A marginalized minority

Young adults increasingly go online just for fun and pass the time.

We all suspected that. Now there is a study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project that proves it.

On any given day, 53% of all the young adults ages 18-29 go online for no particular reason except to have fun or to pass the time. …Ā Indeed, 81% of all young adults in this age cohort report they have used the internet for this reason at least occasionally.

While this is a US based study, there is no reason to suspect the results would show a lower percentage in Canada. Indeed, it is likely higher – much higher – given that Canadians are recognized as being online more than any other people on the planet.

What troubles me is wondering about the young adults who aren’t going online to have fun and pass the time. Having fun and just passing the time is evidence of comfort, of digital literacy, of access. Shared access in a school or community centre or library doesn’t afford the same level of access as having a connected device at home.

But, as I have written before, computer ownership is highly correlated to household income and half the Canadian households in the bottom income quintile do not own a computer.

So we have a sizable part of the population that may be excluded from online social interaction because they lack computer access and are missing out on development of current digital literacy skills. The lack of comfort operating in a digital environment will have cascading economic impact, with more employment – even thoseĀ jobsĀ consideredĀ menial – increasingly demanding computer literacy.

The Pew study breaks down their results to show that spending time online, just for fun, is tied to income levels and age. There is also a gender factor that appears to have significance: 62% of males versus 54% of females.

How do we make sure that all Canadians have the ability to get online, even if it is for “no particular reason”.

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