Digital gap continues to grow among Flemish youth

Younger generations are becoming increasingly aware of the (over)supply of digital applications. This is evident from the most recent imec digimeter, which examined media use in Flanders. While the digital divide is becoming ever wider, young people are making remarkable choices.

The 2021 report of the imec digimeter, an independent research project that provides valuable information about Flemish media users to institutions, companies and the general public, indicates that an increasing number of Flemish young people value media literacy and are less likely to use social media platforms. These youngsters impose more rules on themselves and demand more control over their data. 

According to Lieven De Marez, professor of new communication technologies at mict - an imec research group at UGent, young people see technology as something that makes their lives more enjoyable. “On the other hand, they consciously avoid a number of trends - and thus try to define their boundaries.” 

At the same time, the digital gap continues to grow, with the survey indicating that 24 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds are unfamiliar with digital jargon. Setting up a shared work environment in the cloud, 5G, two-factor authentication, ... For one in four young people, these terms sound too technical, even though they are assumed to be known and mastered. Another 17 percent of the Flemish youth say they avoid certain digital applications because they are not familiar with them. 

"As a society, we face an enormous challenge to reduce and eventually close this digital gap as quickly as possible," De Marez says.

Social media platforms are also becoming less attractive. "Facebook no longer seems to match the needs of young people," De Marez explains. "Specifically among 16- to 24-year-olds, we see the monthly use of the social media pltform falling back to 76 percent. Two years ago, Facebook easily passed the 90 per cent mark in that age group." 

While Facebook has lost ground, the popularity of TikTok has risen remarkably, from 11 percent to 62 percent. "TikTok has become a broadcaster, and a major competitor for traditional media companies." Classic tv is also becoming less popular. At the same time, the number of subscriptions to Netflix, Disney+, Streamz and Amazon Prime is increasing.

In a broader perspective, the corona pandemic accelerated the boom of a number of online services. For example, apps for online shopping and banking became more popular, a trend that continued after the pandemic. Authentication apps such as itsme have also become part of our daily lives: 70 per cent of those surveyed said they use it. 

The Imec digimeter is an initiative of Imec, a leading centre for research and innovation in nanoelectronics and digital technology. The 2021 report is based on a survey of 2972 Flemish people aged sixteen or older - representatively categorised by age, gender, education level and province. 



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