What are digital natives and digital immigrants?

by Gareth
5 minutes
What are digital natives and digital immigrants?

What are digital natives? What are digital immigrants? Why is it so important to understand these terms today? Why are they fundamental to marketing?

The concept of digital natives was coined by Marc Prensky in an essay entitled "The Death of Command and Control". He described them as those people who had grown up with the internet and knew what it involved.

If we try to break this down, we could say that 'digital natives' is the term that describes those under 30 years old, who have grown up with technology and, therefore, have an innate ability to understand the language and the digital environment. Technological tools occupy a central place in their lives and they depend on them for all kinds of everyday issues such as studying, relationships, buying, learning, or having fun. (Tweet this)

It must be said, however, that not everyone under the age of 30 is a digital native. This opens up another question: for those people who were born in a different period but understand technology even better than those under 30 years old, what name do they receive? The answer is that they are not digital natives, but digital immigrants.

Digital immigrants are those who have adapted to technology and speak the language, but with "a certain accent". These immigrants are the result of a digital migration process. These are people between 35 and 55 years old who are not digital natives and have had to adapt to an increasingly technical society. 

Advantages of digital natives

  • Digital immigrants have a tendency to keep information secret, whereas digital natives share and distribute information without.
  • The action processes of digital immigrants tend to be reflective and, therefore, slower, while digital natives are able to make decisions quickly, without much thought.
  • In electronic games, those used by digital immigrants tend to be linear in operation and objectives, while those of digital natives are more complex, involving the participation and coordination of more players.

Disadvantages of digital natives

If you think that everything is in favour of digital natives, reconsider this because this group usually spends as little time as possible in a particular job, so the information they handle tends to be shallow and superficial. The digital native tends to be more anxious, less productive, have lower concentration capacity and a tendency to quickly change from one topic to another.

The importance of knowing the difference between digital natives and digital immigrants

Why is knowledge of these groups so important? This information allows us to appreciate and understand why children take to computers quite naturally; why the iPad and all the present-day gadgets are so successful in the market; why many other brands of cameras offer to upload to the internet or YouTube with a single click. We can understand Amazon's incredible success. In short, we can understand how online marketing is working today and why the 4 Ps of digital marketing work

This is the new digital world, the new reality, a paradigm that is changing so fast that daring to suggest where it ends would be foolish. The only thing we can do is to try and keep up, regardless of whether we do it 'natively' as natives or trying a little harder, as immigrants.

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