On 20th November 2023, we published this year’s Digital Youth Index Report in partnership with Opinium, which explores young people’s experiences online. From personal wellbeing and online safety to digital skills, connectivity and accessibility, the report shines a light on the complex and ever-evolving relationship between young people and technology.
As a public benefit company, we’re committed to levelling the playing field for people across the UK – with young people being a key focus. Our hope is that this research will raise awareness, prompt discussion, and inspire action to improve young people’s digital wellbeing and create new opportunities where technology can improve their lives.
Our report reveals vital statistics which reflect the key challenges that many young people face today. In this article, we highlight some of the key findings.
1. Two million young people across the UK lack access to a learning device
One of the most significant findings from this year’s report is that two million young people across the UK (or 14%) lack access to a learning device – whether that’s a laptop or a desktop computer.
What’s more, among the two million who lack access to a learning device, nearly 570,000 also lack access to a home broadband connection. In other words, these young people are doubly disadvantaged, especially when it comes to educational equality and social inclusion.
2. 15% of young people don’t have broadband access at home
The report revealed that access to home internet is becoming more of a luxury, with 15% of young people lacking access to broadband at home. Young people who receive free school meals are disproportionately affected at 23%, compared to the overall population.
Unsurprisingly, the cost-of-living crisis has exacerbated data poverty in the UK – with many families being forced to cancel their home internet packages to afford basic provisions like food and energy bills. In our research, 11% of respondents stated having to change or cancel their internet package.
For young people today, the impact of this simply can’t be overstated. For example, it may prevent them from participating fully in education, finding a job, or accessing mental health services.
Young people who lack access to the internet at home are also more likely to become socially isolated, at an age where the online world is often the main topic of conversation in social settings. Our research supports this notion, revealing that young people are spending an average of four to five hours per day online.
3. 76% of young people have had upsetting online experiences
While the majority of young people we surveyed (94%) reported that they felt safe online, this year’s report highlighted a concerning upward trend. Young people are increasingly being exposed to upsetting content and experiences online (76%) across fake news, hate speech and sexual content.
Many of the respondents shared that they had seen distressing content on social media – particularly X (Twitter), Reddit and TikTok – and felt that it had a noticeable impact on their personal health and wellbeing. This was especially the case for over 16-year-olds.
4. Uptake and interest in AI is growing among young people – with more than half using a chatbot in 2023!
Artificial intelligence use cases have grown exponentially in recent years, leading to a surge in popularity, with AI tools like ChatGPT bringing AI technology into the mainstream. According to our research, this feeling is mirrored among young people; 53% of respondents have used an AI chatbot and are curious about how they can use AI tools to improve their lives.
While this marks an exciting development in attitudes towards artificial intelligence, young people also indicated that they had concerns about what AI could mean for the future of work. Pair this with an uncertain economic climate and it’s evident that young people have plenty to contend with when considering their future careers.
5. 40% of young people view social media as a force for good
Despite the challenges associated with young people’s experiences online, 40% of respondents agreed that social media is a force for good – while only 16% disagreed.
However, this still leaves 44% who are on the fence about the effects of social media. Furthermore, our research revealed that those in marginalised groups – such as LGBTQ+, young people with disabilities, and those with mental health conditions – are much more likely to agree that social media has a negative impact on people like them. This suggests more needs to be done to tackle online harms.
The report demonstrates that while many young people recognise the value of technology – such as connecting with others and education – these experiences aren’t universal and are dependent on a range of factors.
Download this year’s Digital Youth Index Report
This year’s report provides an in-depth look into young people’s digital lives – shining a light on the social inequalities impacting digital access and connectivity. It also considers the challenges and opportunities that technology presents, and the impact on young people’s wellbeing.
We want to encourage technology companies, charities, policy makers and businesses to explore the data and use it to inform and enact positive change for young people across the UK. Our free interactive online tool allows you to filter by topic (e.g. access) and delve into the data to see how young people responded in each category.
Want to find out more? Download your copy of the Digital Youth Index Report 2023 today.