From education to employment

2.1 million young people are at risk of becoming digitally excluded in the UK

Eleanor Bradley, MD Registry and Public Benefit at Nominet

Today (14 Dec) Nominet, the guardian of .UK, reports the findings of its inaugural Nominet Digital Youth Index, a free tool that will be published annually, to help policy makers and organisations that support young people dig deeper into what it feels like to be a young person growing up in a digital world.   

Surveying 2,000 8 -25 year olds, this initial research explores young people’s digital access and inclusion, their digital skills, how safe they feel online and their related physical and mental wellbeing, setting a benchmark to measure how these things change over time. 

The research, which also involved discussions with parents, secondary school teachers, youth workers and social workers, highlights some alarming figures about the current impact of technology and the internet on young people across five key areas – access, connectivity, digital skills, online safety and digital wellbeing

1. Digital Access  

  • ·       2.1 million young people are at risk of becoming digitally excluded 
  • ·       15% of young people who have a smartphone have no access to a laptop or desktop 

2. Digital Wellbeing 

  • ·       A third of 17-19 year-olds (32%) say the internet has a negative impact on their mental health and nearly half of young people (44%) say they feel isolated     

3. Digital Connectivity   

  • ·       A third of young people (32%) do not have access to home broadband  
  • ·       Around 16% of over 18s don’t have access to a laptop or desktop computer and nearly half rely on other ways to connect to the internet instead of home broadband  

4. Digital Skills and Careers   

  • ·       Almost half of young people (48%) are teaching themselves digital skills, equivalent to 6.9 million young people across the UK 
  • ·       Technology-related jobs are more appealing to younger children, young men and those with higher income levels  

5. Digital Safety and Digital   

  • ·       Most young people (94%) feel safe online, but parents and professionals working with young people are worried for their safety  
  • ·       Nearly 3 in 5 (58%) of young people in the LGBTQ+ community have experienced hate speech online  

The Nominet Digital Youth Index is where policy makers, researchers, service designers and beyond are invited to explore the interactive data tool and pull-out current analysis based on specific areas of interest – for example, comparing answers by age, gender or geographic location. 

Eleanor Bradley, MD Registry and Public Benefit at Nominet said: 

“There has never been a more important time to understand the impact of digital on young people’s lives, after an unprecedented 18 months that have impacted their wellbeing, education, skills, careers, opportunities, and experiences of harms. But organisations supporting young people find that it can be hard to make sense of what life is really like for a young person. To determine whether digital inclusion is an urban or rural issue, a gender-based challenge, or driven primarily by household income, or understand the circumstances that lead to online harms amongst different demographics or minority groups, are just some of the issues faced when planning meaningful activity and interventions.”      

“Insights while exploring the nuances around access to the right devices and connectivity across different groups of young people were particularly startling despite a world that has largely been forced to move online. We’re extremely hopeful that the index will prove useful year on year so activity can be tailored and tweaked as necessary to meet specific issues facing young people around all things digital.”   

Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister for Digital, Science & Tech and keynote speaker at the Nominet Digital Youth Index launch said:

“This index is an important tool to enabling a more inclusive future for the web, for the Internet, for social media and the impact it has on our lives. In 2021, we are all digital citizens. Unfortunately, rather than feeling empowered by the potential of technology, too many still see it as an erosion of their rights and wellbeing, or a threat to their safety. The (Nominet) Digital Youth Index provides an excellent insight into how young people are interacting with data and digital. I promise the young people that contributed to it that I will be taking its findings very seriously to develop our policies and to hold this government to account.”  

Vicki Shotbolt, CEO of ParentZone said:

“The Digital Youth Index is a really important resource that will be useful for organisations and policy makers surfacing youth insights and making sure that their needs and priorities are considered.”  

Chris Ashworth, Head of Social Impact at Nominet said: 

“15 years of dealing with digital social issues is no time at all to build a body of evidence and to have robust models and infrastructure that work universally, but that shouldn’t mean we can’t act now with intelligence and forensic examination to ensure digital inequality, digital harms and digital opportunities are addressed.”  

“The Nominet Digital Youth Index has been built for everyone – it’s an open data set, there to examine, query, explore and export, and could help shape future policy decisions and initiatives leading to happier and healthier lives online both now and in the future. We certainly hope so and will be updating it each year to robustly measure what it feels like to be a young person growing up in a digital world to help inform that response.”  

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