The term “digital generation” refers to the entirety of all people in the age group whose birth is in the period of an already advanced stage of the proliferation of digital technologies and who have experienced the “digital world” as the formative environment since their childhood and youth. This age group has experienced digital technologies from the beginning of their lives as a natural part of their environment and has therefore learned how to use them from an early age.
The term is used in particular in the context of the peak phase of digital change, in which the transition from the industrial age to the digital information age is taking place, in order to create a distinction between people who have lived in a world shaped by digital technologies since their birth, on the one hand, and people who were born before it, on the other. The latter is sometimes referred to as the “predigital generation”.
Digital change is taking place in a sequence of development and dissemination of ever new digital technologies. This process takes a longer period of time in which different stages of digitization can be distinguished. There is no consensus as to at which of these stages it is appropriate to speak of the “digital generation”.
Sometimes several “digital generations” have been differentiated and can be distinguished by adding ordinal numbers to the term. Thus a “first digital generation”, “second digital generation” and so on are being described. People born before the onset of digitization are classified as “predigital generation”.
The temporal localization of the “digital generation” can only be defined in a convincing way on the basis of the state of development of digital change in the respective living environment. For example, the availability or use of certain technologies in a country could serve as a guide. It must be borne in mind that key technologies must be widely spread in the private sphere if children are to be expected to come into contact with the technologies from birth. Key digital technologies could be personal computers or smartphones.