Notes from "Grown Up Digital, how the net generation is changing your world," Don Tapscott, McGraw Hill, 2009.

Dwayne Phillips, November 2008


Chapter 1 - The Net Generation Comes of Age

"What makes the Net Gen unique? More than anything else, the Internet and its global reach." p. 23

The Baby Boom became the TV Generation. It watched TV. It consumed what other people produced.

The Net Generation is a generation of "prosumers" or producer-consumers. It creates content or information and puts it on the Internet.

Four Generations from 1946 to Present p. 16

Technology is "technology only for people who are born before it was invented." Alan Kay, p. 19.

New Media (like Web 2.0) gives control to all users. Old media (TV and newspapers) had control in the hands of a few at the top. For the first time ever, young people have taken control of critical elements of a communications revolution.

On the Net, children have had to search for...information...develop thinking and investigative skills...They must become critics. Which web sites are good? p. 21

The "Generation Lap" kids are outpacing and overtaking adults on the technology track, '"lapping" them in many areas of daily life. p. 28

"So for the first time there are things that parents want to be able to know about and do, where the kids are, in fact, the authority." p.28

"This generation has been flooded with information, and learning to access, sort, categorize, and remember it all has enhanced their intelligence." p. 30

"Many Net Geners were raised in kind and supportive families, where kids and parents got along well." p. 31

"Family is a big deal for today's youth - much more so than for their boomer parents." p. 31

"Net Geners display considerable tolerance compared with previous generations." p. 32

"The ease with which young people of different races and ethnicities mingle and marry also differentiates Net Gen from earlier generations." p. 33

The Eight Net Generation Norms pp. 34-36

Some conclusions of mine:

  1. The Net Generation is less likely to accept what someone else tells them as "the truth" or "the answer." They want to participate in creating "the answer."
  2. The Net Gen is large, far too large to ignore in any sense.
  3. The Net Gen wants to create the answers and the content and does not look to older people for the answers.
  4. The Net Gen is smart. They can find, analyze, and combine more information on any subject in less time than prior generations could.
  5. Relationships, close continuing relationships, with people are important.
  6. The Net Gen will scrutinize, investigate, and probe a church much more than prior generations. Do not attempt to hide or "spin" anything from the Net Gen. They smell that.
  7. This (the tolerance and inter-racial ease of the Net Gen) may be our biggest challenge. When a Net Gener walks into a white church they immediately feel that something is wrong. This is a not a black-white issue. It is a red-and-yellow-black-and-white (and all shades of brown) issue.

Chapter 2 - Bathed in Bits

"To this generation, the Internet is like the fridge." p. 41

"...the boomers watched TV...we didn't talk back..we were mostly passive..." p. 41

"Multitasking is natural for this generation." p. 42

"Instead, many headed to YouTube, where four- to six-minute highlights were available." p. 42

"The Net Gen isn't content to wait until 6 p.m. for the nightly news...They want it where and when they want it." p. 44

"When they search for information or entertainment, the expect it to turn into a conversation." p. 45

"For Net Gen, the mobile phone is becoming the tool of choice to access the Web...72% of 13- to 17-year-olds in the U.S. had mobile phones." p. 46

"Today's phones are sleek digital Swiss Army Knives." p. 48

" a class example of this new Web of collaboration." p. 53

Social Networks: The Net Gen version of a global community center. MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn . p. 54

People can self-organize on the Internet rather than following the leader...I think I'll create a community of Facebook. p. 56

"Short films will be increasingly popular, watched not only on laptops but by young people on tiny screens. The three-minute movie already dominates YouTube." p. 60

"The Net Gen is opening up to a degree that astounds their parents." p. 65

Some conclusions of mine:

  1. The Net Gen multitasks, but how do we teach at church? Sit down, face the front, look at me, listen to me.
  2. How do you do a sermon? Video it, condense it to three minutes of highlights, and post it on YouTube. Why not give this a try?
  3. We need to turn on the WiFi system during church assembly times. Why would we "black out" people? Are we afraid?
  4. See the quote from p. 45. Church "classes" become Internet discussions. A Twitter fest while in session. We hate it when kids talk in class, but if they are texting in class (1) they are in class, and (2) the texting is a compliment.
  5. We tell people to turn off their cell phones during church service. Instead, let's tell them to make their mobiles silent.
  6. If you were to do a crossword puzzle, what would you have in front of you? A dictionary? How about Wikipedia? And ask a 22-year-old what a Concordance is.
  7. How does self-organizing online affect Church "leadership" and "accepted doctrine?"
  8. Let's make three-minute faith movies and put them on YouTube.
  9. Privacy issues on Facebook and other sites. The Net Gen is putting up all sorts of things. This stems from their game playing. In video games you try something, an experiment. If it doesn't work, you resume play at the previous point in the game. The Net Gen is doing the same daily with their lives. It is one of their experiments. What is the big deal? Christians are supposed to forgive, right? Well, aren't we?

Chapter 3 - The Eight Net Gen Norms

(1) Freedom

"We all want freedom, but this generation has learned to expect it...(they have had) the opportunity to explore the world, find out things, talk to strangers, and question the official story from companies and governments." p. 74

"The search for freedom is transforming education as well. At their fingertips they have access to much of the world's knowledge. Learning for them should take place where and when they want it. So attending a lecture at a specific time and place, given by a mediocre professor in a room where they are passive recipients, seems oddly old-fashioned, if not completely in appropriate." p. 77

(2) Customization

"Net Geners get something and customize it to make it theirs." p. 78. Prior generations had little ability to do so.

(3) Scrutiny

"Net Geners are the new scrutinizers...have the ability to distinguish between fact and fiction...The Net Generation knows to be skeptical whenever they're online." p. 81

"For anyone wanting to reach this age group, the best strategy is candor. They should provide Net Geners with ample product information that is wasy to access. The more they have srutinized a product, the better they feel about purchases, especially ones requiring a large financial or emotional investment." p. 81

"Since companies are naked, they better be buff (in good shape)." p. 81

(4) Integrity

"Net Geners care about integrity - being honest, considerate, transparent, and abiding by their commitments. This is also a generation with profound tolerance." p. 82

"Although Net Geners are quick to condemn, they are also quick to forgive if they see signs that the company is truly sorry for an error." p. 86

(5) Collaboration

"Net Geners are natural collaborators. This is the relationship generation." p. 89

"Net Geners want to work hand in hand with companies to create better goods and services." p. 89

Net Geners are prosumers (producer-consumers).

"Educators should take note. The current model of pedagogy is teacher focused, one-way, one size fits all. It isolates the student in the learning process. Many Net Geners learn more by collaborating - both with their teachers and with each other." p. 91

(6) Entertainment

"...for Net Geners, work should be fun." p. 92

"Having fun while using a product is just as important as the product doing what it is supposed to do." p. 93

(7) Speed

"Having grown up digital, they expect speed...instant response, 24/7..." p. 93

"Working in a typical company can really sap one's energy because things happen so slowly." p. 94

"E-mail is faster than talking, which is why Net Geners often prefer to communicate with people at work via electronic means rather than meeting them..." p. 94

(8) Innovation

"Innovation takes place in real time. Compare my transistor radio that lasted for years with today's mobile devices that improve...every few weeks." p. 95

Some conclusions of mine:

  1. Quote from p. 77 on Freedom and Education. Instead of hiring a preacher and teachers, point the Net Gen to good content that is online. That is a bit strange, but might work. Churches still need staff for face-to-face counseling.
  2. Quote from p. 81. The church should be open with all information possible. Be candid, admit faults and failings (per the quote on tolerance from p. 82).
  3. Church prosumers will create products that are objectionable (to at least one person in the church). Will the church react by eating its own? Will the church be accepting and forgiving?
  4. Note the quotes on Education p. 77 and p. 91. I stronly suggest experiential learning.
  5. Is being a Christian fun? Do we protray it as such?
  6. From p. 94 on the speed and preference for email, the sermon, the Bible class is really slow. How can we deliver them electronically? i.e. faster?

Chapter 4 The Net Generation Brain

Lots of speculation in this chapter about how people think, but little real evidence.

"...people who play a lot of video games can track more objects at one time than people who don't. Second, they are better at monitoring a cluttered world; they can more quickly identify a target briefly presented in a field of clutter. And third, the experienced game players are better at processing a rapid stream of visual information." p. 102

"...what takes place in massively parallel online games is what we call accidental learning...It's learning to opposed to learning about...accidental learning relies on failure. Virtual environments are safe platforms for trial and error. The chance of failure is high, but the cost is low and the lessons learned immediate." p. 103

"The boomers typically go from beginning to end...That's how boomers, who were raised before Web sites learned to absorb information. The Net Gener doesn't operate in this sequential's young person can search for and organize information containing links to other information." p. 104

"Reading not neccessarily any less intellectually challenging than reading a book. It's just different, and it requires different skills." p. 112

"Digital immersion has given the Net Generation the visual skills that make them superior scanners." p. 113

Chapter 5 - The Net Generation as Learners

Nearly half on young people entering college do not finish within six years.

Nearly one third of young people in the U.S. drop out of high school.

"Our nation's school system today has reduced itself to Darwinian principles: Make it if you can, those already advantaged stand first in line, and we will accept widespread failure of basic opportunities as collateral damage." p. 125

"The teachers are no longer the fountain of knowledge; the Internet is." p. 126

"It's not what you know that counts anymore; it's what you can learn." p. 127

"Our model of learning is pre-Gutenberg! We've got a bunch of professors reading from handwritten notes, writing on blackboards, and the students are writing down what they say." p. 128

"This generation of students...Smart but impatient, they like to collaborate and they reject one-way lectures...They want to learn, but they want to learn only what they have to learn, a style that is best for them." p. 130

" learning...the tools on the Net make it a great way to teach kids and  free up the teacher to design the learning experience and converse with the students on an individual and more meaningful basis." p. 133

"Schools should be places to learn, not to teach...It's not what you know that really counts; it's how you navigate in the digital world, and what you do with the information you discover." p. 134

"I am not telling students what to do. I'm helping them to discover." p. 147

Some of my conclusions

Chapter 6 - The Net Generation in the Workforce

In this chapter, think Business=Congregation, Employee=Member

"They want to be loyal employees, as long as they (the NG) have the chance to move and succeed within the organization..." p. 153

"The problem is not technical. Too many businesses are still stuck in the old unproductive hierarchy." p. 154

"But in the next ten years, as baby boomers retire, there won't be enough young people to fill up the management spots recently vacated." p. 155

"The labor shortage is particularly acute in the science and engineering sectors." p. 156

"The NG is the foundation for the next three decades of employment and leadership." p. 157

"This means that in the War for Talent, companies have a simple choice. Adapt to the NG ways of doing things and win their loyalty - and the War for Talent. Or stick to the old ways and lose." p. 159

"They also want to be judged on performance, not face time." p. 160

"This generation can find out quickly online who's paying what around the globe." p. 161

"As one CEO I know discovered, you can't keep secrets anymore." p. 161

"Count on them to check up on the company culture and any complaints that have surfaced on the '' Web site." p. 161

"Transparency drops collaboration costs and improves trust between employees and managment." p. 162

"NG define integrity as being honest, considerate, and transparent." p. 162

"The dream job, she says, (a NG) is something like this: a job with a problem or dilemma no one knows how to solve and lots of great people to work with." p. 162

"For Net Geners, work and fun are both rolled into's just not fun to work here." p. 163

"Then they banned the Internet; employers were apparently worried  that employees would look at pron on the company premises or that they would be wasting their time." p. 163

"They (NG) quickly become frustrated if they have to wait for managers..." p. 166

"Net Geners also like continual performance feedback from management..." p. 167

"It just takes too long for things to happen around here. It's obvious what needs to be done in so many situations." p. 167

"The Net Generation can't deliver on their own. They need older employees to work with them." p.169

NOTE - older employees to work WITH them, not ABOVE them.

"Yet traditional advertising to attract young people is a complete waste of time and money. It would be better to take all that money that is being spent in this way and use it to build a big fire to attract attention. The companies that understand the Net Generation generate online excitement by creating engaging and informative Web sites and communities using tools such as blogs and podcasts, and creating attractive multimedia material for distribution on sites such as YouTube and Facebook." pp. 173-174

"Savvy orgnanizations will position themselves as an attractive Net Gen employer by providing authentic, uncesored blogs by Net Gen employees..." p. 174

..."engagement is the mystery ingredient required to free the power of human capital and transform performance." p. 177

"The Net Geners we hire have enormous knowledge, unprecendented information, and facility with tools that in some areas is superior to their seniors.  So the job of management is more to create the context whereby they can be successful, rather than to supervise them." p. 178

"By keeping him in our alumnni network, we get the opportunity to tap into his new skills as they develop." p. 181

Some of my conclusions

Chapter 7 - The Net Generation as Consumers

In this chapter, replace stores and businesses with congregations.

"...they (Net Gen) spend a lot of time online, researching products they buy in stores." p. 186

"And they (Net Gen) won't tolerate a lecture...a two-way conversation..." p. 187

"Freedom: give me the choice and the more the better" p. 188

"Customization: make it my own" p. 189

"Scrutiny: I will check it out before I go to the store" p. 189

"Integrity: does this company deserve my money?" p. 189 "It is increasingly important for companies to act with integrity - and fulfill expectations that they will operate honestly and forthrightly, will honor their committments, and will hold themselves accountable when they make mistakes." p. 190

"Collaboration: let me help you make your product or service better" p. 190

"Entertainment: make it fun" p. 191

"Speed: serve me nopw" p. 191

"Innovation: give me the latest" p. 192

"I call these communication networks and the relationships they foster 'N-Fluence networks.'" p. 193

"Friends are more important than movie reviewers" p. 195

"'Best Friends' is the small group of people the user knows well..." p. 197

"A social network could be a group of 100 or so traditional acquaintances plus the much larger techonology-enabled extended network..." p. 198

"...the influence of the 'expert' professional analysts is on the decline...displaced by emerging influencers such as blogs...The role of social networking in the decentralization of authority...throughout society cannot be overstated." p. 199

"It's no accident that some of the most successful adertising campaigns targeting young people are placing their content on...YouTube and...FaceBook." p. 201

"...61% of consumers today say that not treat them with respect." p. 202

"Does the content survive a one-to-one interaction with a person you know? Is this is the way you'd treat a friend?" p. 202

"...they (Net Gen) believe messages from friends because they are real. It's this authenticity...Naive attempts to turn youth into corporate mouthpieces tend to backfire...71% will tolerate corporate mistakes (if corrected honestly and quickly)...77% say that untrue advertising would convince them to tell friends not to buy a product." p. 202

"The strongest (Net Gener) norm is INTEGRITY...honest...considerate...commitments...transparent..." p. 203

"Only one-quarter of online retailers offer space for peer ratings and reviews on their sites...they are missing a big opportunity." p. 204

"But controversy is different than deception." p. 205

"To go viral, messages need to spark conversation..." p. 206

"...companies must realize that they can no longer tightly control their marketing messages, and that they are increasingly at the mercy of their 'stakeholder webs' - groups of individuals who scrutinize a firm's behavior and try to change it." p. 207

"...companies in just about every industry can turn their consumers into producers - that is 'prosumers.'" p. 208

"Young people may not have money, but they have time." p. 210

"...the need to conquer their uneasy sense of being too alone." p. 211

"Net Geners want most products and services to incorporate fun." p. 212

"...Integrity...Honesty, consideration, accountability, and transparency are the foundation of trust for this generation. Be authentic in everything you do." p. 217

Some of my conclusions

Chapter 8 The Net Generation and the Family

"For boomers, indoors you were controlled, outdoors you were free." p. 221

"For Net Geners, freedom outdoors was canceled...They (the boomer parents) were afraid....Many of the fears that drove these changes were irrational..." p. 222

"Home (for the Net Gener) became like work...The culture of parenting is at one level a modified work culture...a relentless to-do list." p. 223

"There was one place where kids could be free to play inside the home - the home computer." p. 223

The family shifted from a hierarchy to a democracy of sorts with the child at the center.

"In the 1960s, 40% of teens said they would be better off without their parents." p. 226

"Net Geners see their parents as a vital source of happiness and security...Two out of three teens and college-aged young adults say they would first call their parents if they were in trouble." p. 226

"Helicopter parents are hovering." p. 227

"Nearly 10% of employers report that parents help their children negotiate salary and benefits..." p. 228

"My bottom line on this issue is: if you don't like pornography, talk to your kids about it." p. 236

"As a result, we insisted that the kids join us every night at the table for a family supper...Dinner table discussions are an incredibly valuable medium for collaboration in problem-solving and future planning." p. 237

"...the family dinner is making a comeback now that Net Geners are becoming parents." p. 237

"This generation (the Net Gener) is committed to nurturing connections within the family." p. 238

Some of my conclusions

Chapter 9 The Net Generation and Democracy

This chapter is pretty weak. The exhortation is for politicians to involve net-citizens to stay involved all the time, not just during elections.
The basic message remains the same - do not broadcast to the Net Geners, engage them in a conversation.
"They're (Net Geners) likely to lean harder to the Democratic side than the Gen X that proceeded them." p. 249
"...but only Obama repaid the favor by signing up to follow your messages. It's a small thing...but it's an important gesture that shows [Obama] understands the grammar of social media. Clinton a broadcast..." p. 252
"This 'we vote, they rule' system of representative democracy made sense when it was devised centuries ago." p. 259
"Don't  broadcast to Net Geners. Think interaction." p. 268

"Don't have 'Web sites'; create communities..." p. 268

Some of my conclusions

Chapter 10 Making the World A Better Place at Ground Level

"...not only is this a generation that cares about social problems, they are the first to grow up with a powerful tool that can be used to make a far more substantial difference...a tool of unprecedented power to inform, engage, and mobilize..." p. 270

"This is an incredibly optimistic generation that has the belief they can do something that's bigger than just themselves." p. 276

"None of them is organizing demonstrations, but they all contribute. It sounds hokey, but they're good citizens...They are all good daughters who spend infinitely more time with their parents than I did." p. 279

"Today's top activists give Net Gen volunteers a choice." p. 285

"Scrutiny: Young people are watching companies' behavior." p. 285

"We are people who do not like to watch the news. We know how full of crap it is. Having grown up on marketing and advertising, we've been trained to small the rat." p. 285

"Speed: They (activists) are aware that their audience want to know what they can do, specifically, right now...from just passing on a message to donating money..." p. 186

Some of my conclusions

Chapter 11 In Defense of the Future

This is a summary chapter than covers no new ground.


1. Put a reviews section on the local church's web site. You edit it only to delete spam and personal attacks. Everything else stays. "Negative" conversation is much better than no conversation.

2. Put condensed sermons and lessons in a format on YouTube and on the local church web site.