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Digital ‘Visitors’ and ‘Residents’ is a theory proposed by Prensky (2001) that defined users on the web. Prensky suggested that ‘Visitors’ were simply using the internet for specific tasks, whereas ‘Residents’ were predominantly younger web users who used several different online platforms such as social media websites to create an online presence. However, is this theory still relevant in 2017 or are there other factors that categorise web users into ‘Visitors’ and ‘Residents’ rather than just age?

A digital ‘Visitor’ stated by Prensky were mainly older web users that would use the internet for specific tasks such as going online to book a holiday and then instantly going offline once they have got the information they wanted. They lack online presence and do not spend much time at all online or improving their digital literacy – hence the term ‘Visitor’.

‘Residents’ are the other definition on the opposite side of the continuum who grew up with the internet, making it innate for them to spend more time on the web with a much greater understanding of how the internet works. Not only do ‘Residents’ use the internet for accessing information but they additionally use the web to create an online presence where they can socialise with friends, family and specific communities that they are interested in. Essentially, they leave digital footprints behind via social media accounts, posts and comments which visitors do not.

One thing that is vitally important to bare in mind with digital ‘Visitors’ and ‘Residents’ is that it is a continuum, so you do not necessarily belong to either side of the scale and you do not necessarily remain in one position on the scale. You could move up from ‘Visitor’ to ‘Resident’ with the more time spent online. Likewise, you could move downwards on the continuum which would suggest there are more factors that effect an individual’s online presence rather than just age – as you cannot get younger (unfortunately for us all).

Thus, I would argue that although age is an influence, motivation is more so a key factor for your positioning on the continuum (White). If you are to gain interest in a specific field, such as weightlifting, you may find yourself moving towards the Resident side of the scale because you can engage in communities such as, where everybody shares a similar interest on the forum and the more motivated you are, the more likely you are to post, blog and improve your online presence. Similarly, if your motivation decreases, you are a lot less likely to share or engage online so you could alternatively more downwards on the continuum.

Once researching the concept of Visitors and Residents, it would appear that original theories are slightly outdated and it would be more beneficial to look at other explanations other than just age. In my eyes, motivation, combined with status are both huge factors.


White, D. (2014). Visitors and Residents. Available: [Accessed 12th February 2017].

Prensky, M. (2001) Digital natives, Digital immigrants. From On the Horizon, 9 (5). Available from:,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf [Accessed 12th February 2017].