Tech Users Struggle With Gadgetry

    November 18, 2008

While technology is well integrated into the lives of many Americans, close to half (48%) have to ask for help when it comes to getting their cell phones, Internet connections and other gadgets to work, according to new research from Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Just under half (44%) of those with home Internet access say their connection failed to work at some time in the past year and 39 percent of those with desktop or laptop computers have had their machines breakdown in the previous 12 months. Nearly a third (29%) of cell phone users say their devices failed to work properly in the last year.

Tech Users Struggle With Gadgetry

"Struggles with modern gadgetry mean less engagement with the services they enable," said John B. Horrigan, Associate Director of the Pew Internet Project and co-author of the report.

"Time spent dealing with set-up or outages means less time using modern communication services to connect with friends or find information that might help people be more productive."

Over a third (38%) of users with failed technology contacted user support for help, 28 percent fixed the problem themselves, 15 percent received help from friends or family to fix a problem, 15 percent were not able to fix the problem and 2 percent went online for help.

"In an age in which new technologies are introduced almost daily, a new gadget or service can become popular well before the technology itself is understood by the average user," said Sydney Jones, Research Assistant at the Pew Internet & American Life Project and co-author of the report.

"Naturally, some users catch on to new technology more quickly than others, and those who have more trouble grasping the technology are left confused, discouraged, and reliant on help from others when their technology fails."

When it comes to a users attitude when trying to fix their device failures, the majority (72%) felt confident they could solve the problem. Over half (59%) felt impatient to solve the problem because they had important uses for the broken technology.

Forty-eight percent felt discouraged with the amount of effort needed to fix the problem and 40 percent felt confused by the information they were receiving.