By Tracey Dowdy
A recent Pew Research Center survey found that Americans’ understanding of technology-related issues “varies greatly depending on the topic, term or concept.”
The survey consisted of ten questions designed to test Americans’ knowledge across a broad range of digital topics, “such as cybersecurity, or the business side of social media companies. The median number of correct answers was four. Only 20% of adults answered seven or more questions correctly, and just 2% got all ten questions correct.”
To be fair, some of the questions are a little obscure, and even someone like me who regularly reports on digital matters wouldn’t necessarily be able to answer. For example, only 15% of adults correctly identified a recognize a picture of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
The survey was conducted in June 2019, with data collated from the 4,272 respondents to the test.
Some of the results:
- 49% weren’t clear on what private browsing does
- Only 30% knew that “https://” means that info entered on a website is encrypted
- Only 28% accurately identified an example of two-factor authentication
- 67% knew that phishing scams could take place across a variety of platforms
- Only 24% of Americans are aware that “private browsing” or “incognito mode” only hides the user’s online activity from other individuals using the same computer, and does not mean the user’s actions are masked or not being tracked by the websites, the ISP, or even an employer if the browsing is being done on a work computer.
Unsurprisingly, younger adults generally scored higher than older adults across digital knowledge questions, as did those with a bachelor’s or advanced educational degree.
For example, 18- to 29-year-olds correctly answered a median of five out of 10 questions, compared to a median correct response of three among those ages 65 and older.
“Adults with a bachelor’s or advanced degree and those under the age of 50 tend to score high on these questions,” Pew said. “Adults with a bachelor’s or advanced degree answered a median of six questions correctly, compared with four correct answers by those who have attended college, but have not obtained a degree and three by those with a high school diploma or less.”
Only one in five adults answered 70% or more of the questions correctly, and only 2% answered all ten questions correctly.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.