Research

Age Helps Determine Tech Preference, but Gen X Comfortable with Old and New

Technologies such as typewriters, analog cameras and cassette tape players are fading from human awareness. A new report from YouGov, a consumer data firm, examined generational differences regarding technology and found that most Gen Zers — those born in this millennium — wouldn't know how to use a fax machine, rotary phone, floppy disk or beeper. For example, just 17 percent of young people said they were comfortable using a rotary phone; 15 percent said the same about fax machines; and just 7 percent said so about pagers.

Even among Gen Zers, usage of various technologies is quickly disappearing. While 33 percent of respondents aged 15 to 18 have tried out a typewriter, just 16 percent of those aged 8 to 11 said the same. While 40 percent of the older Gen Zers have used an analog or film camera, the share was 18 percent among the younger survey participants. And hands-on usage of cassette tape players shrunk in half, from 36 percent to 18 percent, among the older kids vs. the younger kids.

On the other hand, most members of Generation X — people between 35 and 54 years old — are comfortable both with fading technologies and with newer ones. Whereas 87 percent of Gen Zers 15 years and older said texting was fine by them, 79 percent of Gen Xers said the same. For streaming music and video, 73 percent of Gen Zers expressed comfort compared to 61 percent of Gen Xers. And for tablet usage, pickup was just slightly higher among the younger crowd than the older one (81 percent vs. 77 percent).

Then there's the flashlight. More Gen Zers across all ages said they preferred using a flashlight app than the traditional version of a flashlight: 37 percent vs. 31 percent. In other generations, the older the respondent, the more likely he or she was to prefer an actual flashlight over an app. For Gen X, 52 percent of people said they'd use the traditional kind compared to 17 percent who chose the flashlight app. Among baby boomers, the actual flashlight vote was 64 percent vs. 9 percent who chose the app.

Total sample size for the survey was 587 U.S. children aged 8 to 17 and 2,097 adults. The research was undertaken online between March 30 and April 3, 2018.

An infographic sharing summary data is available on the YouGov website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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