Risk perceptions are beliefs about potential harm or the possibility of a loss. It is a subjective judgment that people make about the characteristics and severity of a risk.
Our objective is to give a voice to how seniors perceive risk associated with ICT usage and ownership. We conducted 22 interviews with Victorian seniors from urban and rural areas. We asked them about what they associated with risk around ICT. We sorted their answers into five broad categories. From there, we discovered a range of subcategories of risk perceptions and how this manifests in beliefs, feelings, and behaviours.
This work was undertaken in partnership with U3A Victoria Network and supported by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN)
Perceived Financial Risks
Financial risk is present when 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, or fear of unintentionally overspending on online shopping.
Not Understanding Products or Payments
This risk perception relates to signing up for subscriptions unintentionally, doubt about how [if] the product works, or purchasing software without an identified [consumer] need. It manifests in beliefs about the trustworthiness of ICT solutions
This risk perception is about experiences of money-related malicious intent online. It usually manifests as an uneasiness with digitalised money and online financial transactions.
This risk perception is about the ease of shopping online and the potential of spending beyond your means. It usually manifests as being more mindful of online spending habits – both in self and others.
Risk of Making Online Banking Mistakes
This risk perception relates to a fear of making mistakes in transferring funds online. It manifests in observable behaviour as avoidance of online banking.
This risk perception relates to products and services needing constant updates and upgrades and the growing cost of staying connected. It manifests in observable behaviour as a reluctance to upgrading devices or subscribing to less optimal products and connection services.
Functional risk is present when 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.
Limited User Abilities
This risk perception is about people not trusting their abilities and finds themselves needing help or taking longer to complete a task. It manifests in emotional responses as discomfort with or mistrust of one’s ability to overcome challenges when using ICT.
Device or software failure
This risk perception relates to devices not working without learning additional skills or complicated commands. It manifests in observable behaviour as hesitation in engaging with ICT devices and mistrusting ICT’s capacity to get the user to the end goal.
This risk perception relates to threats to personal information from malware attacks and password thieves. It manifests in emotional responses as anxiety or nervousness when going online as the digital space is perceived as unsafe.
Awareness of Device/service Complexities
This risk perception relates to devices not working the way people expect them to or having extra features not used or needed. It manifests in observable behaviour as reluctance to engage with ICT for fear of not being able to navigate these complexities.
Physical risk is present when people have concern that ICT 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.
Addiction & Dependence
This risk perception is related to frequent and obsessive technology-related behaviour increasingly practised despite harmful consequences to the technology-user. It manifests as in observable behaviour as a difficulty to stop using ICT devices or a concern that dependence might happen.
This risk perception is related to the increased usage of technology, leading to attention, behaviour and self-regulation problems. It manifests as a concern that using ICT devices might increase mental health problems.
This risk perception is related to the increased usage of technology, leading to eyestrain problems, sleep quality and reduced physical activity. It manifests as a concern that using ICT devices might increase physical health problems.
Perceived psychological risks 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 ICT, and fear of online misinformation. In general, these fears spring from a perception of self-identity and self-worth and the meanings associated with technology.
General Fear of using Technology (Technophobia)
This risk perception is associated with a primal fear of technology and complex devices - technophobia. It manifests in observable behaviours related to user paralysis, fright, and horror, in which the user demonstrates an unwillingness to learn anything ICT-related.
Fear of Failing to Accomplish a Task
This risk perception is associated with the fear of being unable to complete a task adequately. It manifests in observable behaviour related to reluctance to engage with ICT or anxiety in engaging with ICT for the fear it will not work as intended.
Fear of Having to Invest too much Time
This risk is associated with the perception that learning ICT will demand too much time from the user. It manifests in observable behaviour as an unwillingness to engage with ICT: the time employed in learning ICT does not pay off in terms of the benefits gained from learning and using it.
Fear of Confronting Intellectual Shortcomings
This risk is associated with the perception that learning and using technology may force users to confront their cognitive limitations. It usually manifests in observable behaviour as an unwillingness to engage with ICT for fear of facing intellectual shortcomings.
Fear of Misinformation
This risk perception is associated with a difficulty to misinformation or ‘fake news’ online – in particular on social media. It manifests through a reluctance to participate on social media and a generalised distrust in any information coming through online channels.
Social risk is present when users are concerned about losing social status from owning and using (not owning and using) ICT. 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.
Being Ridiculed & Disrespected
This risk perception often involved dissonance between intergenerational literacies, mainly including ageism, issues around visibility, changing cultural and communication norms. It manifests through observable discomfort and lack of confidence around ICT.
Risk of not Knowing or Accessing Social Pathways for Gaining Digital Literacy
This risk perception engaged contestation around different expectations of use — especially in terms of intergenerational perceptions and technology perceptions. It manifests through a reluctance to ask for support due to not being understood.
Embarrassment & Social Pressures
This risk perception involved a mixture of social and psychological issues such as anxiety, social performativity, the perceived role of technology for social inclusion and notions of trust in using technology. It manifests through an unwillingness to engage due to feelings of inadequacy.
Loss & Invasion of Privacy
This risk perception encompasses identity theft, security and passwords, hacking, trust and ethics. It manifests through a lack of faith in the online environment and a reluctance to share anything private through digital means.
Confrontation (Disagreements or Upsetting others)
This risk perception compromises issues around anti-social behaviour, anonymity, social media context blurring, risks online, trolling, harassment. It manifests through an unwillingness to use social media in particular and general participation in discussions online.
The operation of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network is made possible by funding provided by the Commonwealth of Australia under section 593 of the Telecommunications Act 1997. This funding is recovered from charges on telecommunications carriers.