We are not born with digital skills - youth need more support in the digital world
Young people feel that they do not get enough support for learning how to use digital services. Being a digital native does not guarantee the ability to act in a digital world; instead, skills must be actively taught to young people. This is reflected in the survey published by the Digital and Population Data Services Agency on 30 August 2021 titled ‘The Digital Support for Young People’. The publication of the survey will launch the Digital Support Week, which focuses on the development of everyday digital skills from 30 August to 3 September 2021.
The problems young people have with using digital services are related to the accessibility, comprehensibility and usability of services. The threshold to contact a support service may be high if the young person is not familiar with the process, or when they feel they are unable to communicate as expected. The support channels provided to help people navigate in the various services are not necessarily familiar to young people.
‘The term Digital Native refers to a person’s age. Just because someone was born in the digital age does not guarantee they have excellent digital skills. These things are learnt, just like reading and writing’, reminds Minna Piirainen, Project Manager for Digital Support at the Digital and Population Data Services Agency.
The survey now published shows that we are over-confident about the fact that young people are skilled users of devices, and we easily forget to teach them basic digital skills and digital services. Young people may face challenges such as using a word processing software, adding attachments and changing a file format, as they have never been taught these skills. In particular, the COVID-19 pandemic year highlighted that young people are expected to be familiar with digital environment tools, and that it is assumed there is no need to provide specific guidance in their use.
How do we coach young people for independent use of digital services?
In addition to the skills related to using digital tools, the survey emphasises the challenges experienced by young people in managing various life situations. We are not equipped to provide enough guidance for young people in using digital services, filling in forms, drawing up job applications and managing other more formal service situations.
Young people feel that education should give them better opportunities to use and understand the services offered and to face the challenges of the digital world, such as cyber-bullying. If the skills are not taught at school, young people might never learn them.
Learning many digital skills currently relies on the help of parents or close relatives, which in the future may become an even greater inequality among young people.
What kinds of digital services should we provide?
The survey also challenges digital service developers to consider what kinds of services they are developing.
We should question the idea that young people should learn the language of administration and digital services that are difficult to understand. A solution that better serves everyone would be that digital services would be easily accessible and understandable and that the user logic would be sufficiently easy to use.
‘When commercial applications and services change usage habits and are modified by them, public services must follow suit. If young people are accustomed to intuitive user interfaces that work with a certain logic, seeking help or support may feel impossible if the user must learn a completely different way of operating in order to find the information they need’, says Piirainen.
The Digital Support Week challenges people to learn and teach everyday digital skills
The Digital Support Week, which will take place from 30 August to 3 September 2021, aims to increase the discussion on everyday digital skills. The week is divided into theme days, the first of which tackles with the provision of digital support from the perspective of the support provider, and later in the week, the students familiarise themselves with future digital skills, media and digital content literacy, different user perspectives and the quality of digital services. Alongside the national programme, regional digital support providers organise local, practical programmes that provide tips on e-services, for example.
‘The purpose of digital support is to help ensure that no one is excluded from the digital society. With regard to digitalisation, this is a permanent change, not just a temporary phenomenon. That is why digital skills are today's civic skills. Extensive development of these skills will help us as a community to cope better’, says Piirainen, Project Manager for Digital Support.
The programme of the Digital Support Week can be viewed at https://dvv.fi/digitukiviikko-2021-ohjelma.
The week's virtual events are free of charge and open to everyone.
Learn more about the Digital Support Week and the Need for Digital Support for Young People survey
Digital and Population Data Services Agency, Project Manager for Digital Support Minna Piirainen, tel. +358 0295 535 280, minna.piirainen[at]dvv.fi
>> Read more about The Digital Support for Young People survey (pdf) (the survey is in Finnish)