Have you ever felt that the people younger than you were more tech savvy than you? If you have, then you are right, according to research published by Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, in its annual Communications Market Report.
Ofcom tested 2,000 adults and 800 children from all over the UK to measure their Digital Quotient (DQ), a new rating system that attempts to assess a person’s awareness and self-confidence around high tech consumer gadgets their knowledge of high-speed Internet, mobile technology and apps.
The tests revealed that the most tech savvy people in the UK were 14 and 15 year-olds, who scored an average DQ of 113. After that it’s a steady drop in DQ as we get older. At 45 to 49 years-old the average DQ was 96, two less that the DQ of 6 to 7 year-olds who presented an average rating of 98.
Having grown up in the digital age, children and teenagers are not only among the most digitally-savvy but they are already making choices about the way they communicate among themselves that is radically different from previous generations.
Not too long ago, teenagers were notorious for spending their evenings on the phone engrossed in conversations that could go on for hours. But Ofcom has found that phone calls now only consume 3% of the time children between 12 to 15 years-old spend communicating through devices. Young adults spend 9% of their device time on phone calls and adults spend 20% of their time on the phone.
Email is also losing its popularity with children spending just 2% of their device time on email compared to 33% for adults.
Among today’s youth, more than 90% of their device time is spent socialising through written messages, whether it’s chatting on social networks like Facebook, or sending instant messages through services like WhatsApp, or even via SMS. And even this is not the most profound change in communication.
The Ofcom study found that 10% of children’s device time is spent sending video and photo messages, sharing or commenting on photos, and circulating short videos over services like Snapchat, Instagram or Vine. Contrast this to 47% of adults who reported that they had never even heard of Snapchat.
Not only do young people communicate differently, they are also making different choices about how they receive information. Adults in the UK spend 70% of their viewing time consuming live TV but among 12 to 15 year-olds this figure falls to 50%. These children spend 20% of their viewing time consuming online video content from YouTube, Facebook and other social media, and the rest viewing DVD, recorded TV programmes, or streamed content from Netflix of iTunes. And they almost never look at traditional channels like live radio and print media.
Industry forecasters in the UK now consider the preferences of teenagers a better indication of the future than those of trend setting young adults.
The Ofcom Communications Market Report clearly shows that the ubiquitous connectivity and penetration of mobile devices across age groups is transforming how the UK communicates and consumes media. How precisely their findings map to Malaysia may be debated, however I believe that the wider trends discussed in the report are a global phenomenon.
Throughout our history communication has been an agent of transformation. In their times the postal service, radio, telephone, and television have changed the conversations we have and the information we share. The transformation brought about by the Internet is ongoing and in a few decades the decision makers in society and industry will be people who have never known a time without the Internet. I’m looking forward to seeing the world they will build.
If you’re curious to find out what your DQ is, here’s a simplified version of Ofcom’s DQ test. Tell us your score in the comments. I got 122.