Perceived differences in knowledge about interactive technology between young adults and their parents


This study was designed to investigate generational differences in knowledge about interactive technology (i.e., cell phones, social networking, email, video chat) between parents and their young adult children. Parents (n = 555) and young adults (n = 604) residing in the United States provided information about their knowledge in the use of interactive technology. Young adult children also reported their perceptions of their parents’ technological knowledge for the various technologies. Comparisons of young adult self-reported technological knowledge and their parents’ own reports of technological knowledge revealed that young adults were perceived to be much more knowledgeable than their parents (by both the young adults and their parents) regardless of the technology medium. The largest differences between parents and their young adult children were associated with newer interactive technologies, with the largest gap between parent and young adult knowledge in the area of social networking. Perceived differences between parents and their young adult children were smaller among the technologies that have been in use longer (such as such as e-mail), and larger among the newer modes of interactive technology (e.g., video chat).

Digital generation gap; social networking; video chat; cell phones; email; ecological theory; parents
Author biographies

J. Mitchell Vaterlaus

J. Mitchell Vaterlaus, PhD, LMFT is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health and Human Development at Montana State University. His research interests include applied family science and new media and technology influences on family and human development. Dr. Vaterlaus is particularly interested in the role technology plays in parent-child relationships during adolescence and young adulthood.

Randall M. Jones

Randall M. Jones, PhD is a Professor and Coordinator of Graduate Programs in the Department of Family, Consumer, and Human Development at Utah State University. His research focus includes: 1) identity development and a wide range of adolescent problem behaviors (criminal activity, delinquency, precocious sexual behavior), 2) family, social, and technological influences on identity development, and 3) reciprocal relations between adolescent identity development and adolescent environments (imposed, selected, and constructed). Outside of his work, Jones enjoys spending time with his wife and pets (Norwegian Elkhounds).

Sarah Tulane

Sarah Tulane, PhD is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the department of Family, Consumer, and Human Development at Utah State University. She received her PhD from Utah State University in Family and Human Development with an emphasis in adolescence. Her research interests include adolescent psychosocial development, technology and relationships, and family life education.

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