cover image Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives

Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives

John Palfrey, Urs Gasser. Basic Books, $25.95 (375pp) ISBN 978-0-465-00515-4

In this critical but optimistic overview, academics Palfrey (of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society) and Gasser (of the Swiss U. of St. Gallen) share their concern about the legal and social ramifications of the Internet with regard to the generation of ""Digital Natives"" born after 1980. In a wide-ranging examination of ""the future opportunities and challenges associated with the Internet as a social space,"" Palfrey and Gasser find most young people fail to recognize the vulnerability of their information-that internet posts are never really private-and suggest tactful parental and school oversight. They find a more serious problem in the failure of the U.S. to regulate data mining by search engines, which even now have the potential to create cradle-to-grave dossiers on individuals, including online medical and financial records; they compare the U.S. system with Europe's policies, which have put in place much more effective data protection. Parents and educators will benefit from Palfrey and Gasser's discussion of issues like safety, content control and illegal file sharing; with proper attention from them, the authors see a bright future for the Internet that should foster ""global citizens"" with a ""spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship and caring for society at large.""