behaviour of his kids. They were adopting the Internet (and later mobile) in their daily life. Don labelled them the “Net Generation” to differentiate them from their parents “Generation X” and their grandparents the “Baby Boomers”. Don experienced that for the first time in his life he had to ask his kids how things worked. He never stopped asking. Tapscott wrote about his early experiences with this fast developing generation, the young “Netters” in his 1996-classic Growing up Digital. Now, 12 years later, these kids have matured to adults and Tapscott has launched a large worldwide survey of which his latest book Grown up Digital ‘How the NET Generation is Changing YOUR World’ (McGraw-Hill) is the result.
Tapscott of course was ahead of his time. He witnessed the behaviours in social networks, messaging, texting, virtual worlds and gaming. Kids building websites and later a complete new industry around Web 2.0. An industry which gives people tools like Youtube and Flickr. MySpace and Facebook, Google-application and Twitter. To name just a few. It gives them connection to people worldwide to think and work on School 2.0 , Consumer 2.0 etc. Communication involves MSN, mobile, (micro)blogging and virtual realities. Interactive ways to connect, share, learn and grow.
Thousands of Netter conducted material for the research of which his latest Grown up Digital gives the conclusions. An optimistic book which gives deep inside in the way people between 12 and 30 use Internet and Mobile and all it’s applications in a very positive and future oriented way.
The impact on the culture, communications and worldview of this generation is immense. It is at this time hard to forcast the long term effect. Evaluation of the Obama-campagn already revealed the insight that using Internet’s social networktools Obama’s campaing team created a connecting to new voters which leads to believe in change.
Like Wikinomics, Grown up Digital is a rich book with statistics, a lot of background material and answers. The 368 pages (more material on the website Grownupdigital.com) give answers to important questions other generations ask: How do they think about politics? About healthcare? School? The workplace and our environment? The Netters, Tapscott concludes, live by eight fundamental norms: Freedom, Customization, Scrunity, Integrity, Collaboration, Entertainment, Speed and Innovation. These norms are broadly shared and combined & supported with new technologies used.
Grown up Digital is a must read for all who parent, educate, sell to and work with young people. If you do all four things: read it four times!
Tapscott closes with a chapter to answer the critics on the Net-generation like Mark Bauerlein and his book The Dumbest Generation. The dark sides we like to see (as a defensing mechanism to our unknown) are their potential violence for playing shooter games (or worce), there disability to communicate because they spend hours behind laptops and game-consoles. All and more issues are raised and answered.
Just one point Tapscott is worried and that is the issue of privacy. The way the Netters share information on social network, use webcams and publish videos on YouTube. It can backfire and used in a uncontrolled way.
But, the overall conclusion after spending years with and studing this generation, is an optimistic one. The Net-generation has a lot to offer and already is taking responsibilities on issues like education and the environment. A generation we already live with and in which we have to spend a lot more time to understand the fundamental new way they look at us and the world.
This article was published in a somewhat different form in Dutch @ Boekcover.nl: Growing up Digital Revisited