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Reducing perceived digital technology risk

Security concerns are one of the main reasons that seniors do not engage with technology and the digital economy.  This concern is often based on the ‘perception of risk’ which is a barrier to further engagement. 

Older woman thinking about technology
elderly woman using laptop to overcome social isolation
Older man using technology with mobile phone

Risk perceptions are beliefs about potential harm or the possibility of a loss which is a subjective judgment that people make about the characteristics and severity of a risk.

 

This project focused on understanding the lived experiences of seniors including their practices and perceptions of risk around digital technology use.  

In this initial stage, we explored language, contexts, and meanings associated with risk perceptions and technology use, and quantify the types of perceived risks associated with technology and their influence on use and engagement in the digital economy.

Funded by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), in partnership with RMIT’s School of Business and Law/School of Economics, Finance and Marketing and The University of the Third Age, the exploration was made up of two research methods:

  1. Video Vignettes: Remote video interviews were recorded and edited into a series of video vignettes showcasing seniors’ perception and language usage around risk perception and engagement when using technology. Transcripts accompany these vignettes for accessibility. The vignettes are valuable tools in the co-designing and dissemination stages.

  2. Survey Instrument: The video interviews then informed a survey which was designed to assess and report seniors technology risk perceptions, motivations, and behaviours.

“One of the benefits of doing this kind of ethnographic work is that you can understand what is really behind those analytics, what are the real feelings, thoughts and motivations and concerns”  
 

Prof Dianne Martin, Shaping Connections Associate Investigator

This research resulted in:

1

A video library of interviews
from 22 Victorian seniors
on their perception of digital technology risk

2

The creation of Risk Perception Categories and Subcategories of Seniors

At the conclusion of the research, it was clear that the pandemic had amplified the inequality of perceptions, access and digital literacy around digital technology practices.  

Download the report - Reducing Perceived Risk and Promoting Digital Inclusion for Older Australians. Click the button below.

WHAT WE DID:

Interviews: We conducted 22 interviews with older adults from urban and rural areas in Victoria, Australia and asked them about the risks they associated with technology.   These interviews became a video library of vignettes.

 

Risk Categories:  We then created risk categories and sub categories to offer insights into overarching perceived digital risk categories.  

 

Survey:  The interviews helped to inform the creation of a survey (online and paper versions) with the U3A community.  More information and survey statistics can be found in the Reducing Perceived Risk and Promoting Digital Inclusion for Older Australians Report.

 

Analysis: We then mapped the risks and conducted a factor analysis to compress the perceived risks into six risk factors:

​1. Operational and Functional Risk: forgetting instructions or passwords, not keeping up, wasting time.

2. Personal and Social Risk: being made fun of, feeling incompetent, getting frustrated, being overwhelmed.

3. Privacy and Transaction Risk: online payments, losing privacy, identity theft, automatic payments.

4. Purchase Transaction Risk:  making transaction mistakes, not receiving goods, processing errors.

5. Overspending Risk: buying too much online, increasing software upgrade or device costs.

6. Physical Harm Risk: physical inactivity, becoming addicted to technology, eyesight or strain injury.

Perceived digital technology risk resources

We sorted answers from interviews with 22 older adults into five broad categories and discovered a range of subcategories of risk perceptions and how these manifests in beliefs, feelings and behaviours. 

 

Click on the subcategory links below to find out more from our interviews and watch vignettes of Victorian seniors’ experiences.

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Financial Risks

  • People fear they may waste or lose their money on digital products or services.

  • Perceptions of financial risk appear through:

  • not understanding products, services or payment methods,

  • a fear of making online banking mistakes,

  • a fear that costs will escalate,

  • stories or experiences of scams

  • fear of unintentionally overspending on online shopping.

Financial Risk Subcategories

  1. Not understanding products or payments

  2. Scamming

  3. Overspending

  4. Risk of making online banking mistakes

  5. Escalating costs

Functional Risks

  • People struggle to overcome the gap between the consumer-problem a product claims to solve and the belief, feeling, or confidence people have in the product's ability to deliver on its promise.

  • People buy things to solve a problem – but will the product really do this?

  • Perceptions of functional risk appear through both beliefs and perception of the product and the user’s ability to use the product as intended.

Functional Risk Subcategories

  1. Limited user abilities

  2. Device or software failure

  3. Data security

  4. Awareness of device/service complexities

Social Risk

  • People are concerned about losing social status from owning and using (not owning and using) digital technology.

  • Social risks encompass various issues around perceptions of privacy, social pressures, and identity-theft that can lead to being ridiculed, embarrassment, vulnerability and anxiety.

  • The social dimensions of informal divergent literacies come into play, as does the opportunity for intergenerational mentoring.

Social Risk Subcategories

  1. Being ridiculed and disrespected

  2. Risk of not knowing or accessing social pathways for gaining digital literacy

  3. Embarrassment & social pressures

  4. Loss & invasion of privacy

  5. Confrontation (disagreements or upsetting others)

Psychological Risk

Encompass a variety of fears associated with technology, including:

  • a general terror of technology (technophobia)

  • fear of failing to accomplish a task

  • fear of confronting intellectual shortcomings

  • fear of overinvesting time to learn to use digital technology

  • fear of online misinformation.

  • In general, these fears spring from a perception of self-identity and self-worth and the meanings associated with technology.

Psychological Risk Subcategories

  1. General fear of using technology (technophobia)

  2. Fear of failing to accomplish a task

  3. Fear of having to invest too much time

  4. Fear of confronting intellectual shortcomings

  5. Fear of misinformation

Physical Risk

  • People have concerns that digital technology products and services can be dangerous and might potentially harm or injure users or someone else.

  • Perceptions of physical risk appear through concerns for mental and physical health.

Physical Risk Subcategories

  1. Addiction and dependence

  2. Mental health

  3. Physical health

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Risk Factors:
The above interview vignettes and sub categories were mapped into a factor analysis and survey work that determined the final six risk factors:


1. Operational and Functional Risk: forgetting instructions or passwords, not keeping up, wasting time.​

2. Personal and Social Risk: being made fun of, feeling incompetent, getting frustrated, being overwhelmed.

3. Privacy and Transaction Risk: online payments, losing privacy, identity theft, automatic payments.

4. Purchase Transaction Risk:  making transaction mistakes, not receiving goods, processing errors.

5. Overspending Risk: buying too much online, increasing software upgrade or device costs.

6. Physical Harm Risk: physical inactivity, becoming addicted to technology, eyesight or strain injury.

 “Instead of assuming the needs of seniors, our approach is to actually go out and co-create and work with the seniors to figure out what problems they have and how can technology innovations help them meet their goals and improve their wellbeing”

Dr Torgeir Aleti, Shaping Connections Co-founder & Deputy Director

What's next?

This research confirmed the need to undertake co-design digital activities in the next stage of the project in order to gain:

  • Deeper investigation and co-design around digital literacy

  • More nuanced methods in understanding barriers in everyday life

  • More extensive exploration into the diversity of women’s digital practices

If you are interested in joining further projects to investigate digital literacy and practices please contact us.

This project was funded by

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This project was supported by The School of Economics, Finance and Marketing

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