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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Social Media Guru Exposes Gen-Z ‘Digital Natives’

Social Media Guru Exposes 
Gen-Z ‘Digital Natives’:
Talk profiles tech-bred kids, 
helps bridge generations
(Posted to 4/13)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – Individuals born after 1990, collectively known as Gen-Z, are the most connected and engaged generation to ever exist. Older generations often resist the technologies in which these youth are immersed, creating divides in households wherein young and old co-exist.

At a talk early evening Wednesday in the Rotary Room at Fairfield Library’s Old Post Road main branch, social media marketing strategist Ann Marie Brucia profiled these young “digital natives” and helped the modest gathering of adults understand what mediums they are using. Her presentation was the final session of four that began in January and navigated a path from Social Media 101 and focus on Facebook to creating a family brand using social media.

“This is where the world is moving,” explained Brucia. “Why fight it? Why not join it? You may find that it opens up lines of communication that you didn’t have before.”

Attendee Roy Martin, of Fairfield, was a prime example of an older person that had not embraced certain new technologies like texting, Facebook and instant messaging, but was at least open to learning more about them.

“These young people are not aliens,” Brucia coached. “They just came into a techno-oriented environment and, through interaction, have a greater understanding of its concepts. It’s difficult for Baby Boomers (individuals born in the period 1946-1964) to change the way they do things and adapt to this environment. In fact, there’s a whole different thought process between digital natives and Boomers, or ‘immigrants’ as we’ll call them.”

In terms of a communication comfort zone, for instance, a native prefers texting, chat, Facebook, Twitter and email, while an immigrant favors the telephone or in-person meetings. Digital abbreviations like native-speak “LOL” are considered juvenile and unprofessional by immigrants. For a native, multi-tasking means Facebooking, texting, instant messaging, listening to music and doing homework, while driving and talking on the phone is the immigrant interpretation. Even the term “friends” takes on a different definition, meaning public peer groups to natives.

Technology usage studies amongst natives reveal some impressive numbers. Seventy-five percent of 12-17 year olds own cell phones, and 88% of them use text messaging. Teens send an average of 3,146 texts a month; kids age 9 to 12 send 1,146 a month. One billion people, half of which are under age 16, participate in virtual worlds.

The danger with cell phones and kids, said Brucia, is the wide degree of access they have. “Cell phones have essentially become mobile computers with Facebook, MySpace, photo and video sharing, web browsing, texting and even GPS. Often parents don’t realize the capabilities of their children’s phones. It’s a good idea to keep an open line of communication about the technologies, particularly where privacy settings are concerned and for Internet safety,” she said.

Brucia added that these technologies provide opportunities for typical adolescent self-expression and can be a great development tool, but that parents almost have a social responsibility to be connected with their children on Facebook and discuss their online presence. “This is happening whether we like it or not,” she said.

Besides participating in a social network, Brucia advised reviewing cell phone bills for text messaging totals to determine children’s activity level and to help family members to be aware of privacy controls, practice responsible online citizenship and be cognizant about the permanence of online communication.

At the same time, Brucia advised, “Embrace the technology, send your first text if you never have and have fun.”

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