Kids today aren't as Internet savvy as the oldsters think, especially when it comes to search terms, according to a new study[PDF]:
It's true that young people prefer interactive systems to passive ones and that they are generally competent with technology, but it's not true that students today are "expert searchers." In fact, the report calls this "a dangerous myth." Knowing how to use Facebook doesn't make one an Internet search god, and the report concludes that a literature review shows no movement (either good or bad) in young people's information skills over the last several decades. Choosing good search terms is a special problem for younger users.
There's always a tendency to fear/hype new technologies and hand them off to the kids too quickly (remember the era of "my 10-year-old son has to program my VCR for me"?) But a non-negligible percentage of those same people who never learned to program their VCRs can now get and send text message on their cell phones from their kids or grandkids. The old folks can be taught, and they're more likely to try to learn if they don't overestimate the special skills their kids possess.
There's also this finding about what the "Google generation" is really like, which text-junkies like me should find reassuring:
They prefer visual information over text. "But text is still important… For library interfaces, there is evidence that multimedia can quickly lose its appeal, providing short-term novelty."
Via Freakonomics blog