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Young people actively looking to ‘digitally detox’

Half of all 25-34 year olds are actively seeking time away from their smartphones and other internet-enabled devices, compared to 43% of all households, according to EY’s latest annual digital home survey of 2,500 UK consumers.

Decoding the digital home 2019 is the first in a series of findings from EY’s annual research into household attitudes and habits towards technology, media and entertainment and telecommunications (TMT) products and services within the home.

As concerns of the impact of technology on everyday life increase, the survey also found that heavy internet use is decreasing in the 25-34 year old age group with only 25% spending 30 or more hours online per week, down from 30% in 2017’s report, and compared to 28% of all households this year.

Younger consumers are also looking at alternative ways to get online; 43% of 18-24 year olds would ditch fixed broadband for an effective mobile broadband connection, compared to 25% of all households. And although young people may generally have less money to spend, they are increasingly willing to spend money on technology with 42% of 18-24 year olds being happy to pay a premium for new gadgets, while the figure for over-25s is less than half that (18%).

Adrian Baschnonga, global lead telecommunications analyst, EY, said: “Our survey results show that younger consumers may not be as addicted to technology as we like to think.

“Fears of smartphone overexposure are rising and so-called digital natives are spending less time surfing online. Despite this, younger consumers remain very receptive to new experiences and are ready to pay a premium for the latest technology and gadgets.”

Recent headlines about politically-inspired misinformation may not have gone unnoticed, with 44% of households saying they now only trust traditional news sources. In addition, an increasing number of households believe action must be taken, with 56% saying the internet should be very tightly regulated to restrict what consumers can access online, up from 50% in 2017.

Data security is also an increasingly important issue for the households surveyed; nearly three quarters (72%) say they are very cautious about disclosing personal financial information online, even to a trusted brand.

Having said that, nearly half (46%) of households think there is too much choice in terms of different bundles of broadband and content, up from 43% in 2017. Moreover, many people are reluctant to add further to their bundles with the proportion of households with a mobile phone included in their contract falling to 16% from 17% in 2017.

Yet despite consumers never having had so much choice, 36% of households believe that there is very little difference between the services offered by broadband providers. In addition, 26% of households say that it is not worth the effort to change broadband provider.

Praveen Shankar, EY’s head of technology, media and telecommunications for the UK & Ireland, said: “Our latest survey highlights both opportunities and challenges for TMT providers.

“They will be pleased to see that consumers are willing to pay for premium services, but they will also be concerned that customers are overwhelmed and confused by the variety of bundles available. Looking ahead, it is essential for providers to simplify their propositions and offer easier to understand and clearly communicated product and services.

“Consumer privacy and security fears must also be heeded as they risk undermining levels of adoption, satisfaction and loyalty. Building trust with customers should be at the centre of providers’ strategy because, as our survey shows, it is one of the biggest obstacles to the continuing growth of the digital household.

“TMT providers can differentiate themselves and gain competitive advantage if they can tackle the element of trust.”