Exposing the myth of digital native generation

In the New York Times yesterday was a piece about how a certain teenager would text most of the day away but wouldn't use twitter, saying quote I just think it’s weird and I don’t feel like everyone needs to know what I’m doing every second of my life. The post goes on about how its not Teenagers driving the usage of Twitter and then starts to look at how the traditional view of early adopters being teenagers is no longer correct.

Twitter, however, has proved that “a site can take off in a different demographic than you expect and become very popular,” he said. “Twitter is defying the traditional model.”

In fact, though teenagers fueled the early growth of social networks, today they account for 14 percent of MySpace’s users and only 9 percent of Facebook’s. As the Web grows up, so do its users, and for many analysts, Twitter’s success represents a new model for Internet success. The notion that children are essential to a new technology’s success has proved to be largely a myth.

Adults have driven the growth of many perennially popular Web services. YouTube attracted young adults and then senior citizens before teenagers piled on. Blogger’s early user base was adults and LinkedIn has built a successful social network with professionals as its target.

The same goes for gadgets. Though video games were originally marketed for children, Nintendo Wiis quickly found their way into nursing homes. Kindle from Amazon caught on first with adults and many gadgets, like iPhones and GPS devices, are largely adult-only.

So finally will people stop thinking of early adopters as teenagers? Will the eternal myth that all teenagers are digital native finally go away? I'd certainly like to think so, but I sadly doubt it.

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.