During the internet’s primary distribution phase, job requirements drove the development. White-collar workers already had the knowledge to use computers and were the first who took advantage of the new technology. The result was a profound digital divide between the high and low educated, men and women, between white-collar workers (young and middle-aged), and the old and young.
Early on, there were also personal driving forces among the young that became stronger through the expansion of the broadband network. The digital divide between the young, regardless of education, was reduced.
When distribution of the smartphone took off, the young were the driving force. They already had the knowledge of not only calling on their mobile phones but also sending texts and photos. At first, the older youths had smartphones, and then followed those in the ages of 12 to 15 years. While the early digital divide began to decrease and almost disappear in the working population, a new digital divide occurred. The elderly stood and still stand almost entirely outside the mobile boom.
Behind the latest technology distribution are families with children. Tablets are indeed used as a tool by some, but the rapid development behind the quick distribution of tablets are young families who are already knowledgeable internet users and actively take part in the social networks. The consequences are that preschool children and even smaller children become daily visitors in the app world, while most of the elderly are still outside.
A question for the future is how this new media situation, where apps dominate, will affect children and adolescents in the future. This also applies to their own identity, relationships to others and imagination, the creative ability (Gardner & Davis, 2013). Here there are both problems and possibilities. Apps can lock in and limit, but they can also open up creativity and development.
If we look at how adolescents present themselves on social networks, there is a strong stereotypical picture (Forsman, 2014). There is an clear tendency to present themselves with photos that are selected to show a positive image. Another study shows that 30-40 percent of normal conversation is about those who participate, while 80 percent of social updates are self-focused. Through sharing and tweets, one only encounters those who think like themselves and do not encounter those who think otherwise. Individualization is palpable.
At the same time, the internet gives many opportunities to create your own content and to search for information and facts. Already in pre-school age, children are using most of these possibilities. Through the internet, it is also easy to meet other people and maintain contact with people you have met earlier. The majority of adolescents have acquired many new friends over the internet and a part of these new contacts have then become friends outside the internet. Contacts within families have also never been so prominent.
The information divide
Although the digital divide in terms of access to the internet is bridged in a large part of the population, many still do not feel included and are not very knowledgeable when it comes to navigating the internet world. Two out of three pensioners do not feel particularly computer savvy. 40 percent of the population is never on social networks and much of the information that is presented and made available on the internet is out of reach for many, even though technically it is very much in reach for most.
Health and medical information abounds on the internet. Great efforts are being made to have even more information about health care on the internet. Most of the young and well-educated take part in this information at some time, while the older and lower educated very seldom do this. 94 percent of young, well-educated women take part in this information, while only 16 percent of older, less educated women do the same.
Information and knowledge gaps remain even if the advances in technology can sometimes make us forget that.