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Talkin' About the Digital Generation

Mike Musgrove

This week, the Post's tech podcast featured a guest: John Palfrey, co-author of the just-published book Born Digital.

Palfrey is a director of the Berkman Center for internet & Society and a professor at Harvard Law School. His new title looks at the young, Internet generation now coming of age, a generation the book dubs "digital natives." The book takes on topics such as: What does identity mean for a young generation that's used to publishing every detail of their life on Facebook or MySpace? And just how does the concept of "safety" translate over to an increasingly virtual world?

Palfrey talked with us before heading over to Google to give a talk the other afternoon. Here's a brief and highly abridged Q & A. To hear the complete conversation with Palfrey, check out the podcast.


Q: What is a digital native?

Palfrey: We make an argument that this is a population, and not a generation. This is a group of people born after 1980, when social technologies came on the scene.

Q: Are you saying that there's something different about these people because of the age at which they began adopting these technologies?

Palfrey: One of the arguments we're trying to make here is, we should be prepared for the possibility that people who were born today... may well see relationships differently, they may see institutions differently, they may see access to information differently.

Q: What were you expecting to find out about this demographic?

Palfrey: We really wanted to write a myth-busting book... often the description [in the mainstream media] is this generation is dumber, maybe they're endangered more than others, maybe that they are meaner to one another and I think that in many cases those things are just not true. There are instances in which kids are mean to one another -- cyberbullying is definitely on the rise, there's no doubt about that. But overall, for instance, kids are not more at risk of being abducted today than they were 10 years ago, just because of the Internet.

By Mike Musgrove  |  October 17, 2008; 5:10 PM ET  | Category:  Mike Musgrove
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