Pew survey shows US digital literacy needs improvement

MacBook, coffee mug, and cactus

Updated on December 10, 2021

The Pew Research Center ran a survey of 4,272 adult Americans’ digital literacy, asking various questions about different digital topics ranging from phishing to net neutrality. Unfortunately, the results saw respondents answer only about 40% of questions correctly on average.

Below is an infographic highlighting some of the Pew digital literacy survey responses.

Statista infogrpahic on US digital literacy
Infographic by Statista (CC BY-ND)

The results

A majority of respondents knew correctly about phishing scams, what cookies are, and how social networks make money from ads. That seems like a positive aspect. Granted, these days many sites display initial popups stating they use cookies.

Slightly less than half knew what net neutrality was, which doesn’t help in the fight for it. (And I doubt Comcast is in a hurry to educate anyone.) And yes, net neutrality’s important, even in spite of the efforts of the Trump-era FCC to dismantle it. Fortunately, for now states can regulate net neutrality on their own, which many states are opting to do.

Only 28% could correctly identify/define two-factor authentication, which also shows work is needed in educating the public on this security aspect.

While the question isn’t in the chart above, only 29% of respondents knew that Facebook owns WhatsApp and Instagram. Which would explain a lot about why I see some Twitter posts, etc. from people vowing to leave Facebook, only to state they’re going to Instagram.

Finally, the survey asked people if they recognized Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, of which only 15% did. Given he’s not exactly a household name like Mark Zuckerberg (who’s the subject of a whole movie), that’s not surprising.


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Anthony Dean

Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.

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