Simplifying life, revolutionising everyday habits, increasingly intrusive or the basis of tomorrow’s education? Touchscreen technology has now become widespread in France but is creating a real generation gap.

Touchscreen Technology: French Users See Revolution Underway towards Unlimited Uses

According to a poll coordinated by Brice Teinturier, the Chief Executive of Paris-based market research company Ipsos France, 72% of the French people quizzed spontaneously gave a positive reaction to the idea of touchscreen technology. Some 22% of those surveyed saw touchscreen technology as modern, a synonym for innovation and progress, 17% described it as convenient, 15% as intuitive, and 81% of the respondents used the expression ‘revolutionary’. However, it seems that this technology nevertheless arouses mistrust and even rejection among a majority of older people. Very few respondents aged 60+ agreed that touchscreens represent genuine progress, whereas over a third of 15-24 year-olds put touchscreen technology in the same bracket as the invention of the printing press. Moreover, if they had to choose just one screen to use, some 61% of older citizens would stick to their television set while 70% of younger people would opt for a touchscreen device. Clearly, these attitudes demonstrate much more than a simple preference for one type of screen over another. There is a real divide here in in terms of media, channels and daily habits.

Non-users are older and less impacted by educational considerations

Some 72% of non-users of tactile screens responding to the Ipsos survey were aged 45 or over, while only 45% were in this age bracket overall. Some 66% of them live in households without children – compared with 57% of the total population. The fact is that these people have little knowledge of touchscreens. They therefore underestimate the potential gains in time, the opportunity to interact with family and friends, the ability to access news and entertainment, and better planning of their daily schedules. In fact close to half of these respondents have never actually touched a smartphone or tablet computer. Some 47% of non-users expressed a preference for telephones with buttons over a smartphone, but 72% of those who use touchscreen devices said the opposite, perhaps in line with the old adage that once you try it you’re hooked. Moreover, it emerged that 71% of parents with children aged 6 or under and 80% of parents with adolescent children believe that touchscreen devices are useful for learning. These respondents recommend touchscreen devices for learning about a wide variety of subjects, including geography, languages, general knowledge and reading.

Improving the dexterity of the unconverted?

It might well be that touchscreens are more sensory and intuitive, but what senior citizens seem to find awkward is the ergonomic aspect. It turns out that less than half of this age group find touchscreens more suited to their fingers or accept that they require less energy to use. However, tactile technology does logically provide “a useful way of interacting which is clearly more ‘direct’ than using an intermediary such as a mouse or keyboard,” argues Nicolas Nova, a consultant and researcher at the Near Future Laboratory. Nevertheless, if a device offers too wide a range of functionality, older users might need some extra help. Meanwhile for those who are already users, touchscreen technology opens up a multitude of possibilities. SMS/MMS are of course ingrained in our daily habits, but people are also now increasingly using touchscreen devices to take and post photos, send emails, geolocate venues, and for entertainment, m-shopping and social network interactions.

By Pierre-Marie Mateo