Youth at Forefront of Global Internet Use

Posted March 7th, 2014 at 2:00 pm (UTC+0)
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If you are under 30, you are probably one of the young people leading the global charge in Internet and mobile technology.

Young people are “particularly likely to use the Internet. They are particularly likely to engage in social networking,” said Richard Wike, Director of Pew Research Center’s Global Attitude Research.

“They are particularly likely to own cell phones and to own smartphones,” he said. “So it is young people and in particular, you know, those under age 30 who are … showing real interest in these types of technologies and embracing them and using them in their own lives.”

A recent Pew Research survey of 24 emerging and developing countries reveals a “universal finding” that “young people just seem more open to using these types of devices.” said Wikes. They are the ones that “start learning about technology, and they are the ones on the cutting edge of incorporating them in different ways in their own lives,” he added.

Young people typically like to explore, take risks, and figure out how they fit into the broader world around them, said Microsoft Research‘s Principal Researcher, Danah Boyd, a Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center and a Research Assistant Professor at New York University.

“A lot of technology has been adopted by young people because they see this possibility of connecting,” she said. “It fits into their dynamics of sociality. It fits into their desires to hang out, to connect with other people. That’s why they want to use it.”

Young people, says Boyd, “look at technology more with an eye of all that they have to gain, whereas a lot of adults start thinking about all that they have to lose.”

Nevertheless, a lot of parents see in the Internet a learning potential for their kids.

“A lot of adults are giving young people access in order to hopefully make them part of a global world, part of a technology ecosystem, part of a future,” Boyd said. “And I think that this is where it becomes a strange dynamic because adults don’t recognize how their lives can be truly transformed by these same technologies as well.”

Technology 25

People use the Internet and their mobile devices in different ways. But the survey shows that most people use the Internet to access social media websites, connect with family and friends, and share views on various topics. When using mobile phones or smartphones, they favor texting. In 22 out of 24 countries, the survey found that most cell phone owners send text message or take pictures or videos with their phones. At least half of them in 15 countries use their devices for text messaging, photo or video capture.

Young people focus more on social media. Wike says this age group accesses social media sites “for things like staying in touch with the family and friends, posting their views about politics or religion or other topics … Young people really are at the leading edge of these types of changes.”

This age group also leads others in Internet access. The survey found double-digit age gaps between those under 30 and those 50 and older in every country polled. In 19 countries, the gap was more than 30 percent. Those who are online account for at least half of 18-29 year-olds in 14 out of 24 nations surveyed. Most people in the 24 countries polled are still offline

A significant age gap also appears in every country polled on mobile and smartphone ownership. For example, 69 percent of 18-29 year-olds In China have a smartphone, so do 62 percent in Lebanon, 55 percent in Chile, 53 percent in Jordan and 50 in Argentina. Overall, people under 30 are more likely to own an iPhone, Blackberry, or an Android device.

And the more educated people are, the more likely they are to use different types of technology, be it Internet, cell phones or smartphones.

“Using these types of technologies is correlated with education,” Wike said. “The correlation is certainly not as strong as age. But people with a college education, for example, are more likely to use these types of things.”

In 10 nations polled, people with college degrees were more likely to own smartphones than those who have not graduated from college. This is especially true in the Middle East, where, in Egypt for example, 72 percent of college graduates have smartphones, compared with 13 percent of Egyptians without a college degree.

In China, 83 percent of college graduates said they owned a smartphone. Only 37 percent of those without a college degree said the same.

So if you’re young, educated – and no, you don’t have to be handsome for this – then you’re more likely to be on the cutting edge of technology use.

That’s the real power of the Internet, says Boyd – allowing people around the globe to connect with one another. And to be able to interact with someone in another part of the world across language and culture barriers, is “phenomenal,” she said.

“There’s all this potential that is really untapped of how we use these technologies to truly and meaningfully connect with others, and if we embrace that, the sky’s the limit in terms of what we can achieve,” she said.

VOA’s Diana Logreira contributed to this report.

Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

One Response to “Youth at Forefront of Global Internet Use”

  1. Tom says:

    Is this article for real?

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Whether you are in a big city or a small village – technology is in your hands, your pocket, your car, your home. It is everywhere. And everywhere, it is becoming us.

Techtonics looks at how technology intersects people’s lives, how it empowers them or traps them in a world increasingly obsessed with technological wonders even as privacy slips through its fingers. It aims to inform, discuss, and hopefully inspire.

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