back to article Brit kids match 45-year-old fogies' tech skill level by the age of 6

The British children of today – who have rarely heard the chirping of a dial-up connection – have matched middle-aged folks' tech ability by the age of six, new Ofcom research has claimed. A report (PDF) produced by Blighty's communications regulator has sketched a topsy-turvy image of connected Britain, where kids are way …

  1. Christian Berger

    Using pre-made services doesn't represent a skill

    Just like turning on a TV isn't much of a skill.

    1. Gordon 11

      Re: Using pre-made services doesn't represent a skill

      Just like turning on a TV isn't much of a skill.

      Although, judging by complaints to the Daily Mail, switching it off is beyond many people.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Using pre-made services doesn't represent a skill

      Yeah. Daughter moved into her new flat yesterday. She has a VOIP router from her last flat. She has a new contract with the telecoms provider, with a new telephone number and new access credentials.

      She plugged the old router in and turned it on, but complained that her internet didn't work. She didn't even know which of the numbers on the back of the router allowed her to connect to the wifi - the one marked Wifi Passphrase was the correct one. I got her passed that, but she then didn't know how to find the router's home page to log on and configure it.

      It took me around 3 minutes, using my smartphone, to get her all connected up.

      3 hours later, I go another call, she had tried entering the administrator password for the router configuration page as the WiFi passowrd and couldn't work out why it was refusing her access.

      Me? I'm over than 45.

      1. VinceH

        Re: Using pre-made services doesn't represent a skill

        "Me? I'm over than 45."

        To be fair, though, as an El Reg reader, you are not the typical over 45 year old they're talking about.

        I'd bet that for most of the people I know who are about that age, the results would probably be as suggested. The exceptions would mostly have some knowledge in very specific areas, where they've learned how to do something because they have to do it again and again and again (but if the parameters changed, they'd be lost).

        1. Jim 59

          Re: Using pre-made services doesn't represent a skill

          Nah. 2 of my sisters and one of my brothers are about Big_Ds age, non are in the tech biz, and they all know how to set up a router and have done so without help from kids in their teens/20s. The kids do know how to use Facebook though.

          And Dad was updating his community website at the age of 79, and in a big way. Using Dreamweaver IIRC.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Using pre-made services doesn't represent a skill

      Unsurprising that such results come from an organisation that freqently demonstrates a pretty flimsy grasp of technology itself in its reports. More about sticks, carrots and fluffing egos than any any useful observations.

    4. Selden

      Re: Using pre-made services doesn't represent a skill

      Amen to that comment. After working more than 30 years in library IT, I am currently a volunteer Chromebook TC, so I answer many tech questions daily.

      Thanks to Google account age limits, I'm spared from dealing with the under 13 set, but petulant teenagers are probably the worst to deal with. First, they know next to nothing about actual technology (such as the differences between Android, Chrome OS, and Windows); second, they are often rude and generally incapable of asking a coherent question — let alone use basic English. At least those over-60 crowd usually acknowledge their relative lack of tech skills.

      Yesterday The Reg carried a story about a macaque monkey who had snapped his own selfie. Ability to press a button doesn't make a monkey a photographer.

  2. Steve I

    No real skill here..

    This is the old 'Programming the video recorder' argument.

    A colleague of mine, Andy, who was a contractor with his ownsLtd company, was asked by his nephew if he could do hid 'IT industry experience' with Andy. As the nephew had a raft of ICT certificates, Andy asked him which programming languages he knew. "Programming languages?" came the reply.

    He was competent with Word and Excel though.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: No real skill here..

      To be fair you can do a lot of stuff with Excel Macros if you can program.

      Just saying.

      1. phil dude
        Joke

        Re: No real skill here..

        Indeed, and isn't that now outlawed by the European convention on Human rights....

        P.

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: No real skill here..

      To be fair, ICT != Software Engineering in the same way that Driving != Motor Mechanics

  3. Wheaty73

    I call bollocks.

    "If you want your VCR programming get a 12 year old" - This report written 1989

    "If you want to know how to get on the internet, ask a 12 year old" - This report written 1998

    "Get off my lawn" - Me, 2014

    All they know how to do is press an icon on a slab of glass. No actual technical or digital knowhow required.

    1. Dr Dan Holdsworth

      Re: I call bollocks.

      Manchester University Computer Science department has known this for years. They specifically go out of their way to present their students with deliberately different computer interfaces, including making all Linux kit start up in runlevel 3, in order to ram home the message that the fancy front end is NOT the actual computer (and there's nothing like forcing students onto a nineties-vintage window manager written in-house, where the most useful application is a terminal, to really force students to start thinking).

      Surveys like this merely test how good the user is at interacting with the shiny top layer, and that is all.

      1. mahasamatman

        Re: I call bollocks.

        When I started my undergraduate course at the University of Manchester Computer Science department in 1986, they had just switched the teaching facilities from a large mainframe to a shiny new network of Sun 3/50 workstations and were actually keen that students learn the GUI principles of the future ...

        Doh!

      2. wowfood

        Re: I call bollocks.

        A lot of it (in my experience with teaching parents) is that the older generation appear to be more afraid of breaking something. It took me a month of reassurances to convince my mother that unplugging the PC wouldn't wipe all the data stored on it.

        Kids on the other hands are happy enough to push random buttons to see what happens. And that's the difference imo.

        The XKCD tech support flow chart is a good example

        https://xkcd.com/627/

        Step 1: Find a menu or button that looks like it does what you want to do

        Step 2: Click it.

        Older generation are afraid of the first two tech support steps, lest the break something. Younger folks on the other hand will happily click whatever until something works.

        1. Anonymous Coward 101

          Re: I call bollocks.

          "A lot of it (in my experience with teaching parents) is that the older generation appear to be more afraid of breaking something."

          I am surprised at the number of people that think that a micro USB device charger must be the one that came with the device, and not just any old micro USB charger from a reputable manufacturer.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: I call bollocks.

          "Younger folks on the other hand will happily click whatever until something works."

          Or until they get pwned.

        3. Allan George Dyer

          Re: I call bollocks.

          "Older generation are afraid of the first two tech support steps, lest the break something. Younger folks on the other hand will happily click whatever until something works."

          So, youngsters go around clicking on everything, until they learn (usually on something vitally important, say, a thesis) that there are ways of breaking it. By the time they become old fogeys, they are afraid of clicking anything.

          Maybe we should explain that, along with clicking things, people need to observe, and figure out what is going on?

        4. Selden

          Re: I call bollocks.

          Thank you for the xkcd tech support flow chart — I'm tempted to use it when answering especially clueless questions.

      3. Christian Berger

        Re: I call bollocks.

        The problem is that we are increasingly cutting off people from accessing what's below the shiny surface. In fact on many mobile devices you don't even get to have root access by default.

        Compare that to the home computer era. Sure most people used them to play games, but once you turned them on, you were presented with a fully fledged command prompt in the form of a BASIC interpreter.

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: I call bollocks.

          The problem is that we are increasingly cutting off people from accessing what's below the shiny surface. In fact on many mobile devices you don't even get to have root access by default.

          But is it a problem? I can drive a car without needing to know what goes on under the bonnet. Does it matter if a SQL developer doesn't know assembly language for any CPU? Does it matter that the vast majority of The Register's readers probably don't know how to build logic gates let alone how a transistor works?

          Human technological progress has always mostly been about combining things together then wrapping them up to hide the complexity.

          1. mythicalduck

            Re: I call bollocks.

            >But is it a problem? I can drive a car without needing to know what goes on under the bonnet

            I bet you don't claim your a car mechanic or say you fix your friends' cars for them (or they ask you to fix their car)?

            Would you argue that car mechanic skills are "high" because lots of people drive cars?

            1. AndrueC Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: I call bollocks.

              I bet you don't claim your a car mechanic or say you fix your friends' cars for them (or they ask you to fix their car)?

              Indeed not but what does that have to with the text that I quoted:

              The problem is that we are increasingly cutting off people from accessing what's below the shiny surface. In fact on many mobile devices you don't even get to have root access by default.

              I don't see any mention in there of people claiming to be anything and that was the point I was addressing.

              Leading to vary degrees of disasters when people don't realise they have broken an important constraint in a lower building block.

              Now that's true. And likely a lot of car drivers could lower their fuel and repair costs if they knew more about how motor vehicles worked. I'm not saying that it's wonderful that humans do this. I am however suggesting that we wouldn't be anywhere near as technologically advanced if everyone had to know everything about a tool before they used it. It's a compromise we continue to make and have very little choice in that. There isn't enough time for all of us to learn everything and very few of us are capable of keeping all that information in our heads if we did have the time.

              So - today's sprogs are doing what we did and what our parents did and what our parent's parents did. Building on someone else' expertise without needing to understand it. James Burke did a couple of interesting TV series on this in the 80s. Available on YouTube last I looked.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I call bollocks.

            "Human technological progress has always mostly been about combining things together then wrapping them up to hide the complexity."

            Leading to vary degrees of disasters when people don't realise they have broken an important constraint in a lower building block.

            A good example of the house of cards is garden decking. The timber can no longer be treated with a wood preservative containing arsenic for reasons of toxicity. It now often has a copper based treatment. That means you can't use steel or aluminium fastenings - they corrode due to the copper. Serious accidents have resulted. If you use steel fastenings they need to be ACQ certified - showing they have resistance to copper corrosion.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I call bollocks.

        I agree. The Offcom research is all bollocks.

        [Anonymous, because I've forgotten how to change that - and my son is on a sleepover with his friends.]

      5. Steve I

        Re: I call bollocks.

        I remember a discussion on a forum once on the CLI vs. GUI. One CLI fan commented that he could knock up a quick CLI command string to convert a folder of 100 JPEGS to BMP (or whatever) much, much faster than someone doing it in a GUI graphics program.

        Mind you, he couldn't see the irony of using an image-processing problem to demonstrate the advantages of the CLI over a GUI.

      6. Dr Scrum Master
        Headmaster

        Re: I call bollocks.

        Do today's students still have to (virtually) build the Manchester University Mk 1?

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon

          Re: I call bollocks.

          IF you don't break something, how are you going to learn how to fix it?

          I've broken more stuff than I care to remember, and the reason I'm a professional in my field now is because of the experience of fixing things I broke (or that someone else broke).

          You eventually learn to only break things in interesting ways that no-one has done before :)

    2. Jim 59

      Re: I call bollocks.

      These days, I think teenagers are put off computers and tech purely *because* so many grown ups are so expert in this area.

      In the 80s, just having access to a computer was a new and exciting thing. We all knew somehow that it was the tip of a revolution. Nowadays, Tech is a mass employer. There are likely several Software Engineers in your street. Every house has 5 PCs. Even the "man in the street" has a lot of tech knowledge, probably enough to set up his family's router and network. A teenager interested in programming is likely to find he already has 3 uncles who are expert in the latest languages. And that takes the excitement away and he may lose interest.

  4. web_bod
    FAIL

    Waste of space

    A survey for the shallow and vapid, if you never shut-up about your shiny then you'll do well.

  5. nevstah

    "We hit our peak confidence and understanding of digital communications and technology when we are in our mid-teens; this drops gradually up to our late 50s and then falls rapidly from 60 and beyond," Ofcom said.

    i'm more interested on how 20-30somethings 'now' will fare when they reach retirement age - will they struggle with new tech? or be able to adapt easier and quicker because its a process already learned?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "i'm more interested on how 20-30somethings 'now' will fare when they reach retirement age - will they struggle with new tech?"

      I don't know, but by then I definitely won't be in a position to care.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "or be able to adapt easier and quicker because its a process already learned?"

      If you know more than one way to do something - then it slows you down because you have to make a choice based on evaluating the context.

      If you only know one way to do something - then you are faced with a mental re-adjustment when you meet a different implementation. Usually people try to make the new thing fit their old mental model.

      It was only when I met my third computer hardware architecture that I really understood there was more than one way to achieve the same result.

      It is surprising how many people don't twig when they meet the rarely used left hand thread on a piece of hardware.

      1. Michael Thibault

        >It is surprising how many people don't twig when they meet the rarely used left hand thread on a piece of hardware.

        Almost everyone--even the generally-competent, and even those who are aware of the existence of that class of threaded objects and who attempt, informally, to enumerate and catalogue them--will fail to twig if such a thread is used and its use violates the principle of least surprise. An example: an inexplicable, never-before-seen instance of a reverse-threaded bolt in a bicycle's stem/quill.

  6. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    FAIL

    Arbeitsbeschaffungsmassnahme fur NEETs

    The British children of today – who have rarely heard the chirping of a dial-up connection – have matched middle-aged folks' tech ability by the age of six, new Ofcom research has claimed.

    Pfffhha hahaha

    This research brought to you by overpaid trick cyclists just out of "social science" studies.

    1. vagabondo

      Re: Arbeitsbeschaffungsmassnahme fur NEETs

      No, this "research" is by a marketing company providing material suitable for a press release aimed at technical illiterate "journalists" to punt to the Stephen Fry type of advertisee.

      They were relating the subjects on their awareness of electronic media products. No awareness of what was being sold, or the "payment" being extracted was required.

      [Instad of a "Think of the Children" we need an "Exploit the Children" icon.]

  7. JimmyPage
    FAIL

    Sorry, I call "bollocks"

    very loudly.

    My 18yo son, who has an apprenticeship in ICT (and tells everyone he works in IT) had to call me up Saturday night, to "set the internet up" (i.e. explain how to go to Settings, Wireless and Networks, APNs) on his mates phone. They were having a little party with about 10 others, none of whom had the faintest idea (which is why they asked my lad).

  8. Wyrdness

    I'm not convinced by this. Us 45-year olds have grown up with technology, from the Spectrums, BBCs, Ataris and Commodores of our youth, though the PC era to todays tablets and smartphones.

    My 6-year old is pretty technically savvy (and can leave me in the dust at Super Mario), but there's no way that he could match my tech skills.

    1. NumptyScrub

      You're confusing the skills of techies (i.e. us) vs. the skills of the average layperson in that age group. The average person that actually takes the time to fill out an Ofcom survey, instead of ignoring it because there's a server to rebuild and I want to get home some time tonight, thanks.

      My cousin's kids do appear to be slightly more technologically capable than my cousin, in my experience, so this finding is not outside the bounds of possibility. It's unlikely to be true for most reader of the Reg though ;)

    2. Jim 59

      Questions

      I would ask about the knowledge level of the people who composed the survey. If they are non-technical, they might think listening the Spotify is the last word in being "digitally savvy", and judge others on that level. In order to compose the survey, their own expertise level has to be much higher than the "man in the street", and this might not be the case. In fact their expertise level may actually be below that of the average citizen.

      This would explain how they can equate a 6 year old who listens to Spotify with a 44 year old who contributes to the Linux kernel on a regular basis and runs 10 websites including his own tech blog. He does not listen to Spotify because he has built a far better music solution. But the survey and the surveyors don't understand any of that. They questions only ask about noddy internet services.

      Might seem far fetched but this happens now and again on BBC TV and Radio 4. On the rare occasions they cover a technical subject, it sometimes becomes apparent that the interviewer's knowledge level is not only less than the expert he is interviewing, but also below that of the average citizen. The interviewer has problems grasping what even laymen already understand, and his questions and reactions reflect that, much to the exasperation of listeners at home.

  9. iworm
    Joke

    Keep taking them...

    "In the last three years we have seen that change and we think that's down to tablets."

    Ah, isn't modern medicine wonderful?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So

    "The British children of today...have matched middle-aged folks' tech ability by the age of six"

    Which is getting hosts of trojans installed on their PC and being able to watch netflix on their tablet.

    Yep, I will certainly agree with that.

    In other news, decent sysadmins still have beards.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So

      Most all decent men have beards.

      Ladies sometimes too.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So

        Shurely only lady Dwarfes?

  11. Andy 73

    Good

    We're desperate for good Hadoop engineers, with solid Java, web services and Nosql experience..

    Foolishly we were looking at people who'd been in the industry for a few years, when we should be interviewing 6 year olds.

    There again..

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Good

      Hopefully this progressive government will rescind all those anti-business nanny-state laws about child labour and we will have a ready made workforce willing to work 18hour days in the dark satanic data centers and data mines

      1. Michael Dunn

        Re: Good @ Yet anotheranon.....

        As to wor4king in Data Mines - remember PICK?

        1. carrera4life

          Re: Good @ Yet anotheranon.....

          Fancy his parents naming him Dick Pick....

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Brain Overload

    As a sixty something who has been working in IT for more than 40 years my take on current technology is as follows.

    1) If I need to learn some new thing then I will but some current skill will probably get forgotten.

    2) Lots of the currently fashionable 'stuff' like Twitter, Facebook etc are not in the slightest bit appealing to me. some members of my family use them but there is never any pressure for me to sign up.

    3) Cloud? Yawn. Next.

    4) Tablets have their uses. Mine spends most of its time in Airplane mode as it is mostly used as an Ebook reader.

    5) Java is a PITA but I have to use it to earn a living. I shall be glad to retire so that I can erase it from my memory. The same goes for C#/.Net.

    I use technology but only what suits me and I have a real need to use it. I still take photographs using a camera I bough in 1978 (Film). Yes I have a modern digital camera I get more pleasure using film than I do with Digital and that is what it all is about.

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Re: Brain Overload

      Regarding number 1 - you are Homer Simpson!

      Homer: Oh... and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember when I took that home wine-making course and I forgot how to drive?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Brain Overload

      "If I need to learn some new thing then I will but some current skill will probably get forgotten."

      When the surface of a new thing is scratched - what often appears is an old thing dressed up in new terminology. Basic principles can be extrapolated to understand, and predict, the features of many new constructs. Often the new thing has overlooked, or quietly disregarded, the known weaknesses of the old idea.

      However fluency in a new thing takes practice - and old skills rust if not exercised and honed regularly.

    3. phuzz Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Brain Overload

      "3) Cloud? Yawn. Next."

      Think of it as a mainframe with lots of terminals attached, you know, like back in the old days when cars were brown and tuppence h'apenny would get you a pint of mild.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Brain Overload

        Had a banking app in VB that screen-scrapped a mainframe app that thought it was talking to 3270 terminals - so they could use PCs.

        Then it got replaced by a webpage that screen-scrapped the same mainframe app.

        Now they are talking about moving the web server/scrapper into the cloud.

        The mainframe hasn't changed, just gets more memory/CPU/storage added every few years.

  13. deshepherd

    6 year olds may have the same tech skills as a 45 year old but, from bitter experience, that doesn't mean they can understand that "Granny's TV doesn't have a pause button like ours does". Was a bit of a revelation to realise that our younger son who had grown up with TiVo had no comprehension of what " live TV" was!

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge
      Flame

      6 year olds have the same tech skills as a 45 year old because modern UI's seem to have been designed for them. Bold colors easily stabbed with little fingers for instant gratification. Want to know more? Well, did you buy the support contract, or call our premium rate number for help.

      Case in point. In World of Tanks, there'd been some network tweaks and a claim that altering TCP parameters improved UDP peformance and fixed 'lag'. Which sounded weird. And some claimed it had improved things. Which sounded weirder. But this is on Windows so I figured I'd have a quick poke to figure out why. My first mistake was that if I could find a network settings widget it'd show me all of them, maybe in the control panel, hopefully under 'network'.. But this is Windows. One is not meant to look under the hood.

  14. stu 4

    pfft

    I just called me niece, who is 6.

    She couldn't explain the difference between abstraction and encapsulation, and failed to name even one GoF pattern.

    And frankly, her design diagram showing the main components of her bicycle and their interactions, was laughably inadequate.

    idiot.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: pfft

      And the covers for her TPS reports looked like they were done with finger paint.

  15. John 203

    DON'T PANIC

    It's aimed at consumers so it's really just a test of how much people use and feel comfortable with new technology so there's no need for middle aged programmers to be waving Java manuals in their kids faces or telling little Johnny that he's useless because he can't compile a Linux kernel.

    1. Anonymous Blowhard

      Re: DON'T PANIC

      "there's no need for middle aged programmers to be waving Java manuals in their kids faces or telling little Johnny that he's useless because he can't compile a Linux kernel."

      Yes there is!

      Grab your pitchforks and light up those torches!!!

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: DON'T PANIC

      telling little Johnny that he's useless because he can't compile a Linux kernel.

      If he hasn't mastered a single syllable word like "Make" by the time he's 6, he is useless.

      1. Steven Raith

        Re: DON'T PANIC

        As the subject is suitable, is it time to discuss Douglas Adam's three ages of technology?

        Full credit to the late man himself, of course:

        "I suppose earlier generations had to sit through all this huffing and puffing with the invention of television, the phone, cinema, radio, the car, the bicycle, printing, the wheel and so on, but you would think we would learn the way these things work, which is this:

        1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;

        2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;

        3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.

        Apply this list to movies, rock music, word processors and mobile phones to work out how old you are."

        Full text, which is, of course, typically entertaining:

        http://www.douglasadams.com/dna/19990901-00-a.html

        HTH

        Steven R

  16. Anomalous Cowshed

    Tech skills

    As usual, a nice dollop of bollock[s] coming from the world of officialdom.

    In other news:

    Cats more savvy than their owners at using cat-flaps

    Dogs more savvy at fetching sticks and bringing them back

    Cows more savvy than gardeners at eating grass

    Yuppies more savvy at driving BMWs than their bosses

    A 6-year-old IS more savvy using various iphones and what-have-you. But this is consumption of technology. The 45-year-old might be a master system designer or programmer, responsible for designing the technology used by the 6-year-old, but not particularly versed in or interested in being versed in using such technology to enhance/dampen his life. That's OK.

    The problem is this: will this alleged 'tech-savviness' lead the 6-year-old to want to explore further, and him/herself become a master system designer or programmer? Or will the availability of countless convenient devices and applications designed by 45-year-old master system designers or programmers lead the 6-year-olds to grow up in such a comfortable and convenient environment that they wrongly believing that using iphones and what-have-you is the be-all and end-all of tech-savviness?

  17. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    "For years there has been a very stubborn resistance by the over 65s to accessing the internet," said James Thickett, research director at Ofcom. "In the last three years we have seen that change and we think that's down to tablets."

    Could this perhaps be due to the passage of time? In other words, those at the top end of the age scale have a habit of dying, taking their lack of technological know-how with them, but with the progress of time, the under 65s (who are generally more tech savvy) are now joining the over 65s.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As a budding old fogey

      I can assure you that I have no intention of making a habit of dying.

      1. Swarthy

        Re: As a budding old fogey

        I wouldn't make a habit of it, but it is something I think I'll try once, one of these days.

        1. DJV Silver badge

          @ Swarthy

          Yeah, but suppose you don't like it and want to change your mind?

          1. Hollerith 1

            Re: @ Swarthy

            Some religions have that 'come again' thing covered.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @ Swarthy

              that explains it. I was reincarnated and tube fired relay logic was as advanced as it got before I kicked the bucket. :(

      2. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Re: As a budding old fogey

        Unlike say, Agrajag then :)

    2. sandman

      Odd viewpoint

      Many years ago I wrote, designed and built one of the earliest museum websites in the UK. It was designed for potential visors to the museum, Key Stage 2 kids and anyone interested in the history of the period.

      Running user surveys (a bit painful in those days) produced a rather unexpected result. Something like 30% of the respondents put down their occupation as "retired". This was in the late 90's.

      Now, there is always the self-selection problem with this sort of survey, but I suspect they went onto the site because there was something they were actually interested in reading there. Perhaps many older people aren't that interested in "technology" because they don't find much of what's on offer worth the effort.

    3. Charles Manning

      It's the tablets

      Without the daily medication most of the oldies would have died in their 50s.

  18. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Stop

    We hit our peak confidence and understanding <...> in our mid-teens

    I think I can safely say that I understand damn sight more about digital communications and technology now, in my mid fifties, than I did in my teens...

    Though that may be because when I was at school, the only 'computing' class was actually 'data entry'.

  19. Steven Jones

    The real meaning of DQ...

    The real meaning "Digital Quotient" is not so much how "technical savvy" somebody is, but rather a measure of how susceptible they are to being consumers of the latest products and services from Internet and gadget companies.

    So not so much a reflection of understanding, but more a statement of fashion sense in the world of being a consumer of hi-tech services and products...

  20. mamsey

    Tech?

    The ability to use Facefarce/Twitbook and even the internet should not be classed as a 'tech' skill.

  21. Ralara

    "tech savvy"

    no. They can download some apps is all. Maybe better than older adults can. But they're not "tech savvy". They don't know how any of it works (just as most adults don't, either).

  22. Frankee Llonnygog

    I would say the average 6 year old has mastered -

    - Making a persuasive case for new technology purchases

    - Outsourcing tedious procurement activities

    - Agile methodologies

    - Green screen interfaces (or whatever colour of poster paint is to hand)

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Devil

      Re: I would say the average 6 year old has mastered -

      So they're bang-up candidates for Management then!

      The only downside being the wining and tantrums. But I'm sure the 6 year-olds will be willing to put up with that...

  23. Patrick R
    Pint

    I'm OK with that.

    We've learned to speak properly, count, orientate, interact with each other, climb trees AND use/understand technology. And we'll live far longer than they will. I feel sorry for them.

  24. Grikath
    Facepalm

    tech skills?

    Pushing buttons maybe. But hand them a screwdriver, and see the panic enter their eyes.

    Hell, being 45 years old I remember the time where a healthy lad of 6 with a screwdriver would have been a terror, because you'd never know what would have been disassembled this time around. Nowadays? pffffttt.

    1. Toltec

      Re: tech skills?

      One of the 'Junior' technician tests I used in interviews was as follows-

      Using the tools and instructions provided assemble the connector on to the utp network cable.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: tech skills?

        A decent thumbnail is useful for straightening the ends out before being shoved into the rj-45 :)

  25. Mage Silver badge

    Ofcom has forked tongue

    a) I agree with all the earlier posters. Having a false confidence to click the icons till something happens proves nothing. It's not about technology but use of shiny gadgets with style speced by Marketing and Arts people.

    b) Anything published by Ofcom is suspect in methodology. First identify the Ofcom agenda.

  26. Salts

    Did you take the quiz?

    I tried the quiz, bollocks as you would expect,

    https://research.ipsosinteractive.com/mrIWeb/mrIWeb.dll

    one question was

    I prefer to contact friends by text message than by phone call

    (e.g. by SMS, BBM, iMessage)

    Now the answer to that is, if I am running late for the pub I send a text, if I want to talk to them I call them, if they are overseas I will normally use VoIP because of cost, I may email them ... But there was no option for 'I use the technology appropriate for the circumstances'

    1. davefb

      Re: Did you take the quiz?

      I was 'amused' by the google glasses and smartwatch question..

      Does ofcom actually think google glasses are on general sale? For that and smartwatch , it didn't have "I know about these, but they're clearly not really suitable yet, so since I'm pretty tech savvy I'll let someone else alpha test the products"

      Clearly the issue of self-selecting surveys doesnt crop up with journo's/ofcom.

  27. SteveCo

    I challenge any 6-year old to program a VCR better than I can!

  28. GregC
    Pint

    I was going to do a long rant about:

    - how us 40-somethings are the generation that grew up during the period that computers went mainstream, when using them meant typing the actual commands in not just jabbing an icon. We had to have a basic understanding of the things just to use them

    - wtf does this "DQ" actually measure - being tech savvy to me is not knowing how to watch Netflix on a tablet or post shit on Twitter

    - Get off my lawn

    Having read the previous comments I see that my fellow commentards have done a splendid job of all of this, plus many other points. Good work people, have a virtual (see, I'm tech-savvy!) pint :)

  29. Sosman

    Anyone can produce stats like this report just by asking the 'right' questions.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Using ≠ understanding

    I suspect that similar numbers were being bandied about in the 1920s about how youngsters all knew how to drive and couldn't be bothered with horses and buggies.

    But that doesn't mean everyone today can design a new car engine or even service one properly.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missing the point - but the survey is still rubbish

    First, I suspect the survey was not trying to compare IT professionals or even hobbyists with six year olds. I assume it was looking at "laymen" as far as informatics is concerned, so none of the smart colleagues âbout compiling kernels (wonder how many of you could actually write or even modify the make file and it still work) are relevant.

    That said, of course the result according to the media (including this august journal) is rubbish.

    1. Older people tend to have a better use for their time than being adept with computer games or social media or even the fine points of email.

    2. Older people have got more options: they are used to using a written note, sending a card, making a quick telephone call, just walking over to see the other person. They often quite like face-to-face interaction and hve teh confidence and means to use it. This is not the case with very young or even moderately young children and adolescents for the most part.

    3. Older people "invented" and developed computing, telecommunications and so forth.

    4. Try asking the six year old teh difference between an "app", or even what one is and the operating system.

    5. As said by others, our approach to problems is formed by education and experience. If the first thirty or forty years of your life did not have to suffer computers at close quarters, you will not treat them as just another, everyday tool like a knife and fork (some of our yoof find these difficult, judging by cack-handed usage in restaurants).

    6. Just push some likely looking buttons? Yes, seen that, been there to try to fix the result. Apple make a fortune out of people doing just that and promote silent, cloud back-up to enable recovery from just that approach (yes, I know a couple of people who have benefitted and still do not understand how the apple chap got their contacts back).

    7. I've had, recently, a flurry of people seeking help with both windows and OS X. The worst Windows problem was caused by, come to think of it, a clever six year old. His cleverness resulted in "ransomeware" being installed. The youngish parents had no idea about windows updates either - takes a while to load three years worth.

    Then another youngish couple dould not quite get the idea of back-ups, having the time capsule disc turned on .... They are not stupid, just not their field, though she uses complex video programmes to make films.

    The oldest are 84 and 70. The 84 year old managed fairly well and has only now moved to a tablet. The 70 year old needed help with organising his thousands of photographs and music pieces on his new iMac, being used to XP. But he got the printer going, his holiday-let accounts going with OpenOffice, all the data transferred across and so on without me. He just needed help understanding the different model. When it came to a wifi network extender, he was the one with the wit to find the correct string to type. Neither were even remotely technical in their careers.

    So, I pooh-pooh such surveys and wonder about the background of the authors, what they call "technical" and how they evaluated their tests.

  32. adnim
    Joke

    .."have matched middle-aged folks' tech ability by the age of six"

    If I knew then what I know now...

    I would have been subject to a great deal of psychoanalysis and considered a freak!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: .."have matched middle-aged folks' tech ability by the age of six"

      "I would have been subject to a great deal of psychoanalysis and considered a freak!"

      That's redundant - the whole point of psychoanalysis is to identify what type of freak you are (mainly for the invoicing).

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Multitasking?

    I also disagree with "kids being better at multitasking". The design of the human brain didn't suddenly change - kids have the same restrictions. If you're listening to music and watching a video, you cannot focus on both with 100% concentration. Likewise, reading and talking on the phone simultaneously. Either you don't fully understand what you're reading, or you're not really listening to the phone call.

    Now, I can passively listen to music and write T-SQL at the same time - does that mean I've mastered "multitasking"?

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    so they've learned how to manipulate data and influence people on the web

    but haven't learned enough about why they shouldn't do so, or the wisdom to figure out when they're being lied to.

    Sorcerer's Apprentices by the hundreds of thousands.

  35. cortland

    If words that sound nice were cursors and mice

    Louts would be writing, too.

    Subject, verb, abject. Subject, verb, abject ...

    Heh.

  36. Sirius Lee

    Channel 4 New Surf Olympics

    On the back of this report evening Channel 4 news did 'surf olymics' competition yesterday between a 6 year old, a 14/15 year old and a more mature woman. The woman won. What flummoxed the teenager 'Alfie' was sending an email. Not a clue. I think I'm right in quoting him saying 'he usually sends emails using Facebook'.

    Now right there is the tragedy. Email is ubiquitous and almost free but they only way a teenager knows how to send one is using platform like Facebook. Get them while they're young...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Facepalm

      Re: Channel 4 New Surf Olympics

      I read "surf olympics" and was immediately picturing the three on surfboards out in the ocean…

      I of course forgot about "surfing the web".

      I think I'm getting old!

  37. TechicallyConfused
    FAIL

    Absolute Tat

    "According to the survey, six-year-olds have the same DQ as 45-year-olds, while 60 per cent of people aged 55 or over have a below average DQ."

    Of course it is more likely that their analysis model is flawed or the test samples were utter garbage.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    riiiight.....

    They can't even speak or write in proper English. But they sure know how to press a feed bar.

    The commercials with "young professionals" sitting in a circle "working" on their ipads make me want to bash someone's head in.

  39. DiViDeD

    Eldsters are getting more tech savvy. REALLY?

    "In the last three years we have seen that change and we think that's down to tablets"

    Leaving out the obvious 'Can I get these tech savvy tablets on the NHS?', did Mr Obvious of Blindingly not consider the fact that the demgraphic has changed its profile, with a lot of the older ones popping their clogs and being replaced by people who were 62 when they did the last survey?

    It's like the twit on TV a couple of weeks ago saying 'In the last 10-15 years we've noticed that over 50s have become far more willing to understand and embrace the technology'

    What she meant, of cours, was 'Over the past 10-15 years, we've seen a lot of over people who understand and embrace the technology become over 50s.

    Defeats me why we pay these pontificators

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021