Paul Hitlin:

In addition, certain groups of Americans – most notably, older adults – face their own unique challenges when it comes to using and adopting new technologies. In a 2015 survey, 34% of internet users ages 65 and older said they had little to no confidence in their ability to use electronic devices to perform online tasks, while 48% of older adults said the statement, “When I get a new electronic device, I usually need someone else to set it up or show me how to use it” describes them very well. And a substantial share of seniors reports they have chronic health condition, disability or other type of physical limitation that might prevent them from fully utilizing a variety of devices.

While many long-standing measures of technology adoption have steadied the past two years, the ways that people get connected and use digital platforms are constantly shifting and evolving. For instance, Pew Research Center surveys have shown that the number of people who are “smartphone-only” internet users – meaning they own a smartphone but do not have traditional home broadband service – has grown from 12% in 2016 to 20% this year.

And although the shares of Americans who use certain social media platforms have changed little in recent years, that has not been true with every site. The percent of adults using Instagram, for example, has grown from 28% in 2016 to 35% this year. And looking beyond the adult population, the social media environment of today’s teenagers looks remarkably different than it did just a few years prior.

Meanwhile, new connected devices continue to emerge. Consumer surveys show that the use of smart TVs and wearable devices has grown in recent years. Nearly half of Americans (46%) use digital voice assistants on smartphones or devices like Amazon Echo, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey. A host of items collectively called “the Internet of Things” – ranging from household thermostats and security systems to “smart city” transportation systems – are also coming on the market.