It’s a common misnomer that young people that grow up with technology are inherently better with technology. Typically, when we think of today’s young people we think millennials and younger (which I just so happen to fall into). Millennials were the first generation to grow up with the fast functioning interconnected network of instant information and instant satisfaction that we’ve come to know as the internet. Being young and adventurous during the .com boom has given us an amazing opportunity to adopt and take full advantage of a plethora of amazing technologies as we progress through our lives.
Since technology has had an impact on literally every facet of life in the western world, we are constantly being referred to as the generation that will never have to deal with X. Getting up to change the channel, hearing an important news story on the radio, having to sit through commercials during your favorite show, having to write down birthdays in a small calendar and regularly check it to make sure you don’t miss someone’s important day – all of these things have 1 thing in common, the younger people are, the less likely they are to EVER have experienced this.
So, given that we are the golden children of the age of technology and the internet, it is common to assume that all young people are good with computer and technology as a whole. Well let me be clear to all of our Baby Boomer and Gen X readers, young people are not inherently better with technology. I have seen it first hand working in support services and help desks, time and time again, age has no real impact on one’s ability to learn and fully make use of technology.
Below I’ve outlined 5 reasons why it might seem like young people are great with technology, and why that’s simply not the case
1) Growing up in a world where nothing can break
As technology becomes more and more complicated, designers and creators are burdened with the need to make products foolproof. There used to be a time where, if you happened to type the wrong thing at the wrong time, your computer would simply die. Black screen, no lights, and it would take a masters in engineering to get it to work again. In the early days of computers, cell phones and the internet, there was a blue screen of death, an overheated CPU or a inexplicable software error looming just around every corner.
Fast forward to today, and the first question any IT person will ask you when presented with a problem is “Have you turned it off and on again?” And you know what, this simple act has and will fix 99% of the problems out there. No internet, reboot your router. Cell phone not working, pull the battery. iPad won’t connect to the WiFi, turn it off and on again.
This vast difference over time leads to two changes in how different generations deal with technology. The first is that, we aren’t worried about breaking something because nine times out of ten it won’t actually be broken, it’ll just need a reboot. The second is that we know that fixing a problem is usually a simple task. Whether we have to restart the program, reboot the computer or uninstall and reinstall the application, it won’t be a big deal. Worst case scenario, you have to find someone that works with computers, and they will find the (only slightly) more difficult way of fixing the problem.
When it comes down to it, technology is resilient. Go ahead, do your worst. Chances are you won’t break it, and if you do it’s not the end of the world, it’s probably an easy fix.
2) We’ve got the basics down pat (and sometimes nothing more than that)
Were you slightly confused when you first started seeing “WiFi available” at coffee shops, or when “lol” was used out of the context of “lots of love”? What do you think of when you see the image below?
Depending on your age, you might say that’s a disc or a floppy disc, in which case, good for you. Younger people will almost always refer to that as the “Save” icon, thanks to it being used as the save button in popular programs like Microsoft Word.
Young people that have grown up using technology regularly have had the absolute basic of computer skills ingrained into them. They know that to change something in a program you might have to find the “Settings”, “Tools” or “Options”. If your experience with technology is limited to your typing class in high school, this may not seem as obvious to you. This applies to many things, like using a mouse properly, typing at a speed that isn’t painful, or knowing how to get to to Google if for some reason your homepage has changed.
The great news is that all we’re talking here is the basics – the absolute fundamentals to getting things done on a digital device. Being basic skills, there are a small number of them that result in a huge impact once you get them down. So don’t get discouraged when you can’t do the simplest things, because once you work through the simplest things, you’ll open a world of opportunity and break down the barriers of getting exactly what you want out of technology
3) Know just enough to get by
Millennials are just plain lazy. Growing up with all of the cool gadgets and gizmos that we did, and directly benefiting from the fruits of our parent’s labors, we’ve learnt to expect great gains from little work. When it comes to knowledge, we’ve done quite well at just knowing enough to get by. Technology is no different. You might look at your 12 year old nephew and think that he’s a whiz in all things computers because he plays World of Warcraft all day long, but the truth is that he probably only knows the bare minimum in what it takes to get a game going with his friends online. Just because young people are able to check their Facebook, lookup questions in Google and touch up selfies on their iPhone doesn’t mean their tech whizzes, they probably just know enough about what they’re doing to get by, so don’t get intimidated. They aren’t experts, they’re just operators, and it doesn’t take much to become an operator
4) Comfortable asking for help
Did you ever go on a road trip somewhere you’ve never been before and end up driving around in circles because your pride wouldn’t let you pull over and ask for directions? Well guess what, that time has passed. “Siri, how do I get to the CN tower?” “OK Google, navigate home”. We live in a world where asking for help is second nature, and we don’t have to worry about pride because you aren’t asking a person that can look into your eyes and judge you, but a computer that really doesn’t care how you managed get so lost, so quickly. It isn’t just navigation either. The internet and all of its glory connects people with other people, and a vast amount of information, and typically all you have to do to tap into this resource is ask.
The biggest takeaway here is that we now live in a world of instant information at the push of a button, all you have to do is ask. Get over any pride or embarrassment and start asking the questions. For me, I never let a question go unanswered…ever! How many pounds in a ton? Who’s the current prime minister of the United Kingdom? Why do people sleep walk? The list goes on…
5) Forced to use technology
This is the biggest one. Young people are perceived to be better with technology because we have been forced into using technology. Between the integration into schools and work, and the social demands and peer pressure to use Facebook, text messaging etc., we’ve been forced to use technology wherein others may not. For young people, there is no other way to find a phone number than looking it up online…what the hell is the Yellow Pages. Furthermore, who actually goes in and talks to a bank teller or calls in to pay their bills? You do that through your online banking. If you grew up with the “old way of doing things” then you have options when you want to complete a task, for young people though, there’s usually only one option, and that’s using your computer, smartphone and the internet to get it done.
The takeaway here is that, if you aren’t already being forced to use technology from your job or your friends/family, then you have to take it upon yourself to get your feet wet and learn the basics. If you always have an option, you’ll stick with what you know rather than what you don’t.
So where should you start?
If you want to overcome the age gap and the barriers that Gen Xers and Baby Boomers face when learning technology, the best place to start is to actually Start. Start using computers, start sending emails or checking in on Facebook. Start with your hobbies and interests and try to use technology to your advantage. Don’t be afraid of breaking something, don’t hesitate to ask for help, and force yourself to stay the course because, even though it may seem daunting at times, computers are simple machines following a basic set of instructions.
Want to know how technology can help you or where to start? Post some of your hobbies in the comments section below or click “Ask a question” at the bottom right hand side of the page and I’ll work with you to get using technology to it’s fullest potential.