Digital Natives, Digital ImmigrantsPosted on

A phrase first coined in 2001 by the academic Marc Prensky – the comparison between digital natives (those of the generation that were born into the technological age) and digital immigrants (those who were not) helps us to understand the need for education and coaching of young people coming up from academies, development schemes and any other form of training.

Digital natives take technology for granted. Whether it be laying bare private information on social media, broadcasting messages across blackberry pin or disregarding the reputational footprint they leave on Google with each online action.

Youngsters can join Facebook from the age of 13 and there is no age limit on Twitter. When an up and coming sportsman or woman joins a club or institution he/she will already have left an imprint online. Not all of it strictly safe or acceptable.

In delivering sessions to youngsters aged from 13 to 21 some of the findings and statistics have been worrying. Information made publicly available has included mobile phone numbers, email addresses, Blackberry Pins, full home address, inappropriate photographs, details of current location, comments of an obscene or sexual nature. The list goes on. There is a tendency towards teenagers seeking more and more friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter or connections on BBM. The “shoutout” is a typical message sent by friends seeking to get more friends/followers. This desire for perceived popularity, particularly where the individual is an aspiring sportsman or woman, is a worrying trend. Opening the floodgates to your private life at a very early age is not an ideal start. If he or she succeeds in his/her ambition to become a household name in sport then he/she will quickly realise that privacy is an extremely valuable commodity worth protecting and that the only “friends” worth having are those who have your best interests at heart. Such friends are never virtual.

According to online research the average amount of friends on Facebook for an ordinary teenager is 201. However, on the last review done by Himsworths the average amount of friends for a Premier League football Academy player was 1,121 (945 for a Premiership Rugby Union Academy player). Though those numbers are dramatically coming down, and some players are coming off Facebook after education and coaching, the statistics are stark. Those that are not addressing the issue are giving more than 900 additional virtual “friends” private information and photographs which could come back to haunt them.


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