If you know any teenagers then you probably think they spend too much of their time with their gadgets rather than with friends or family – and yes, I am aware that statement makes me sound like a grumpy old man! Even teens who use technology less than others, perhaps to the relief of their parents, can demonstrate similar behavioural and communication patterns as those who are always on their smartphones due to the way that technology permeates the culture of their peer group.
I believe we can split the population into three groups. Our teenagers are ‘Digital Natives’, people for whom having instant access to information and communication tools is a given. They will never know a world without the internet. Then there are ‘Digital Migrants’ like myself. We have grown up with the technology – indeed, have helped to shape it – but we still have knowledge of the ‘old ways’. We might use Google Maps whilst driving, but if the technology fails we can still navigate by opening the road atlas we keep stuffed down the back of the driver’s seat. And then there are the ‘Digital Tourists’, people who visit this wonderful digital world but, perhaps, don’t understand or trust it. These are the folks who still write cheques instead of using online banking, who refuse to use the likes of Facebook and Twitter.
The gap between these groups can be startling. We accept that the average teen is going to be more tech-savvy than someone in their eighties, but a 2014 Ofcom survey showed that an average six-year-old child understands more about digital technology than a 45-year-old adult. As that child reaches their teenage years, imagine the discrepancy between them and the now 55-year-old adult.
There is, however, another gap that seems to be developing. We see that our teens are pretty clued-up on the latest gadgets, apps and social media, and therefore assume they must also be wise to the ways of cyber security. Surely they are security conscious and know all about how to protect their online identities and data? I’m not so…