Young people are the pillars of a country’s future and the hope of social progress. Observing the changes in the thinking and behavior of a country’s youth groups can help predict the country’s long-term development trends. In September of this year, the Brookings Institution of the United States released an article “China’s “Digital Natives” (China’s “Digital Natives”: How the Post-90s Generation is Transforming the Country). This article expounds the interaction between the popularization of the Internet and the digital transformation and the adolescents born after 1990 in China, and points out that this reflects an important evolutionary process in contemporary Chinese society. In view of China’s current pivotal position in the global economy and regional security, all researchers on China issues should pay attention to this.
The article pointed out that digital transformation has changed almost every aspect of Chinese society, among which the most affected are the young generations born in the 1990s and 00s. The popularity of the Internet, computers and smart phones has accompanied their growth all the way, making them authentic “Internet natives.” Correspondingly, this population of approximately 175 million people has also changed China’s social structure, social space and social connections, and will also reshape China’s future.
As far as the impact on the social structure is concerned, the post-90s and post-00s generations in China are already the most important participants in current social media platforms, as well as the main consumers of various digital devices. For example, Tencent launched WeChat in 2011, and by 2017 it had about 938 million monthly active users, almost 100% of which penetrated into Chinese urban populations between the ages of 20 and 30. At the same time, about 85% of Douyin users are young people under the age of 24. Different from the growth model of traditional Chinese society where young people are usually guided by their parents, the post-90s generation has become “own standard bearer”, not only at the forefront of information revolution, but also leading parents and grandparents to keep pace with the times. They are constantly adjusting their lifestyles, behaviors and concepts to keep up with the rapid changes in the digital world.
At the same time, the dissemination of public opinion information has further expanded to the virtual space. Take the popular webcast of post-90s as an example. As a new media type that integrates various communication methods such as social networks, news reviews, games and sports, movies and TV, and performing arts broadcasts, the total number of viewers of China’s webcast has increased from 2017 343 million in the year rose to 562 million in 2020. 78% of webcasters and over 80% of viewers are from the post-90s age group. Webcasting, with its unique expression and interaction, low threshold and no hierarchy, as well as spontaneity and randomness, has made post-90s a force to promote social change. To a certain extent, the center of young people’s life and social interaction has shifted from traditional public spaces such as squares and parks to smaller private spaces, and in many cases virtual spaces.
In terms of social connections, the Internet not only shortens the distance between people, but also has a profound impact on the mode of interpersonal communication and interaction. The social circle of Chinese people has expanded at least 10 times compared with the past. Nowadays, various interest groups and socially disadvantaged groups often use the Internet to voice and expand their influence, and young people often use digital means to influence economic inequality, environmental degradation, food and drug safety, women’s rights, child protection, animal welfare, etc. Support or express support on controversial topics. The aggregation of emotions on the Internet may even trigger certain protests in reality. At the same time, compared with previous generations, the channels for post-90s to gain knowledge and understand the world have become more convenient and faster. In addition to the Internet, they also gain first-hand international experience through travel and study abroad. Before the new crown pandemic, about 34% of international students in the United States came from China. The younger generation of China, both online and offline, are more integrated into the outside world than previous generations.
The article gives us a glimpse into the life of the huge Chinese aborigines and their predecessors. It should be noted that while digital and network technologies enable young people to obtain information more efficiently, they have also reconstructed their study, work, entertainment and consumption, social activities, political participation and other methods through a diversified network virtual space. It can be said that their lives have been embedded in the digital world and are indispensable. Because of this, improving the digital literacy of young people on the premise of protecting the network security of young people and helping these “masters of the future” cultivate key capabilities to adapt to the needs of the digital age has also become an important issue related to China’s future long-term development and international competitiveness.
However, the current situation is far from satisfactory. According to the “Youth Blue Book: Internet Utilization Report by Chinese Minors (2020)” released in September 2020, the Internet penetration rate among Chinese minors has reached 99.2%, and the proportion of people aged 10 and below who have started to access the Internet has also reached 78%. However, most young people have never taken courses related to digital literacy, and more than half of young people do not have the ability to use digital tools to identify the authenticity of online information. If the cultivation of digital literacy is neglected for a long time, the ability of the majority of “Internet natives” to rationally observe, distinguish right from wrong, and resist the erosion of bad information in a complex network environment will inevitably tend to weaken, and even become digital mobs and digital fools. At the same time, because contemporary young people are not only users of information technology, but also participants in the future global technological competition, their lack of digital literacy will also limit their comprehensive development for the future.
In view of this, China now urgently needs to mobilize the country, society, schools and families to actively participate in youth digital literacy education, and vigorously cultivate three core literacy: First, digital skills literacy, that is, fully master the skills of using digital products. , Proficient in information acquisition, communication and interaction, and have the ability and quality to use various digital tools to engage in social production; second, digital cognitive literacy, that is, the basic thinking and morality that individuals should have when living, working, and socializing in the digital age , Emotions, values, etc., and form the bottom line of recognition, no matter online or offline, do not do things that are contrary to law and ethics; third, digital citizenship. Specifically, it refers to building an appropriate sense of responsibility in the digital society, protecting privacy and security, balancing rights and obligations, attaching importance to social participation and solving social problems, and upgrading from the “Internet natives” who are familiar with digital technology to being good at using digital capabilities to create a better life Qualified “digital citizens”.
In fact, China pays more attention to the development of a new generation of “Internet natives” than the United States. To improve the digital literacy of this group, in the final analysis, we must adhere to the people-oriented approach, cultivate and maintain the abundant curiosity, compassion, sense of responsibility, critical thinking, and cross-cultural communication skills as digital citizens, so that they can embrace the future with a more calm and open attitude. .