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'Google Generation' myths

The Web is changing the way everyone finds information, not just kids.

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Is the Google Generation – children born after 1993 – different from the rest of us? Do they reach for a computer mouse while still in the crib, showing an instinctive ability to navigate the Internet and find quick answers? Actually, young information seekers aren't as different from adults as you might think.

A study of English-speaking youngsters in advanced Western nations released last month debunks some myths about youths and technology.

Is the Google Generation, for example, really more competent operating high-tech gizmos than adults? While that's "generally true," it's also true that "older users are catching up fast," says the study, commissioned by the British Library. "The majority of young people tend to use much simpler applications... than many imagine," it concludes.

Do youngsters "multitask" – doing two, three, or more things at once? "There is no hard evidence," the study says. Do they prefer visual information over text? "A qualified yes, but text is still important," the study says. Do youths have zero tolerance for delay and expect their information needs to be fulfilled immediately? "No," says the study, "there is no hard evidence to suggest that young people are more impatient in this regard."

While in a social context youngsters may value the opinions of their peers more than of adults, that apparently isn't true regarding their academic lives. "[W]e think this is a myth," the study says. "[T]eachers, relatives, and textbooks are consistently valued above the internet."

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