What is a Digital Native?

In 2001 a man named Marc Prensky is credited for coining the terms digital natives and digital immigrants. The purpose was to make a distinction between two groups of people based on what they thought and how they interacted with the revolutionary tools and toys of the digital age.


Digital natives began to emerge with children who were born during the 1980’s or later, who grew up with a personal computer, the internet, video games, and more. These were not new technologies to them because they always existed in their lives. Because of this they easily adapted to the new technologies that came wave after wave upon the shores of our new digital society.

Digital immigrants, like myself, remember a world without computers, the internet, digital music, video games, cellphones, or even cordless phones for that matter. We thought it was cool when the landline wasn’t attached to the wall through a cord anymore.

ATARI 2600

I remember when my parents brought home a Commodore 64 that predated the Atari 2600 in our household for playing video games. I remember when my parents were upgrading our stereo system and debated whether or not they should buy the latest breakthrough in digital audio, a Compact Disc player. They didn’t, they bought a new record player instead.

We didn’t have a personal computer in our home the entire time I was in school, the closest thing was an electric typewriter, and that is hardly close.


The most amazing new tech when I was a teen was the invention of the Sony Walkman, the small personal cassette player with headphones. They were all the rage after the fading trend of the boombox (I had one of those also).

The only person I knew who had the internet at home was my friend Eric, but he couldn’t really explain it. His dad worked for the military, so it was a unique household experience.

But my children who were born in the late 90’s into the 2000’s have always known home computers, MP3’s, the internet, Amazon, cellphones, and other wireless technologies. They are natives. What is difficult for immigrants and natives to understand is that we don’t always think the same about these technologies.