Generation Z setting new standards for online safety

September 30th 2019

They’re drinking less, smoking less, and doing fewer drugs. Now, Generation Zs (adults aged 16-24) are claiming the crown as the most sensible online, according to research conducted for this year’s Get Safe Online Week. The majority (88%) agree they are more digitally responsible because they grew up with technology at their fingertips (56%) and have learned from the mistakes of previous generations (30%).  

  • Gen Zs (88%) believe they are the most digitally responsible generation
  • Most (92%) have some wisdom they would like to share
  • But they still have a lot to learn; 64% still don’t think it’s risky to share sexually explicit photos
  • More than three quarters (77%) of Gen Z have been left red-faced by something posted about them online

A generation on better behaviour

According to the survey of 2,056 UK adults, Gen Zs are the most likely to take some proactive measures to stay safe online. They are the most conscious of their online image and more wary of embarrassing others. This is perhaps because they are the most likely generation (77%) to have themselves been left red-faced by something posted about them online.

More room to grow into digitally responsible adults

However, these young adults are far from perfect. In fact, they are the least likely age group to use internet security software (25% compared to 47% among those aged 25+). Almost three quarters (71%) of Gen Zs also fail to carry out carry out software, operating system and app updates when prompted.

They are the most liberal age group when it comes to sharing nude or sexually explicit photos/videos online. Two thirds (64%) of 16-24 year olds say it’s okay to share nudes if “it’s done on a platform where the pictures can only be viewed once” (22%), “if you don’t show your face” (22%), or “if it’s with someone you trust” (34%). This ignores the fact that phones can be hacked and disappearing messages can be screenshotted. The least likely age group to share is those aged 55+, with 90% saying it’s never OK to share explicit content.

Another hidden platform for reckless behaviour could be on dating apps. 16-24-year olds are the most likely age group to let their guard down with strangers on dating apps or websites. Almost half (47%) say they are likely to do this (compared to just 20% of people aged 25+), exposing themselves to risks including romance fraud and sextortion.

Sharing digital lessons with generation sensible

Most (92%) of Gen Zs have something they would like to teach older generations to help them stay safe online. The top lessons they would share are:

  • How to spot spam/scam emails (46%)
  • How to not fall for phone scams (44%)
  • How to make sure their social media profile is set to private (31%)
  • The impact of oversharing on social media (29%)
  • How to create a strong password (26%)

The majority (79%) of UK adults also have lessons they would like to pass on to younger people. Making sure they understand the dangers of sharing sexually explicit photos online is their top priority (48%).

Tony Neate, CEO, Get Safe Online, comments: “In many ways Gen Zs are more digitally savvy and we have a lot to learn from them. But young adults will continue to make mistakes online just as they will in real life. It’s all a part of growing up. Digital responsibility must always be a two-way conversation to keep improving behaviours and ensure a safer use of the internet.”


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