Whether texting, messaging or gaming, today's teenagers seem to be truly 'digital natives'. Young people have adopted digital technologies into their lives like no other age group. Their use of - and access to - a growing range of mobile technologies and online web facilities such as MSN, MySpace and YouTube appears to justify all the hype.
Society seems in awe of youths' technological aptitude and appetite. Everyone from marketers to politicians to teachers stalks teenagers' online habits, and seizes on the latest craze. This new generation of technological whizkids is heralded as the key to innovation where traditional R&D has floundered. Policy pundits suggest that in the face of social fragmentation, re-forging community may be done by imitating students' use of Facebook. Teachers concede they must take lessons from their pupils in novel ways of accessing knowledge - something which is claimed to have impact at the neurological level. But is flattering and imitating teenage mores becoming a distraction from more ambitious technological innovation based on the aspirations of adults?
On the other hand, when not lauding 'Digital Kids', loathing is fashionable. Many seem ambivalent over whether new technologies are a social benefit or a toxic influence on the young that can't be controlled by adults. Panics abound over the salacious content of sites such as Bebo - whether revealing young people's penchant for binge drinking or irreverent slanders of their teachers. New online bogeymen are cited as putting the young at risk - from groomers to party gatecrashers. Schools and universities blame new technology for a rise in plagiarism. The media highlight malign uses of mobile phones, like 'happy slapping' or text bullying. Is technology a scapegoat for the immature pranks that have always been a feature of growing up? Or does youth immersion in new technologies introduce a real generation gap?- Institute of Ideas
Raj Anand is the technical director of Kwiqq.com, a web 2.0 start-up based in the Sussex Innovation Centre at the University of Sussex.
Shirley Dent is Communications Director for the Institute of Ideas, the Battle of Ideas and development editor of Culture Wars, the reviews website of the Institute of Ideas.
Shirley researched the editorial and bibliographic history of William Blake's works for her PhD, and co-authored a book on the subject with Jason Whittaker, Radical Blake: Afterlife and Influence from 1827. She is writing an essay on the critic and editor Anne Gilchrist for the collection Women Read William Blake: 'Opposition is True Friendship.'
Previously, Dent was assistant editor of the New Humanist magazine, and Head of Communications at the Policy Studies Institute.
Dr. Norman Lewis is the Chief Strategy Officer, Wireless Grids Corporation, USA where he is responsible for business strategy and building key-industry partnerships to bring this technology to market.
Prior to joining WGC, he was the Director of Technology Research for Orange UK, formerly the Home Division of France Telecom, where he focused on the integrated Telco approach to the emerging Web2.0 ecosphere. His research team were subsequently recognised as internet thought-leaders across the world.
Until recently he was an Executive Board member of the MIT Communications Futures Programme - a global research partnership between industry and six laboratories at MIT, Cambridge Mass. He has acted as a consultant to the World Intellectual Property Organisation on issues related to the Digital Divide. He is currently the Chairman of the International Telecommunications Union's TELECOM Forum Programme Committee.
His current focus remains on the subject of digital children and their encounter with innovation in a risk-averse culture. Allied to this he is researching new disruptive business models around Next Generation voice and messaging services.
MT was Founder, Joint CEO and latterly Chairman of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe, now a top five UK advertising agency and part of the Y&R group. In January 2006, MT founded a new social enterprise www.horsesmouth.co.uk, a social networking site for universal online 'mentoring'. A gradate of Glasgow University, MT is an Honorary Member of the Account Planning Group and a Visiting Professor at the University of Glasgow Business School.
She is a Trustee of Timebank and Demos and a Non-Executive Director of WH Smith Plc and Viapost. MT is a recent Chair of the Marketing Group of Great Britain, and a member of The University of The Artsâ€™ Advisory Board. She has also recently been named as Chairman of TH_NK, one of the fastest growing digital agencies in the UK.
Robin Walsh works as a producer of scientific conferences for the pharmaceutical industry. An occasional freelance writer, on topics ranging from binge drinking to Second Life, he was part of the team that organised last year's Battle of Ideas.