Being young in Europe today - digital world

Data extracted in March 2015. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database

This article is part of a set of statistical articles based on the Eurostat flagship publication 'Being young in Europe today' (which can be consulted in order to get a layouted pdf version). Information and communication technologies (ICT) affect people’s everyday lives in many ways, whether in the workplace or educational establishment, at home or on the move. Mobile phones, tablets, netbooks, laptops and computers are just some of the devices used frequently — often daily — by a large proportion of the population of the European Union (EU), particularly by young people.

The use of ICTs is widespread among children from a very young age as they access technology in the home or at friends’ or relatives’ houses and at school. By the time young people in the EU leave compulsory education most of them have regularly made use of computers and the internet for a variety of activities. ICTs are used by schools and other educational establishments not only to develop ICT skills but also to support the teaching of traditional subjects such as mathematics or foreign languages.

Main statistical findings

A digital age divide

Figure 1: Proportion of households with access to computers and the internet at home, EU-28, 2007–14 (1)
(%) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_in_h) and (isoc_ci_cm_h)
Figure 2: Proportion of people who used a computer or the internet on a daily basis, EU-28, 2011–14
(%) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_ifp_fu) and (isoc_ci_cfp_fu)
Figure 3: Proportion of people who used a computer on a daily basis, 2014
(%) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_cfp_fu)
Figure 4: Proportion of people who used the internet on a daily basis, 2014
(%) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_ifp_fu)
Figure 5: Proportion of people who used the internet on a daily basis, by age and by formal education, EU-28, 2014
(%) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_ifp_fu)
Figure 6: Proportion of people who used the internet in specified places, EU-28, 2013 (1)
(%) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_ifp_pu)
Figure 7: Proportion of people who used mobile devices to access the internet away from home or work, EU-28, 2014
(%) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_ifp_pu)
Figure 8: Proportion of people who used mobile devices to access the internet away from home or work, 2014
(%) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_ifp_pu)
Figure 9: Proportion of people who used selected computer skills, EU-28, 2014
(%) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_sk_cskl_i)
Figure 10: Proportion of people who used selected internet skills, EU-28, 2013 (1)
(%) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_sk_iskl_i)
Table 1: Individuals who wrote a computer program using a specialised programming language, 2014 - Source: Eurostat (isoc_sk_cskl_i)
Figure 11: Proportion of people who used the internet for social activities, EU-28, 2014
(%) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_ac_i)
Figure 12: Proportion of people who used the internet for civic activities, EU-28, 2014 (1)
(%) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_ac_i)
Figure 13: Proportion of people who participated on social networking sites, 2014 (1)
(%) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_ac_i)
Figure 14: Proportion of people who used the internet for finding information and downloading content, EU-28, 2014
(%) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_ac_i)
Figure 15: Proportion of people who used the internet to consult wikis
(to obtain knowledge on any subject), 2013
(%) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_ac_i)
Figure 16: Proportion of people who used the internet for web banking, professional purposes and selling online, EU-28, 2014
(%) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_ac_i)
Figure 17: Proportion of people who used the internet to sell goods or services, 2014
(%) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_ac_i)

Households with dependent children more likely to have access to a computer and the internet at home

Looking at access to ICTs at home, four fifths (81 %) of all households in the EU-28 had internet access in 2014; the corresponding share in 2007 (the start of the time series for the EU-28) was 55 %. Between 2007 and 2014 the proportion of households with dependent children that had access to the internet was consistently higher than that for households without dependent children (Figure 1). The gap between households with dependent children and those without continued to grow between 2007 and 2009 before stabilising and then narrowing between 2011 and 2014. Nevertheless, rates of internet access continued to increase in 2014 among both types of households.

A broadly similar situation could be observed for households having access to a computer: a higher proportion of households in the EU-28 with dependent children had access to a computer than those without. An analysis of the gap between households with and without dependent children shows a different development for access to a computer than for internet access. The gap between households with dependent children and those without narrowed slightly as the share of households with dependent children with access to computer approached saturation; it appears to have stabilised at just over 90 %. In 2013, the gap nevertheless remained substantial, as the proportion of households with dependent children that had a computer was 17 percentage points higher than that for households without dependent children (92 % versus 75 %).

Daily internet use overtook daily computer use among young people in 2012

Shorter time series, from 2011 to 2014, are available for indicators concerning the daily use of a computer or the internet. This information is available for young people (defined here as those aged 16–29) and the whole population (Figure 2). In the EU-28 a far higher proportion of young people made use of a computer and the internet on a daily basis than the rest of the population. Four out of every five (80 %) young people used a computer on a daily basis in 2014, nearly 20 percentage points higher than among the whole population (63 %). The rate for young people was in 2014 two percentage points lower than in 2013 and the same as in 2011, while over this period (2011–14) the rate of daily computer use among the population as a whole increased by four percentage points.

In comparison, developments in daily internet use across the EU-28 were more uniform, with the rates for young people and for the whole population showing an upward path between 2011 and 2014. Interestingly, in 2012 the rate of daily internet use overtook daily computer use among young people, reflecting the use of the internet on a range of alternative devices, such as smart phones. The gap between young people and the whole population for daily internet use was 22 percentage points in 2014, slightly higher than for daily computer use.

In 2012, for the first time, a higher proportion of young people made daily use of the internet than of a computer — reflecting increased uptake in the use of a range of alternative devices, such as smart phones.
© Fotolia

The highest shares of daily computer use among young people were recorded in the Baltic countries…

The analysis of daily computer and internet use may be extended to the EU Member States, as shown in Figures 3 and 4, which present data for 2014. In 23 EU Member States, more than four out of every five young people (aged 16–29) used a computer on a daily basis. The highest rates of daily computer use among young people were recorded in Estonia (93 %), Latvia (91 %), Lithuania (90 %), the Czech Republic and Slovenia (both 89 %). By contrast, the lowest proportion of young people making daily use of a computer was recorded in Romania (62 %), followed by Spain (68 %).

Poland, Portugal, Lithuania, Greece, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Romania, Cyprus, Malta, Croatia all recorded rates for the daily use of computers among young people that were at least 25 percentage points higher than for the whole population. By contrast, the disparities between the share of young people and the share of the whole population making daily use of a computer were relatively small (less than 6 percentage points) in the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Finland and Denmark. Luxembourg was the only EU Member State where the rate among young people was lower than for the population as a whole.

…while northern and western Europe recorded the highest daily use of the internet among young people

All six EU Member States with the highest rates (above 80 %) of daily internet use among the whole population in 2014, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom, also reported the highest rates of daily internet use among young people.

Portugal, Poland, Greece and Lithuania recorded the biggest differences in daily use of the internet between young people and the whole population, each recording a gap of at least 33 percentage points. Despite relatively low average rates of daily internet use (around 60 %) across their whole populations, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, the Czech Republic and Slovenia each recorded at least 9 out of every 10 young people making daily use of the internet. There were 13 EU Member States where daily use of the internet was at least 90 % among young people, a share that rose to a peak of 95 % in Denmark, Estonia and Finland and 96 % in Luxembourg and the Netherlands. At the other end of the scale, Romania and Bulgaria were the only EU Member States where in 2014, less than 80 % of young people used the internet on a daily basis.

The highest proportion of daily internet users was recorded among those aged 16–19 years and those with a higher level of formal education

Figure 5 shows the proportion of people making daily use of the internet by age groups and by formal educational attainment. It can be seen that a considerably higher proportion of young people made daily use of the internet and that the highest propensity was among those aged 16–19. Indeed, 9 out of every 10 young people aged 16–19 in the EU-28 made daily use of the internet in 2014; this share fell to 86 % among young people aged 25–29.

Figure 5 also shows that daily internet use rises — across both the whole population and young people — as a function of the level of formal education. The analysis by level of education for young people only covers those aged 16–24 and is only presented for those with a low or medium level of formal education. The proportion of young people (aged 16–24) in the EU-28 with a low level of formal education making daily use of the internet was 86 % in 2014, considerably higher than for all people with a low level of formal education (42 %). Among young people with a medium level of formal education this share reached 89 %, again considerably higher than for the whole population (66 %).

The vast majority of young people used the internet at home, while about half made use of the internet at other people’s houses and about 40 % at a place of education

An analysis of where people in the EU-28 used the internet in 2013 (Figure 6) contains a number of expected patterns: for example, the proportion of young people (aged 16–29) that used the internet at work was below the average for the population as a whole, while the reverse was true for use of the internet at a place of education. The use of the internet at home as well as at other people’s houses was higher among young people than for the population as a whole, reflecting, at least to some degree, the overall higher use of the internet by young people. In particular, the use of the internet at other people’s houses was twice as high among young people as among the population as a whole.

Figure 7 shows that in 2014 over half (51 %) of the population used a mobile device such as a portable computer (includes laptops and tablets) or a handheld device to connect to the internet when away from home or work and this proportion reached four fifths (80 %) of all young people aged 16–29.

The use of mobile phones for internet connections away from home or work was considerably higher than that of portable computers. For the population as a whole, the proportion of people that used a mobile phone to connect to the internet was 14 percentage points higher (44 %) than the use of a portable computer (30 %). For young people, the difference was even greater, some 30 percentage points higher for mobile phones (74 %) than for portable computers (44 %). This pattern reinforces the information that a higher proportion of young people in the EU-28 use handheld devices — mainly mobile phones — to connect to the internet, rather than portable computers.

9 out of 10 young people used a mobile device to connect to the internet on the go in eight EU Member States

An analysis of the use of portable computers and handheld devices to connect to the internet when away from home or work in 2014 shows that these were used by at least 9 out of 10 young people aged 16–29 in Denmark, Finland, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, Estonia, Spain and the Netherlands (Figure 8) while in Italy, Bulgaria and Romania the proportion was less than three fifths; note that each of these three countries was characterised by a generally low level of internet use, so it is perhaps not surprising that they also recorded low proportions for mobile internet usage.

Generally such devices were used to connect to the internet by a higher proportion of young people in northern and western EU Member States and by a lower proportion of young people in the eastern and southern EU Member States. A comparison between the whole population and young people shows that the largest differences (in percentage point terms) in the use of such mobile devices to connect to the internet were recorded in Portugal, Lithuania, Latvia, Croatia, Slovenia and Malta, and the smallest in Sweden, Denmark, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom.

Information and communications technology skills

Information and communications technology (ICT) skills are regarded as being essential to benefit from and contribute to a knowledge-based economy and society. The analysis presented here shows that young people report, on average, a higher level of computer skills and internet skills than the population as a whole [1].

The shares of young people reporting experience in computer programming and web page design were almost twice the respective shares for the whole population

Nearly 9 out of every 10 young people in the EU-28 reported, in 2014, that they had (at any time in the past) performed basic computer tasks such as copying or moving files (89 %) or duplicating / moving information (cut, copy and paste) within files (87 %), while three fifths or more had connected and installed a device (66 %) or used basic formulae within a spreadsheet (65 %) and over a half (58 %) had compressed files. The proportion of young people that reported having carried out these basic computing tasks was around 20 percentage points higher than the average for the whole population.

More technical competences, such as writing a computer program using a specialised programming language, were less widespread as just 19 % of young people reported that they had ever carried out such an activity, although this was nearly double the 11 % recorded for the population as a whole (Figure 9).

The most recent information available for internet skills (Figure 10) is for 2013. This shows a similar pattern, with high rates among young people in the EU-28 for basic skills such as using a search engine (94 %) or sending an e-mail with attachments (87 %), while more than two thirds of young people posted messages online (72 %), just over half used the internet for calling people (53 %) and around one third (32 %) used peer-to-peer file sharing services. As for computer skills, the proportion of young people that reported that they had carried out these basic internet tasks was around 20 percentage points higher than the average for the whole population, with the exception of posting messages online where the difference was even greater (34 percentage points).

More technical internet skills were less widespread, with just under one in five (18 %) young people having created a web page; this was also nearly double the average (10 %) for the population as a whole.

A relatively high proportion of Croatia’s young people had experience in programming

The proportion of young people who reported having written a computer programme using a specialised programming language ranged, in 2014, from more than 30 % in Finland to less than 10 % in the Czech Republic and Romania. In Croatia the difference between young people and the whole population for this particular skill was the biggest (16 percentage points), followed by Malta (14 percentage points), Spain and Estonia (both 13 percentage points). By contrast, in the Czech Republic, Ireland and Romania the difference was less than 5 percentage points.

Youth online: a way of life

Figures 11 and 12 present a selection of online social and civic activities performed in the EU-28 by both young people (aged 16–29) and the population as a whole in 2014 (2013 for a few activities). A higher proportion of young people performed each of the selected activities; this was particularly true for social activities. The smallest differences between young people and the whole population were recorded for sending filled in forms to government agencies / public authorities, and for taking part in online consultations or voting to define civic or political issues, for which the proportion of young people was only 1 percentage point higher than for the overall population.

A slightly higher proportion of young people (than the whole population) carried out civic activities online …

Among the online civic activities presented in Figure 12, the most common for young persons were related to online interaction with public authorities, most notably obtaining information from websites of public authorities (note that this data refers to those persons who made use of such a site within the 12-month period prior to the survey). Some 18 % of young people in the EU-28 posted their opinions on civic or political issues via websites (within the 3-month period prior to the survey); this was a higher share than the average across the whole population (11 %), the 7 percentage point difference being the largest among the six civic activities shown.

…while a much higher proportion of young people (than the whole population) made use of social networks

The most common online social activities for young people in the EU-28 in 2014 included sending and receiving e-mails (86 %) and participating on social networking sites (82 %) — for example, Facebook or Twitter, by creating a user profile, posting messages or making other contributions — while close to half (47 %) of all young people in the EU-28 uploaded self-created content, such as photos, videos or text to the internet.

A comparison between the proportion of young people and the proportion of the whole population engaged in online social activities shows that the largest difference between these two groups was recorded for participation on social networking sites (36 percentage points), and the smallest for creating websites or blogs (6 percentage points), telephoning / making video calls over the internet (17 percentage points) and for playing network games (17 percentage points). However, young people were more than two times as likely (as the whole population) to use the internet for multiplayer online gaming.

Cyberbullying is repeated verbal or psychological harassment; it is particularly prevalent among children and young people and may be spread via e-mail, mobile phones or web services (such as social networks, chat rooms and instant messaging).
© Fotolia

Figure 13 provides more detailed information by EU Member State on participation on social networking sites in 2014. At least 9 out of 10 young people in Denmark, Sweden, Portugal, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary and the Netherlands used social networking sites, while the majority of EU Member States reported that between 80 % and 90 % of young people participated in these activities. At the other end of the scale, there were five EU Member States where between 70 % and 80 % of young people participated on social networking sites, a share that fell to 66 % in Romania.

Young people participated more on social networking sites than the population as a whole. The average difference across the EU-28 was 36 percentage points in 2014 and the pattern was similar in all EU Member States, with the gap ranging from 45 percentage points in Portugal and the Czech Republic to 27 percentage points in the United Kingdom.

The use of wikis by young people was generally higher in northern and western EU Member States

The internet is widely regarded as a source of information and a selection of other activities related to finding or exchanging information is presented in Figure 14, which also covers the use of the internet for downloading content. Among the seven selected activities, using the internet for travel and accommodation services and to listen to web radios were the two least commonly undertaken tasks by young people. The difference between the proportion of young people and the whole population using internet for travel and accommodation services and to find health information was as low as 5 percentage points. By contrast, the largest gap was recorded for playing / downloading games, images, films or music, an activity performed by 67 % of young people compared with 38 % of the whole population.

Consulting wikis, such as Wikipedia, was also a popular online activity undertaken in 2013 by almost two thirds (65 %) of young people in the EU-28. Figure 15 shows how this activity varied among the EU Member States, with a generally higher proportion of young people in northern and western EU Member States making use of wikis and a lower proportion in eastern EU Member States. Portugal and Slovenia were the two EU Member States where the difference between the proportion of young people using wikis and the average for the whole population was highest, in both cases just over 30 percentage points; the smallest differences (9 or 10 percentage points) were reported for Bulgaria and Ireland.

Young people were almost twice as likely to use the internet to look for a job or to submit a job application

Online banking and participating in professional networks (such as LinkedIn) are two internet activities used to a similar degree by young people and the whole population (Figure 16). In 2014, 47 % of young people used online banking in the EU-28, only 3 percentage points higher than the whole population. Online professional networks were used by only 12 % of young people, broadly in line with the 10 % share for the whole population (2013 data), although it should be noted that many young people are likely to still be studying and therefore not yet looking to establish such networks.

For the two remaining activities shown in Figure 16, young people in the EU-28 were almost twice as likely to use the internet to look for a job or to submit a job application (33 % compared with 17 % for the whole population in 2013), while nearly a quarter (23 % in 2014) of young people sold goods or services over the internet (for example, by using online auctions) compared with just under one fifth (19 % in 2014) of the population as a whole.

The proportion of young people selling goods or services online varied greatly between the EU Member States in 2014 (Figure 17). Hardly any young people made online sales in Cyprus or Romania, while the proportion remained below 10 % in Greece and Lithuania. In 14 EU Member States the proportion exceeded one fifth (20 %), rising to 40 % in Estonia and peaking at 46 % in Slovenia. The proportion of young people selling online exceeded the average for the whole population most notably in Slovenia, Estonia, Malta and the Czech Republic. By contrast, the proportion of young people selling online was below the average for the whole population in the United Kingdom.

Conclusions: what future for young people in the digital world?

Young Europeans spend an increasing amount of their time consuming digital media. While time spent watching television may be falling, their use of online media has grown rapidly, facilitated through a range of services such as video streams, chat rooms, blogs or social media. Although the internet can provide a place for young people to share their experiences and to exchange their views, there are also risks.

Some concerns over the use of the internet centre on the safety of children and young people and their behaviour, for example, increasing solitude as young people withdraw to a private place to go online. Furthermore, some children and young people may have their privacy violated when they are online or alternatively they may be exposed to potentially harmful content, which may create dependency, anxiety or aggression.

This article has shown that the use of ICTs is widespread among children and young people and is, in some instances, reaching saturation. Young people generally possess a wider range of ICT skills (than older generations) and it seems likely that this pattern will continue for future generations with young people likely to remain at the forefront of adopting new technologies (be these hardware or software / services). The challenge for policymakers within this domain will be to ensure that the social and economic benefits from exploiting ICTs are delivered in unison with the safe use of digital media, in particular for more vulnerable sections of society.

Data sources and availability

The data presented in this article come from Eurostat’s survey on ICT usage in households and by individuals, which is updated on an annual basis to ensure that the data collected remain relevant for policy use. The surveys reflect modern ICT use while keeping a core part relatively stable so that analyses over time can be made. ICT surveys initially concentrated on access and internet connectivity issues, but their scope has subsequently been extended to cover a variety of subjects, including for example internet security or the use of social media and cloud services. The results of the survey can be analysed according to a range of socioeconomic categories, including age, educational differences and whether there are children or not in a household. In most EU Member States the surveys are carried out in the second quarter of each year asking about activities in the first quarter of the same year; sometimes questions (for example, on e-commerce or e-government) are asked about activities during the previous 12 months.

ICT surveys cover those households having at least one member in the age group 16–74 years old. Households with children are those with at least one member aged less than 16. Within this article statistics that refer to the whole population cover those aged 16–74. Young people is a collective term used to describe those aged 16–29; note that this age range was unavailable for some of the analysis presented and in these cases the coverage of young people has been modified to those within the age range of 16–24.

Context

A DIGITAL AGENDA FOR EUROPE

In May 2010, the European Commission adopted its Communication concerning A Digital Agenda for Europe (COM(2010) 245 final), a strategy designed to encourage a flourishing digital economy by 2020.

The Digital Agenda for Europe is one of the seven flagship initiatives under the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. It outlines policies and actions aimed at maximising the benefit of the digital era to all sections of society and economy. The agenda focuses on seven priority areas for action: creating a digital single market, greater interoperability, boosting internet trust and security, providing much faster internet access, encouraging investment in research and development, enhancing digital literacy skills and inclusion, and applying ICT to address challenges facing society like climate change and the ageing population.

BETTER INTERNET FOR OUR CHILDREN

As well as providing opportunities for work, study, leisure activities and social interaction, the internet contains hazards for all users. The basis of the European Commission’s Communication European Strategy for a Better Internet for Children (COM(2012) 196 final) is to protect children and to make children and young people more aware of the risks involved with using the internet, while teaching digital literacy so that children may benefit fully and safely from being online. The strategy, which was adopted in May 2012, is constructed around four pillars: stimulate quality content online for young people; step up awareness and empowerment; create a safe environment for children online; and fight against child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation.

INSAFE

Insafe is a European network, co-funded by the EU, made up of 31 national awareness centres, in 27 EU Member States, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Serbia. The national centres implement awareness and educational campaigns, run helplines and work closely with young people to ensure an evidence-based, multi-stakeholder approach to creating a better internet. The Insafe network aims ‘to empower children and young people to use the internet, as well as other online and mobile technologies, positively, safely and effectively. The network calls for shared responsibility for the protection of the rights and needs of citizens, in particular children and youths, by government, educators, parents, media, industry and all other relevant actors’.

CYBERBULLYING

One of the issues related to the safety of the internet for children is cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is regarded as a serious threat with a potentially long-lasting impact. Repeated verbal or psychological harassment may come from an individual or a group and may involve, for example, mockery, insults, threats, rumours or gossip. E-mail, mobile phones and web services such as social networks, chat rooms and instant messaging provide opportunities for cyberbullying. More information is available from the European platform for investing in children.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Publications

Main tables

Policy indicators (t_isoc_pi)
Computers and the internet in households and enterprises (t_isoc_ci)
E-commerce by individuals and enterprises (t_isoc_ec)
E-skills of individuals and ICT competence in enterprises (t_isoc_sk)

Database

Policy indicators (isoc_pi)
Computers and the internet in households and enterprises (isoc_ci)
E-commerce by individuals and enterprises (isoc_ec)
E-skills of individuals and ICT competence in enterprises (isoc_sk)
Youth in the digital world (yth_isoc)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)

Excel.jpg Digital world: tables and figures

Other information

External links

Notes

  1. Note that digital skills are measured by looking at certain activities carried out prior to the survey, and are not directly tested or observed through the survey.