3 in 10 American Adults Struggle to Use the Internet

September 20, 2021

This article is included in these additional categories:

Boomers & Older | Demographics & Audiences | Digital | Household Income | Industries | Technology | Video | Youth & Gen X

Pew Adults with Lower Tech Readiness Sept2021Since the pandemic, many people are turning to the internet to do things such as communicate with family and friends, watch videos, listen to music and work remotely, to name a few. And, for close to 6 in 10 (58% of) US adults, the internet has been essential for them personally during the pandemic. This is per a report from Pew Research Center.

The importance of the internet has grown as the pandemic has stretched into another year. This is especially true for both the youngest and oldest groups of adults. In April 2020, 63% of adults ages 18-29 and 31% of those ages 65 and older said the internet had been essential to them personally during the coronavirus outbreak. A year later, the share of those adults who agree with that statement has increased to 72% and 38%, respectively.

There is, however, a group of individuals who are less likely than average to say that the internet has been essential to them during the pandemic. Given the designation of having “lower tech readiness”, these adults “say they either are not at all or only a little confident using their computers, smartphones or other electronic devices to do things they need to do online, or they usually need someone else to set up or show them how to use a new computer, smartphone or electronic device when they get it.” Only 39% of these adults say the internet has been essential for them during the pandemic.

Lower Tech Readiness Adults

So, who are these individuals with lower tech readiness? First off, a full 30% of adults fall into this category. With the rush to offer digital services and applications, brands should remember that a sizable share of the adult population will have trouble accessing the latest that online tech has to offer.

Considering that older adults have been historically slower than average to adopt technologies like smartphones61% of US adults 65+ currently own a smartphone, compared to 85% of total adults — it’s not surprising that these older adults are more likely to have lower tech readiness. Some 54% of 65-74-year-olds and 68% of those 75 and older have lower tech readiness.

Age isn’t the only factor that increases the likelihood of being less than tech-savvy. Adults with a high school diploma or less (42%) are more likely than those with some college (26%) or at least a college degree (21%) to have lower tech readiness.

Much like with older adults and tech adoption, earlier data from Pew Research shows that lower-income Americans have been slower to adopt technology. This recent survey shows that individuals with a lower income (38%) are more likely to have lower tech readiness than adults with middle (27%) or higher (22%) income.

Digital Interactions Not the Same as In-Person Contact

With friends and families separated during the pandemic, many turned to video calls to keep in touch. Indeed, 8 in 10 (81%) say they have talked to others via video calls since the outbreak of the pandemic in February 2020. But, for those with lower-tech readiness, the share is noticeably lower (69%). In fact, 30% of lower-tech readiness adults say they have never talked with others via video calls during the pandemic, compared to 19% of adults, in general, who say the same.

That said, only 17% of adults agree that digital interactions such as video calls are just as good as in-person contact. The majority of adults (68%) say that while digital interactions are useful, they are not a replacement for in-person contact.

The full report can be found here.

About the Data: Findings are based on an April 2021 survey of 4,623 US adults. The survey is weighted to be representative of the US adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories.

Explore More Articles.

Marketing Charts Logo

Get more charts in your inbox.

Sign up for our free newsletter.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This