Digital Literacy in 2015:
America’s Complicated Relationship with the Internet

More info

What is digital literacy?

“Digital literacy is the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share and create content using information technologies and the Internet.”

Source: Cornell University


From Jan. 6–10, 2015, an online survey was conducted among 2,009 randomly selected American adults, age 18+, who are also Springboard America members. Springboard America is a subsidiary of the North American research firm Vision Critical and rewards its members for taking surveys. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current data on age, gender, region, education and ethnicity from the U.S. Census Bureau’s “American Community Survey” to ensure the sample is representative of the entire adult population of America. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

Computers, mobile devices and the Internet have altered many aspects of our lives—the way we work; the way we consume information; and the way we communicate. But how do Americans feel about this? Are they confident in their abilities to embrace these changes? Or, do constant advances in technology leave them feeling obsolete and out of touch? Rasmussen College commissioned a study of 2,009 U.S. adults to find out.

The Internet:
Can't live with it, can't live without it

It seems America’s attitude toward the Internet is conflicted: More than half of respondents (59%) admitted they find the Internet overwhelming; yet, 68% of survey takers said they “can’t live without it.”

Tweet this

Topping the list of concerns are safety and security:

71% said they worry about computer viruses.

68% said they’re worried about someone stealing their personal information online. Yet, one in four respondents (26%) admitted they use the same password on multiple sites, and therefore aren’t doing as much as they can to protect themselves.

Tweet this

Millennials find the Internet more frightening than older Americans

Perhaps surprisingly, the younger generation is most afraid of the Internet. Around 37% of 18–34-year-old respondents said they find the Internet scary and 35% admitted they don’t feel safe online.

Tweet this

People who don't feel safe online

Embed Pin this

People who think the Internet is scary

Embed Pin this

One in 10 millennials have not applied for jobs because they lack confidence in their skills

Digital literacy isn’t just about recreational Internet usage. A perceived lack of digital literacy skills is impacting people in very real ways.

Around 10% of millennials said they didn’t apply for a job because they felt they didn’t have adequate digital literacy skills.

Tweet this

The vast majority of Americans want to improve their digital literacy

The desire to improve digital literacy reaches far beyond the younger generation. More than eight out of 10 people surveyed said they would like to improve their digital literacy. Professional skills and personal security topped the list of priorities with 27% and 23%, respectively. Common motivators for wanting to improve digital literacy skills include saving money, staying informed and keeping up with friends and family.

Which skills would you most like to improve?

< click a skill to show a further breakdown

  • >27% Office/professional skills
  • >23% How to use the web safely
  • >12% How to get the most out of the Internet
  • >11% Other computer skills
  • >5% Connect with people
  • >5% Apply for jobs
  • >17% I do not want to improve any computer skills
Embed Pin this

Improved professional skills & web safety are also top priorities for millennials

It’s not just the older generations that want to improve their professional skills and stay safe online. One in four 18–34-year-olds highlighted the use of professional software as the area they most want to develop, and 24% of the same age group wanted to learn how to use the web safely.

Americans who want to improve their office / professional skills

Embed Pin this

Americans who want to know how to use the web more safely

Embed Pin this

What’s stopping people from improving their digital literacy?

Why aren’t people taking steps to improve their digital literacy, despite the desire to do so? Almost a quarter of Americans (23%) say they don’t know where to go for help. Other common barriers include cost and time constraints, while 11% confess they’re too embarrassed to admit they don’t know how to find things online.

  • 39%I don't have enough time
  • 28%I can't afford a course
  • 23%I don't know where to go for help
  • 11%I'm embarrassed to admit I can't do things
  • 11%My friends/family do it for me

What does this all mean?

While many Americans are scared, overwhelmed or confused by the Internet and the technology evolving around them, they can’t imagine their lives without it. This survey shows people recognize the importance of improving their software skills and staying safe on the web, and are motivated to master new skills and make themselves more digitally literate. However, they are discouraged by time and cost restrictions, not knowing where to turn for help and feeling too embarrassed to admit inadequacies—even though they know these skills could help improve their lives.

Receive Personalized Information Today
  • Personalized financial aid
  • Customized support services
  • Detailed program plan
  • Attend a no-obiligation Nursing Information Session
  • Meet the Dean of Nursing
  • Enrollment application
  • Personalized financial aid
  • Career path guidance
How may we contact you?

Please complete all fields

What would you like to study?

The program you have selected is not available in your area. Please select another program of interest.

By requesting information, I authorize Rasmussen College to contact me by email, phone or text message at the number provided. There is no obligation to enroll.