Results from a new survey of US adults reveal the extent to which people’s use of the internet has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, their views about how helpful technology has been for them and the struggles some have faced. The vast majority of adults (90%) say the internet has been at least important to them personally during the pandemic, the survey finds. The share who say it has been essential – 58% – is up slightly from 53% in April 2020.
Society has long fretted about technology’s impact on youth. The hyperconnected nature of social media has led to new anxieties, including worries that these platforms may be negatively impacting teenagers’ mental health. Despite these concerns, teens themselves paint a more nuanced picture of adolescent life on social media.
Smartphone ownership (85%) and home broadband subscriptions (77%) have increased among American adults since 2019 – from 81% and 73% respectively. Though modest, both increases are statistically significant and come at a time when a majority of Americans say the internet has been important to them personally. And 91% of adults report having at least one of these technologies. A Pew Research Center survey also finds that some Americans have difficulties when trying to go online.
7% of US adults say they do not use the internet. Internet non-adoption is linked to a number of demographic variables, but is strongly connected to age – with older Americans continuing to be one of the least likely groups to use the internet. Today, 25% of adults ages 65 and older report never going online, compared with much smaller shares of adults under the age of 65. Educational attainment and household income are also indicators of a person’s likelihood to be offline.
A majority of parents in the US (66%) – who include those who have at least one child under the age of 18, but who may also have an adult child or children – say that parenting is harder today than it was 20 years ago, with many in this group citing technology as a reason why, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in March.
A survey conducted in early April finds that roughly half of US adults (53%) say the internet has been essential for them personally during the pandemic and another 34% describe it as “important, but not essential.” The survey finds that a majority of Americans (62%) do not think it is the federal government’s responsibility to ensure that all Americans have a high-speed internet connection at home during the COVID-19 outbreak. And a similar share (65%) do not think the federal government should be responsible for ensuring cellphone services to all.
Many Americans see declining levels of trust in the country, whether it is their confidence in the federal government and elected officials or their trust of each other, a new Pew Research Center report finds. And most believe that the interplay between the trust issues in the public and the interpersonal sphere has made it harder to solve some of the country’s problems.
Rural Americans have made large gains in adopting digital technology over the past decade, but they generally remain less likely than urban or suburban adults to have home broadband or own a smartphone.
Some 15% of US households with school-age children do not have a high-speed internet connection at home, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of 2015 US Census Bureau data. New survey findings from the Center also show that some teens are more likely to face digital hurdles when trying to complete their homework.
Significant shares of Facebook users have taken steps in the past year to reframe their relationship with the social media platform. Just over half of Facebook users ages 18 and older (54%) say they have adjusted their privacy settings in the past 12 months. Around four-in-ten (42%) say they have taken a break from checking the platform for a period of several weeks or more, while around a quarter (26%) say they have deleted the Facebook app from their cellphone. All told, some 74% of Facebook users say they have taken at least one of these three actions in the past year.