A digital immigrant is an individual who was born before the widespread adoption of digital technology. The term digital immigrant may also apply to individuals who were born after the spread of digital technology and who were not exposed to it at an early age. Digital immigrants are the opposite of digital natives, who have been interacting with technology from childhood.
Digital immigrants are believed to be less quick to pick up new technologies than digital natives. This results in the equivalent of a speaking accent when it comes to the way in which they learn and adopt technology. A commonly used example is that a digital immigrant may prefer to print out a document to edit it by hand rather than doing onscreen editing.
The classification of people into digital natives and digital immigrants is controversial. Some digital immigrants surpass digital natives in tech savvy, but there is a belief that early exposure to technology fundamentally changes the way people learn. The actual classification of people into immigrants and natives is tricky as the adoption of digital technology hasn’t been a unified phenomenon worldwide. For North America, most people born prior to 1980 are considered digital immigrants. Those closer to the cutoff are sometimes called digital intermediates, which means they started using digital technology in their early teens and thus are closer to digital natives in terms of their understanding and abilities.