Millennials…Not as Tech Savvy as We Thought

The common notion that millennials are all “digital natives” is a myth, according to research conducted by Eszter Hargittai of Northwestern University.confused student

Hargittai studied students’ Internet use and found that not all are HTML-coding, app-building savants. In fact, some have no idea how to adjust the privacy settings on their social media accounts, which negatively affects their online identities. Hargittai points out “There is more to using digital media than turning it on.”

Her research found that students’ technological expertise is linked to their socioeconomic status and that less privileged students often lack basic knowledge, such as how the Internet functions. Students with one parent having a graduate degree had significantly higher levels of technological savvy; African American, Hispanics, and women reported having fewer Internet-related skills.

The number of years a student had been exposed to computers did not predict using the Internet in varied and informed ways. Instead, laptop ownership, access to a number of Internet locations, and amount of time spent online were the predictors of higher levels of Internet-related activities. White and Asian American males with educated parents had the greatest amount of skill and used the Web in more informed ways for more types of activities than any other group.

Because of the common myth that all college students are technologically savvy by virtue of being born in the technological age, many colleges do not address the issue. However, some schools have started courses to help students build and manage online reputations in response to the research.

Classroom Discussion Questions

  1. How might a lack of technological savvy affect a college student?
  2. What, if anything, should colleges do to ensure that students understand technology and social media and follow professional best practices?
  3. How can students (and instructors) improve their own knowledge of technology?

What are your experiences with students’ tech savvy? Please let us know.


Sources: O’Neil, M. (2014, April 21). Confronting the myth of the ‘digital native.’ Retrieved from

Hargittai, E. (2010, February). Digital Na(t)ives? Variation in internet skills and uses among members of the ‘net generation.’ Sociological Inquiry, (80)1, 92-113.


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