Generation Google: True and False

By: Jordan McCollum - January 19, 2008

Kids these days. All crazy with the texting and the AIM and the Facebook and the Google. I just don’t understand them.

Ars Technica reports today about a recent study (PDF) by the British Library and the Joint Information Systems Committee on “Generation Google.” Born after 1993, this famed set of children, the oldest of whom will be fifteen this year, are supposedly legendary hunters and gatherers when it comes to Internet information.

As a member of “Generation Google” might IM: “w/e.” (Actually, I sincerely doubt that people reputed to be so hip to the Internet would type such a thing.) As it turns out, these kids aren’t any more adept at Googling than the average bear Internet user. Many urban legends about this group were disproven in the report. The findings (rated by the researchers as * low, ** medium and *** high confidence):

True or mostly true

  • They are more competent with technology**
  • They have very high expectations of ICTs**
  • They prefer interactive systems and are turning away from being passive consumers of information**
  • They prefer visual information over text*
  • They are the `cut-and-paste’ generation** “There is a lot of anecdotal evidence and plagiarism is a serious issue.”


  • They have shifted decisively to digital forms of communication: texting rather than talking*
  • They multitask in all areas of their lives*
  • They are used to being entertained and now expect this of their formal learning experience at university*
  • They need to feel constantly connected to the web* “We do not believe that this is a specific Google generation trait. Recent research by Ofcom21 shows that the over-65s spend four hours a week longer online than 18-24s. We suspect that factors specific to the individual, personality and background, are much more significant than generation.”
  • They think everything is on the web (and it’s all free)*
  • They do not respect intellectual property**

False or mostly false

  • They have zero tolerance for delay and their information needs must be fulfilled immediately* “We feel that this is a truism of our time and there is no hard evidence to suggest that young people are more impatient in this regard.”
  • They find their peers more credible as information sources than authority figures** “Research in the specific context of the information resources that children prefer and value in a secondary school setting shows that teachers, relatives and textbooks are consistently valued above the internet.”
  • They pick up computer skills by trial-and-error** “A complete myth.” Apparently, the do read the manual.
  • They prefer quick information in the form of easily digested chunks, rather than full text*** “Power browsing and viewing appear to be the norm for all.”
  • They are expert searchers*** “This is a dangerous myth. Digital literacies and information literacies do not go hand in hand. A careful look at the literature over the past 25 years finds no improvement (or deterioration) in young people’s information skills.”
  • They are format agnostic* “We suspect that this is no longer a meaningful issue: content is no longer format dependent in cyberspace.”

I gotta say that I’m not particularly surprised that kids today are, well, still kids when it comes to information skills. I already knew what to do when I heard many of these myths: roll my eyes and sneer “Whatever.”


Jordan McCollum

About the Author

Jordan McCollumJordan McCollum is a staff writer for the popular marketing blog Marketing Pilgrim. She has worked in search engine optimization with clients including 3M, Little Giant Ladders and ADP. After graduating from Brigham Young University, Jordan joined the SEO copywriting team at the Internet marketing firm 10x Marketing. After 10x closed its doors in December 2006, Jordan became a freelance writer and Internet marketing consultant specializing in SEO. She also has extensive experience with web analytics, conversion rate enhancement and e-mail marketing.

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