A new research study, published today by the Carnegie UK Trust, explores how ‘digitally savvy’ people are across the UK and Ireland.

Digitally Savvy Citizens’ examines how people’s behavior varies depending on their age, gender, level of affluence and which part of the UK they live in.

Scotland comes out top in several regards, most notably in that they have the highest proportion of people using a passcode to protect their phone or turn off location services.

Age an important factor

Based on representative surveys with more than 5,000 people across England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland, the study found that people aged over 55 are the least likely of any age group to use a passcode or password on their mobile phone or smart phone; or turn to turn off phone location services.

Less than half the older population (47%) protects their phone with a passcode or password, well below the national average (70%).

By contrast, the Trust’s research shows that almost double the proportion of teenagers and young adults (15-24 year olds) protect their phone with a passcode or password (89%) and turn off phone location services (48%) when not required, when compared to the older population.

However, the research also revealed that older people tend to be much more cautious about how they conduct themselves online.

Just one in ten allows their social media profile to be public and around one in five uses public wifi to conduct online banking.

By contrast, while younger people are far more aware of how protect their mobile devices, they are also more confident using public wifi to perform banking tasks and are four times as likely to have a public social media profile, when compared to over 55s.

Security-conscious Scots

The report also found differences in behaviour across the jurisdictions.

People in Wales are most likely to share photos online, people in England use the widest range of sources to find information, people in Scotland are most security-conscious in relation to their mobile phones, while people in Northern Ireland are most cautious in their use of public wifi.

Scotland was the only jurisdiction where people were as likely to verify information against another source than not verify it. Alongside Ireland, Scotland also had the highest proportion of people reporting to use a passcode to protect their phone or turn off location services. The use of a different (non-real) name online was also more common in Scotland than the other jurisdictions and there was a higher degree of caution about using public wifi online banking in Scotland than in most other jurisdictions.

No ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach

Douglas White, Head of Advocacy for The Carnegie UK Trust, said “Fundamental questions about how we navigate information and manage our privacy and security online are increasingly pressing. If we’re to maximise the benefits of the digital world and mitigate its risks then it’s vital that we are all safe, effective and confident in how we use technology.”

“Our research suggests many people are likely to need more support and advice to enable them to make informed decisions about how they engage online and manage their data.”

“It is concerning that half of older people still do not undertake basic measures such as using a passcode on their phone, to help protect their privacy and security.”

“For younger people, privacy risks are more likely to be around how they choose to share content on social media.”

“The development of digital skills – including skills on managing our privacy and security – needs to be given real priority and become much more embedded across a whole range of public services.”

“However, it’s clear that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all approach’ to these issues and it’s vital that support is appropriately tailored to meet the different needs and concerns of different groups.”