On “The Children of Cyberspace: Old Fogies by Their 20s” by Stone

Stone, B. (2010). “The Children of Cyberspace: Old Fogies by Their 20s.” The New York Times. Retrieved 30. June, 2010.


Stone points out the significant generational difference gaps due to the rapid rate at which technology is developing. Kids born into the world today are growing up in a time when high-tech devices like the Kindle, iPads, iPhones, and Skype are part of daily life. With such technology as a normal part of these kid’s lives, they’re going to participate in and view the world in a much different way than individuals born fifty, twenty, or even ten years ago. Today’s young kids are going to have distinctive expectations of the world.

Researchers are looking into the result of this accelerated technological change, and many theories have been posited. For example, growing up with the iPhone and iPad these kids will probably expect all computers to have touch screens. Dr. Larry Rosen’s ideas about the “i-generation” are referenced in the article, stating that these kids who were born in 90’s and this decade communicate through texting and instant messaging and have a higher multi-tasking capacity – performing seven tasks at a time during their down-time rather than the six performed by 20 year olds, and five performed by 30 year olds. Growing up with technology that provides consistent and instant communication via multiple platforms all on one device will cause these kids to grow up expecting to have instant access any information they need and to anyone they need or want to reach – teachers and employers included.

There are, however, some problems researchers foresee for these kids. Vicky Rideout, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, mentions the concern that these kids may have issues focusing at school and work, being unable to summon the capacity to concentrate on a task when they need to. Rideout also notes the relaxed ideas about privacy these kids hold. Cell phones now have the capacity to register and broadcast geographic location. As these kids are growing up with this software and hardware, such concepts are second nature – location broadcasting tools may become an expected feature of high-tech gadgets for communicating with the world. Sharing the details of life, staying connected with friends and constantly being logged-in is part of these kids’ reality – they’re almost never “off the grid”, there are many implications for the way these kids will grow up interacting with the world and what they expect technology-wise to help them interact in this constantly connected way of life.

On User group:

Today’s technologically skilled children are constantly plugged in. They have access to any bit of information they desire, a multitude of opinions about that information, and the ability to communicate their own opinions and desires all through a couple clicks of a button. As informed and competent individuals they aren’t passive consumers, but very active ones. Active consumers however, can be a great tool for marketers. As these kids spend a substantial portion of their lives online, sharing practically every detail about their lives, marketers have the ability to not only access information about what these kids think is cool and desire to buy, but what they actually purchase. Furthermore, as many of these kids consume via online outlets, or gush on social-networks about the new item they just picked up at the mall, they are sharing their consumption habits with their peers, basically a form of word-of-mouth marketing – once one popular person gets something cool, others will follow as the original person is a trusted opinion leader. These kids aren’t only users of technology and information, but producers too.

As these kids are growing up with access to such hi-tech devices as the iPad, they are learning about the world around them in a whole different way and obtaining a whole different source of background knowledge than older generations. As the article explains, the different background knowledge changes the way these kids interact with the world. They don’t have the same understanding of privacy protection as their parents do, and their habit of Skyping a friend and surfing the net at the same time points to a lack of attention control. These are problems that these kids may suffer from when they are adults, but maybe not. Perhaps such rapid change in technology could potentially create products that simultaneously keep these individuals open, creative, and accessible, while also supporting their privacy and focusing their attention – there’s obviously a developing market for such products.

On Concept:

From this article one can gather many ways products can be designed for this generation of constantly connected kids. The development of a single device that does everything, basically an iPad that also takes pictures, plays and records music, et cetera, and has the ability to share that data with the touch of an icon will be golden to these kids as they grow up. On a deeper level than that however, as there is a fear that these kids will have issues with attention capacity and directing their focus when necessary. To assuage this fear, software products could be developed to integrate such tasks as homework into a multi-tasking style of learning. Developing software and hardware products for homework assignments will not only peak these kids’ interest, but will also potentially challenge them in more creative and resourceful ways than ever imagined

As for paying attention to tasks in a career setting, a company’s corporate culture may need to be redefined for this new generation of employees entering the workforce.  Take Google’s corporate culture for example, they allow for multi-tasking across the board. Google gives “Innovation Time off”; where they set aside 20% of an employee’s work time to allow them to work on any project they wish. This innovation time allows for these individuals to be creative, do what they want to do, let their mind wander, and as a result products like Gmail were developed. Other aspects of Google’s corporate culture are relevant to other companies gearing up for this new generation of employees – having recreation areas, cafeterias, workout rooms and other such amenities will allow for a multi-tasking employee to work while they play – spurring creativity along the way.

As some people will argue that “there’s no such thing as multitasking”. That multitasking doesn’t exist, that doing more than one thing at a time will cause these kids to suffer from underdeveloped attention controls. On the other hand, it’s possible to argue that there are benefits to performing more than one task at a time, and rather than saying these kids aren’t developing proper attention controls, we should look at it as though they are learning different ones. It’s possible this is the case, as they are gaining a lot of their background knowledge about how to do things from their interaction with technology – a different source than their elders. Regardless of this slight tangent, designing software and hardware products, or reworking a company’s corporate culture to work with unfocused ways of doing things, is a way of anticipating these future student’s and employee’s failures. Such product development will prop up these users by allowing them to utilize their disordered habits in positive, creative and innovative ways.

On Interaction:

This article reminds us that times-are-a-changing; kids are interacting with technology in ways that individuals older than them could never have dreamt of. Software and hardware products need to be developed in ways that have little margins of use. The users need to be able to appropriate the product for their own uses; personalization and the ability to be creative are key aspects of a successful product for this user group.  A hardware product that allows a user to multi-task is optimal for this user group – the popularity of products like the iPad, iPhone, and Blackberry demonstrate this. These hardware products do almost everything – connect to the internet, social networking sites, geo-intelligent features, make phone calls, text messages, instant messaging, plays music, videos, and takes pictures. These hardware products also allow for a significant amount of personalization, not just through accessories one can purchase to distinguish the physical object, but one can pick and choose which features and applications to download on to their device to fit their needs and desires for operation – it’s this lack of restrictions for product functions and features, which means possibly creating even smaller hard-drive chips with maximum memory space, that needs to be developed in these all in one devices.