Not all young people are up to date with technology

Corona had a huge impact on our lives. Also when it comes to digital devices and apps, the annual Digimeter survey shows. Our use of technology is increasing, but with it our suspicion also increases.

The Flemings have completely embraced the technology. And especially technology in the form of smartphones and apps. Partly because we were addicted to it even more than before during the corona pandemic – just think of the covid-safe app.

But is the increasing use of these technologies really a sign of sustainable change? ‘I think so,’ says Lieven De Marez, research director at imec-mict-UGent. We’ve been staring at a screen longer than ever before, arranging even more via apps and streaming like crazy, all of which is evident from the latest edition of Digimeter.

Looking at the results of this annual survey, there is at first glance not much to complain about the digital use of the Flemings. Almost everyone (99 percent) has access to at least one smart device, most even up to three. It can be a smartphone, though tablets, computers, smart TVs and wearables are also popular.

The latter category in particular is experiencing strong growth, again thanks to the corona – a factor often referred to in the Digimeter report. Not only are there many more wearables, we also use more health apps. Often in combination with each other.

Another corona-related turning point: online services can or should be delivered via apps, according to Flemings, even when it comes to public services. Only 27 percent of Flemings still find a physical counter necessary (minus 5 percent compared to 2020), and the use of the Itsme identification app has exploded. Seventy percent already use it to sign up for online services.

This ‘appification’ has really become a mass phenomenon. For more and more applications, the smartphone is the screen that Flemish people prefer to work on. Paying via a QR code (51 percent), using bank apps (61 percent) and kicking over the phone (22 percent) is correspondingly increasing.

Digital gap

Is the digital divide completely closed? That’s not the case anymore, says De Marez. ‘In this sprint, there are some who are coming back.’ In 19 per cent of households there is a shortage of screens and in 5 per cent the internet connection is insufficient. This is especially true for lower-income households. It is also striking that many more young people went to the library to use a computer. The increase is remarkable, even considering the fact that many libraries were closed in 2020 due to closures.

The results show that there is another digital divide. Young people are not always as skilled at technology as one might expect. †Digital at birth do not want to say yet digital by nature‘ it says. A striking number of young people indicated in the study that they were unfamiliar with certain terms, such as 5G or two-step verification. They even indicated that they avoid technology because they did not know it. They are not necessarily ahead of other generations in terms of technological skills.

The implicit expectation that young people understand technology causes stress. We see this in young people with all backgrounds and educations, says De Marez. “This is a generation that still has a lifetime to survive in a digital economy. This should become a focal point for education.”

A striking number of young people indicated that they were unfamiliar with certain terms, such as 5G or two-step verification

It is all too often assumed that IT is present everywhere in the educations, says De Marez. That would not always be right. “Educators at many schools have struggled with online teaching over the past few years. So you can not assume that all teachers are involved in things like blockchain. ‘

Young people also play a disruptive role. They still juggle four social media apps on a daily basis, but they are much fewer on Facebook – The Digimeter shows a decline of 9 percent in 2020. The big winner? TikTok, an app that sits at the intersection of social media and video services.

“Young people are also more aware of the impact of disinformation,” says De Marez. “They show concern. They read less than they used to, but if they need information, at least they do not search for it on social media or search engines. They are more likely to look at news media apps.”

43 percent of Flemings have a wearable.

Long distance relationships

Also striking in this Digimeter edition: The growth in the number of people who have developed a so-called bar relationship with technology. These people have a good knowledge of technology but still choose to build at a certain distance. The survey shows that a quarter of Flemings identify with this description.

Already in 2020, it was clear that many are having a hard time with technology, and it was no different in 2021. ‘The flamingos seem to be fighting more and more emphatically with a few paradoxes’, notes De Marez. Users generally consider social media and the smartphone to be a good development, but at the same time see pitfalls in them. They fear that they will become too dependent on it, they become suspicious of the information circulating on it, and they worry about their privacy.

‘We have three or four apps for social media and the same number for news. Our screen time increases’

The latter paradox is related to what is called ‘platforming’. Many of the apps and services we use come from the same company or platform. This gives the body broad access to personal information. As a result, some users choose not to participate at all and prefer to forgo all of these apps and services.

In addition to the lat-relationship profile, other types of users emerged from the survey. The researchers place them on a spectrum, with the passionate lovers of technology on the one hand, and the people who have no relationship at all with technology on the other.

‘We have become professional jugglers,’ says De Marez. ‘We have three or four apps for social media and the same number for news. As a result, our screen time increases to just over 3 hours a day. It increases the feeling of addiction. Many people have become a little slower in their enthusiasm for technology over the past year. ‘

Cut the cable

And what about wire cutting, the phenomenon where people leave traditional TV providers for streaming services and video sites where you watch content at your own pace? Streaming services like Netflix and Disney + are undoubtedly popular. 55 percent of Flemings have access to such a service. That’s 5 percent more than in 2020 and 10 percent more than in 2019.

The classic TV subscription continues to have great support: 79 percent still have it. But among the 25- to 34-year-olds, nearly a quarter watch only through a paid streaming service. People over 35 are also increasingly inclined to opt for cord cutting. “In 2021, it even became common in Flanders to sign up for more paid streaming subscriptions,” says De Marez. “Last year, 23 percent had access to more services, an increase of 8 percent from 2020. Netflix still has the vast majority of users.”

Corona has fueled many trends in technology, but one thing has since diminished: the news hollow. The survey shows that fewer – across all age categories – follow the news daily. A positive aspect of this is that there is a certain awareness that wrong information is flowing around. The traditional news media are therefore still widely viewed.

Corona has fueled many trends in technology, but one thing has now diminished: the news hollow

And while online shopping has become very popular since the closures (60 percent do so at least every month), online stores are not just replacing physical stores. It is still attractive to visit a ‘real’ store and some groups find it difficult to shop online.

“In addition to the benefits, Flemish people also became more aware of the limitations of e-commerce. We were all forced to make several online purchases, but those experiences were not always positive. Problems with payments, delayed deliveries and phishing reduced attitudes towards e-commerce, ”the report concludes.

Some striking figures

  • The screen time increases to 188 minutes a day, but the smartphone is seen ‘only’ 72 times a day. It is less than the year before.
  • We spend an average of 75 minutes a day in social apps, a marked increase.
  • 43 percent of Flemings have a wearable.
  • 63 percent have a smart TV.
  • Smart home appliances are growing less fast. The most popular device is a smart speaker, which can be found in 16 percent of Flemings.
  • 35 percent have access to a gaming console, among 16- to 24-year-olds, even two out of three.
  • 85 percent use a chat service or a social media platform daily.
  • 82 percent use a Meta app every day, a decrease of 1 percent.
  • 62 percent of Flemings believe that social media is too time consuming.
  • Nearly one in three Flemings paid for a music service in 2021. Usually it was Spotify.
  • 37 percent played a game on their smartphone every month.
  • 52 percent do their banking via smartphone.

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