A new study about the use of media by college students and young graduates, those known as Generation Z, raises serious concerns about how little they know, how devoid of curiosity they appear to be, and how willing they are to settle for single-sourced information. It purports to have us believe that young people read very little, what they do read they accept unquestionably with little skepticism or doubt, and that when they search online the most superficial results happily suffice.
If they are in fact as under-informed and happy in their apparent ignorance, then the future is truly in play. If they demand so little and are so easily pleased, then it is just-as-likely to be true that they will never demand more from the media they consume or rely on to make key decisions.
The New York Times So-Called ‘Digital Natives’ Not Media Savvy, New Study Shows reports the study by Northwestern University found “that college students have a decided lack of Web savvy, especially when it comes to search engines and the ability to determine the credibility of search results. Apparently, the students favor search engine rankings above all other factors. The only thing that matters is that something is the top search result, not that it’s legit.”
The study reports 25% students willingly accept the first site that appeared in search. Only 10% felt it was necessary to credit the source of their information or the credentials, and apparently none actually sought to verify that information independently. Additionally Google trumps Yahoo and both surpass Wikipedia in trust.
And there is little knowledge of even the most fundamental aspects of web management; again, from the New York Times, ” “Some students even thought that a .org domain name meant a site was inherently trustworthy – they weren’t aware that the .org extension can be freely registered just like .com.”
The Northwestern study concludes with this last graph, “While some have made overarching assumptions about young people’s universal savvy with digital media due to their lifelong exposure to them, as our study suggests, empirical evidence does not necessarily support this position. As our findings show, students are not always turning to the most relevant cues to determine the credibility of online content…”
The need for an informed citizenry, for a connected and discerning electorate, for an educated elite in business and the public sector demands individuals who are in fact trained, schooled and very savvy.
If in fact they are not curious, not inclined to push their knowledge and awareness, then in fact they are the epitome of “Stupid is as stupid does” and Forrest Gump was never so right.