The vast majority (96%) of rural young people age 14 to 22 years old have cellphones, including 17% who get mobile service from a local provider and 75% who get service from a national carrier, according to a rural youth technology survey conducted by the Foundation for Rural Service. Nearly the same amount (95%) have internet connectivity at home, and a substantial portion of them get connectivity from a local provider. Just under one in three respondents get internet connectivity from a satellite provider.
That 95% number is considerably higher than overall home internet take rates that other surveys have found, underscoring how much more important the internet is for households that include teens and young adults. The survey also included questions about how rural youth use technology — information that could become increasingly valuable as those young people become technology decision makers.
The FRS rural youth technology survey had just over 1700 respondents, noted Jessica Golden, FRS executive director, on a webinar to discuss survey results today.
Rural Youth Technology Survey Results
One of the key takeaways from the FRS rural youth technology survey is that the technology habits of rural youth aren’t much different from those of youth overall. Some key highlights:
- 90% use their mobile phones to take photos
- 90% use their mobile phones for social media, which as Golden noted, is “by far the most popular online activity”
- Three in four are on a family plan for mobile service
- 90% stream video
- Of those who stream video, half stream more than five hours weekly
- Two thirds of respondents are online for three hours or more per day, including 20% whose usage is much greater
Two rural teenagers took part in the FRS webinar, answering questions from Golden and from webinar participants. The teens pointed to Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter as the types of social media that rural communications service providers should use to engage with young people.
Both teens had participated in a youth tour that FRS sponsors each year that gives rural youth the opportunity to learn more about technology and the challenges of providing communications services in rural areas. Both said the tour helped them appreciate those challenges and what their local service providers must do in order to provide service.
Technology is sometimes viewed as a means of keeping rural youth in their home communities, but the FRS research suggests it is not a magic bullet. About two-thirds of respondents to the FRS survey would consider living in a rural area soon after graduation. “Job availability and proximity of friends were big factors” in a rural young person’s decision whether to continue to live in a rural area, said Golden.
Neither of the teens on the webinar indicated plans to remain in their community after graduation, however. One of them noted that she saw college as a way out. “Once you graduate, if you don’t leave, you’re never going to leave,” she observed. She added, though, that she might move back to the community when she retired.
Virtual Reality and Cyberbullying
The FRS rural youth survey also included questions about virtual reality and cyberbullying. One in three rural youth have used virtual reality, and 40% have never used it but would like to. One half are aware of a friend or acquaintance who has been involved in cyberbullying, and 25% have been personally involved in such an incident.