Are You a Digital Immigrant?

The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act turns 50 this year — about the age when many American workers begin to encounter the kinds of biases the law was intended to prevent.

At this “milestone of middle age,” quipped Victoria Lipnic, acting chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the law is grappling with new forms of age discrimination in the Internet era.  Research by EEOC, which received 20,857 claims of age discrimination last year, found that 65 percent of older workers say age is a barrier to getting a job.

In job ads, some employers have begun listing “digital native” as a requirement for the position.  The term, many say, is a “code word” for young workers who have grown up with technology and will be able to use new systems with ease.  This term plays into stereotypes that “digital immigrants” — usually older workers who came of age before the Internet — will be slow to adapt to technology, reluctant to learn and costly to train.  Older workers are sometimes labeled as “technophobic,” said Sara Czaja, director of the Center for Research and Education on Aging and Technology Enhancement.

But contrary to stereotypes, research does not show a correlation between age and work performance.  If tasks are based on speed and accuracy, Czaja conceded that age may play a factor in an employee’s productivity.  A 2010 study of adults aged 65-85 found that the majority of participants had a positive attitude toward using technology.

Source/more: Los Angeles Times

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