Millennials and technology: Their digital nativity

As we reflect on millennials over the past year, I think it only makes sense to share some of the reflections we collected from Millennials in our latest Canadian Millennials Report this June. One of the most repeated hallmarks of this generation is how technology has been engrained in their daily lives. Many articles have been written about what this all means for the millennial generation and what it means for those that interact with them, but we wanted to learn more about when exactly the millennial adoption of technology began.

In the latest Report we asked millennials when they remember regularly using a variety of technology, including tablets, smartphones, laptops and desktop computers.

The results are not surprising. Instead, they confirm the general assumptions we have had about the millennial generation: their coming of age experience was influenced by technology, especially the younger millennials.

For instance, the average age millennials remember using a computer was just twelve years old, even among older Millennials. Before our generation was learning the responsibilities of first jobs, and taking babysitting courses, we were learning skills and strategy of Pong and the Oregon Trail. For younger millennials, they just barely reached double-digits before they were frequently using a desktop computer.

There is a wider gap in age of adoption of things like laptops and smartphones. Those over 25 started using a laptop regularly when they were 17, and a smartphone when they were 19. For those under 25, they were 13 when they started regularly using a laptop, and 14 for smartphones.

Of course, some of these differences are due to the release dates for some of these technologies. For example, the more mainstream smartphones, like the iPhone, really took off in 2007-2008, so it only makes sense for there to be differences between those over and under 25.

Tablets are a bit of a different story. The average age for regular use was 19 years old. Those over 25 are slightly over the average, at 21 years old, and those under 25 were using tablets regularly before their sweet sixteen. Regular use for them started at 15 years old.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this is that this research confirms not only that millennials adopted these technologies at a young age, but that they have clear memories of using these technologies at a young age. Technology was a big part of how they learned about the world, with Google searches instead of library encyclopaedias, and email instead of snail mail.

And the adoption of these technologies meant more independence for the millennial generation, but in some regards,  it also meant more attachment. Millennials could surf the internet and it’s wealth of information all on their own, but we were also only a phone call, or FaceTime call away from our parents.

At Abacus we strive to understand the nuances of generational change and how it impacts you and your business. The Canadian Millennials Report is the largest syndicated study of millennials in Canada. We survey 2,000 millennials twice a year on a range of topics including politics, social values, and consumer trends. If you are interested in learning more about this generation, reach out to us and we would be happy to connect.

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