The Digital Native Generation and Constant Connection
Born into a digital world, the young of today inhabit a world that is markedly different from the previous generation. These “digital natives” or “the constant contact generation”, as they have been called, spend much of their waking hours engaged in a wide variety of media including mobile phones, the Internet, video games, and TV. According to a Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications survey (2013 Survey on Usage Time and Information Behavior regarding Information and Communications Technologies, 2014), Japanese young people have a higher rate of Internet use than of television use (Figure 1). More than 60% own smartphones (age 13–19: 63.3%, age 20–29: 87.9%), and more than 70% use social media (age 13–19: 76.3%, age 20–29: 91.0%). Many of the young people I interviewed in Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom tell me that they never switch off their mobile phones. They even sleep with their mobile phones next to their pillows. If it vibrates while they were asleep, they would inevitably pick up the mobile and reply to text messages from their friends or comment on social media. No need to turn on the lights as the illumination of their phone screen would suffice. Interestingly, some may not remember this engagement the next morning.
This is just an example of how young people of the digital generation engage with their smartphones and social media, and stay connected almost constantly. Why this need among these young people to be connected constantly? How should we think about this phenomenon? What are the up sides and down sides of constant social media engagement? What, in other words, are the opportunities and risks of social media for the digital native?