Digital immigrant vs digital native: web filtering at work

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Sam Sethi at Techcruch UK has written an interesting post that focuses on trust versus control of employees’ access to the Internet at work.

Anne Kirah, Microsoft Senior Design Anthropologist (at the recent Tech.Ed. in Sydney) described two types of people – digital immigrants who were not born in the digital age and to a greater or lesser extent have learnt to use the technology, and digital natives who were born into this sea of technology and see it is a natural part of life.

In her address she said:

”In the old world we measured productivity by just sitting your butt down 9 to 5. We were coming to work 9 to 5, what else would you do at work except work? And I’m still of that mindset myself because I am of the older generation. I find it very difficult when I’m bombarded by instant messages, I find that I just fracture, but that’s just me. But what often happens is that we translate our own experiences and say ‘well, I can’t do it so nobody else can do it. If they’re doing it, it must mean they’re not focused.”

Sethi gives examples of companies that have given some freedom to use the Net at work – replacing ‘tea breaks’ with ‘e-breaks’ for example – whilst others have simply clamped down on nearly all access to the Net, often leading to frustrated and demotivated workers.

Generally I’ve either worked in places where there were few restrictions, or else there was no Internet access at all – usually for security reasons. However, I’ve usually worked in more technical roles (it’s near impossible to be a web designer working on client sites without Net access!)

  • How much should companies trust their employees to work honestly whilst still having the freedom to use the Internet during work hours?
  • Do employees underestimate how much they actually use the Net at work (a recent survey I read suggests so)?
  • Does blocking all or part of the Net do more harm than good?
  • What do you make of these two types of digital people: immigrants vs natives?

What’s the Internet policy like where you work? Share you views on this issue in the comments below.

(Via TechCrunch UK)

Andy Merrett