According to a recent HBR article, digital natives are less capable to pick up non-verbal cues in face-to-face communication such as face expressions, body language and tones of voice.
Marc Prensky, who coined the term digital native in 2001, defines digital natives as members of the generation that were born in the digital age and were surrounded by computers, the internet, digital media, cell phones and video games. The main characteristics of digital natives, as opposed to digital immigrants (e.g. people who had to learn new technologies later in life), are the constant usage of the internet, instant messaging, digital music and electronic libraries and little patience for lectures and traditional classroom instructions.
The book “Educating the Net Generation” suggests that digital natives feel very comfortable with technology. In fact often times they do not consider the Internet or Instant Messenger as technologies but see them as tools; at the same time they see only the latest applications as technology. They are able to understand visual information better than textual one and prefer hyperlinks to linear text. Prensky believes that digital natives think and process information fundamentally differently from previous generation: digital technology influences the digital natives’ ability to parallel process and multitask.
In spite of these advantages , the HBR article states that digital natives lack interpersonal skills and may not be able to perform as good as digital immigrants in jobs that require face to face interaction such as consulting, financial advising, and diplomacy.
As educators we may emphasize the importance of interpersonal communication skills and encourage more interaction in our classrooms. The coordinated effort across all disciplines may inspire digital natives to be more interested in face to face communication and better prepare them for jobs that require social contact.