Nominet has recently published this year’s Digital Youth Index Report in partnership with Opinium, which explores young people’s experiences online.
From personal wellbeing and online safety to digital skills, connectivity and accessibility, this new report by Nominet shines a light on the complex and ever-evolving relationship between young people and technology.
Some of the key findings include:
One of the most significant findings from this year’s report is that two million young people across the UK (or 14%) lack access to a learning device – whether that’s a laptop or a desktop computer.
Among the two million who lack access to a learning device, nearly 570,000 also lack access to a home broadband connection. In other words, these young people are doubly disadvantaged, especially when it comes to educational equality and social inclusion.
The report revealed that access to home internet is becoming more of a luxury, with 15% of young people lacking access to broadband at home. Young people who receive free school meals are disproportionately affected at 23%, compared to the overall population.
The cost-of-living crisis has exacerbated data poverty in the UK – with many families being forced to cancel their home internet packages to afford basic provisions like food and energy bills. In our research, 11% of respondents stated having to change or cancel their internet package.
Young people who lack access to the internet at home are also more likely to become socially isolated, at an age where the online world is often the main topic of conversation in social settings. The research supports this notion, revealing that young people are spending an average of four to five hours per day online.
While the majority of young people surveyed (94%) reported that they felt safe online, this year’s report highlighted a concerning upward trend. Young people are increasingly being exposed to upsetting content and experiences online (76%) across fake news, hate speech and sexual content.
Many of the respondents shared that they had seen distressing content on social media – particularly X (Twitter), Reddit and TikTok – and felt that it had a noticeable impact on their personal health and wellbeing. This was especially the case for over 16-year-olds.
Artificial intelligence use cases have grown exponentially in recent years, leading to a surge in popularity, with AI tools like ChatGPT bringing AI technology into the mainstream. According to the research, this feeling is mirrored among young people; 53% of respondents have used an AI chatbot and are curious about how they can use AI tools to improve their lives.
While this marks an exciting development in attitudes towards artificial intelligence, young people also indicated that they had concerns about what AI could mean for the future of work.
Despite the challenges associated with young people’s experiences online, 40% of respondents agreed that social media is a force for good – while only 16% disagreed.
However, this still leaves 44% who are on the fence about the effects of social media. The research revealed that those in marginalised groups – such as LGBTQ+, young people with disabilities, and those with mental health conditions – are much more likely to agree that social media has a negative impact on people like them.