If you don't understand your Facebook privacy settings, how to programme your PVR or can't see the point in sharing your music playlists, try asking one of Generation Z. These children, born in the 1990s and 2000s, have entered a world where digital technology is ubiquitous, and they speak the language fluently. But what are the implications of this – for children and their parents?
Research in March this year by Ofcom, the UK's communications regulator, found that 61% of parents think their children know more about the internet than they do, while three-quarters of children aged five-to-15 use the internet at home. Nicholas Carr's recent book The Shallows suggests that the internet is rewiring our brains, making us think more superficially at the expense of deep reading and analysis. With such heavy use of internet media already, are children's brains more vulnerable to these pressures, or will Generation Z deal more intuitively with these demands?
"Kids aren't born knowing how to use this stuff," says Ann My Thai, assistant director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center in New York, which was set up to explore how technology can benefit children's education. "We know from studying young adults that multi-tasking is affecting our ability to do tasks efficiently because we are distracted. We need to give them the tools to learn how to navigate and prioritise information, and critical thinking is important because of the volume of information."