Today, digital literacy is paramount as our society continues to lean more and more into the world of technology. This refers to “having the skills to thrive in a society where communication and access to information are increasingly done via digital technologies, such as online platforms and mobile devices,” says the BBC.
What used to mean being able to send an email has evolved into way more than that. Being digitally literate now means being able to work and adapt strategically across a variety of tools, devices and platforms.
A study from Pew Research Center found that Americans’ understanding of digital topics varies notably depending on the subject. For example, while 87% of those surveyed could identify a secure password (out of a list of four), just 48% could identify two-factor authentication (from a set of images).
Overall, Americans answered a median of five out of nine questions correctly on the digital knowledge survey that Pew conducted among 5,101 U.S. adults this past May. Questions included a range of topics about cybersecurity, Big Tech companies, online privacy laws and artificial intelligence.
Here’s a closer look at the findings topic by topic:
- 87% of U.S adults can correctly identify which password, out of four, is the most secure.
- 67% know what the purpose of cookies is
- 48% can identify an example of two-factor authentication
Big Technology Companies
- 80% know Elon Musk was running Tesla and Twitter in April 2023.
- 77% know Facebook changed its name to Meta.
- 42% know a deepfake is “a seemingly real image, video or audio of something that didn’t occur.”
- 32% know large language models, like ChatGPT, come up with answers based on word patterns and relationships previously learned.
Federal Privacy Laws
- 23% know the U.S. does not have a national privacy law for common standards on what companies can do with all of the data their products/services collect.
- 21% understand that websites in the U.S. are not allowed to collect personal data from minors under the age of 13.
Notably, age differences showed a big variation on Americans’ digital knowledge depending on the topic. Though not always consistent, adults under 50 were found to generally fare better in the surveys than those 50 and above. Interestingly, one of the biggest gaps was found in the two-factor authentication survey. Sixty-eight percent of adults under 30 could identify an example of two-factor authentication, compared with just 26% of those ages 65 and up.
In an increasingly digital and technology-driven world, digital literacy has become a crucial skill for people of all ages and backgrounds. It empowers us to participate actively and responsibly in the digital society and enables us to make informed decisions online.
Read the full survey from Pew here.