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Feature Article


Have you heard of the Net Generation?

Mary Gosche, Human Development Specialist, University of Missouri Extension


Move over, baby boomers — the Net Generation is now the largest segment of the U.S. population. The Net Generation is young people between the ages of 11 and 31 who were born between 1977 and 1997, according to Don Tapscott, author of the book Grown Up Digital. Other names for this generation include Generation Y or Millennials.


This generation has grown up surrounded by digital media, the microwave oven and technology. They have been the most privileged and child-centered generation, and they can juggle many tasks at once like using their mobile phone, surfing the Web, taking pictures or making a video. The Net Generation also has behavioral characteristics that are different from other generations. They prize freedom and freedom of choice, and they want to customize things and make them their own. This generation enjoys collaboration and they want to have fun, even at work and at school. Speed is the norm and innovation is part of their life.


Between 2006 and 2008, Professor Tapscott and his colleagues interviewed nearly 8,000 Net Geners from around the world. They found that Net Geners are smarter, quicker and more tolerant of diversity than other generations. They care strongly about justice and problems faced by their society, and are involved in some kind of civic activity at school, work or in their communities. This generation is more engaged politically and sees government as a tool for improving the world.


However, Tapscott is concerned that this generation is reckless with their privacy. Many young people share very personal information and pictures on the Internet and social networks. According to antidotal evidence, they are foolishly influencing future employment opportunities by sharing inappropriate information like pictures of partying.


Communication with this generation may need to be adjusted. Many baby boomer parents don’t know what their children are doing online. According to Grown Up Digital, 41 percent of U.S. teens under the age 18 said their parents don’t know what they’re doing online and 38 percent of high school students said they sometimes hide online activities from their parents. Parents need to talk to children and teens about online predators and warn them not to invite strangers into their networks. Teachers need to change teaching styles — lecturing is not going to reach this generation. Individualized instruction and the use of the media will be essential for creating and structuring the learning experience.


Parents can connect with children by asking them for help with technology. Let the child be the teacher and show you how to e-mail, text or use social networks like Facebook.




  • Tapscott, Don. 2008. Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World. New York: McGraw Hill.
  • What’s up with the Net Generation? Work & Family Life newsletter, Vol. 23, no. 6, June 2009


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Last Updated 09/16/2010