Digital Immigrants vs. Digital Natives

By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.


Shedding light on one of the hottest topics of our time: The conflict and disharmony between digital immigrant parents and digital native, technology loving and, at times, obsessed children, and the allure of the Internet and online gaming.

One of the hottest issues of our time is how technology has affected individuals, families, work place, culture, and the entire world. Many therapists are facing teenagers who love and embrace new technologies and often spend enormous amounts of time on computers and cell phones. Along with the kids are distressed parents who feel disconnected from and worried about their children.

On Digital Immigrants & Digital Natives: How the digital divide creates conflict between parents and children, teachers and students, and the older and younger generations

Feel free to forward the link to the above article to colleagues, parents, and teachers or post a link to this important article on your or your organization’s website.


Digital Complexities: A Re-Cap


  • The younger generation, unlike their parents’ generation, often socializes, hangs out, and communicates online rather that in person. They prefer to text rather than talk on the phone and often prefer to hang out in Twitter or Facebook rather than in the local bar, on the street, or in the town square.
  • The digital divide: The younger generation has been referred to as being one of “Digital Natives,” while the older generation has been referred to as one of “Digital Immigrants.”
  • Unlike the older generation, young people are highly capable of effective multitasking, which is sometimes seen by the older generation as a lack of attention and focus.
  • Some young people are in front of a computer screen for much too much time, spending up to 20 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Spending countless hours a day, everyday, on the Internet or in online gaming can interfere with young people’s emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual development.
  • Around the world there are alarming reports of Internet addiction and severe online gaming addiction. Korea, Japan, Germany, and the United States all report increasing numbers of young people who spend over 40 hours a week online.
  • While the older generation may primarily use the Internet to gather important information and follow up on important news, the younger generation uses the Internet for a wider range of activities. These include: homework, communication, fun, gaming, social connection and interaction, information gathering, to view videos, listen to music, post photos, blog, chat, etc.
  • Many older-parent generations, being digital immigrants, view almost all online activities and multitasking as a waste of time and a lack of focus. They neither recognize nor understand the social value of online social networking, the learning that takes place in online games, the capacity of young people to multitask, and the enormous fun, pleasure, and sense of community that young people derive from these activities.
  • When concerned, worried, or frightened, parents yell, nag, criticize, threaten, or take the computer away, and often a crisis ensues.
  • Parents, as digital immigrants, are concerned for the welfare of their children. They are frightened that their kids waste their lives with meaningless online activities and gaming. They are concerned that their children will fail or drop out of school and are worried that the Internet or the games may ruin their children’s lives, as they have heard reported on the news.
  • Children, as digital natives, when confronted by concerned parents, often feel misunderstood and alienated by their parents.
  • The digital divide often results in continuous family conflict, breakdown of communication, power struggles, and disharmony.
  • At times, when parents take away the computer or disconnect the Internet, some youngsters have responded with violence towards the computer, themselves, or even their parents. Others have fallen into depression. Most of the time, children find other ways to connect to the Web and play games. They may simply do it at a friend’s house, and in many countries computers are available at Internet cafés.



In addition to an article on the Digital Divide, we have several courses on the topic of Internet Addiction:


Top of Page

Sign up for topical updates and invitations to participate with Dr. Zur