Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

Adult and Teenage Use of Consumer, Business, and Entertainment Technology: Potholes on the Information Superhighway?

Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

Adult and Teenage Use of Consumer, Business, and Entertainment Technology: Potholes on the Information Superhighway?

Article excerpt

The home and office of the 1990s has become a showplace for advances in computerized technology. Embedded computer chips are found in nearly every kitchen appliance, business machine, and entertainment device. Many children's toys are computerized. We bank through automated teller machines, buy gasoline by "paying at the pump" with electronic funds transfers, program the VCR with a string of numbers from a remote control device, communicate instantly via fax machines, and leave digitized voice mail messages for those we cannot reach directly.

Not everyone, however, rushes out to purchase or use the newest technological device. Higgins and Shanklin (1992) examined the acceptance of high technology consumer products as a function of lifestyle characteristics and demographic indicators for residents of a large midwestern city. Their results showed that 22 percent could be classified as "consumer product innovators," another 65 percent as "early and late majority adopters," and 13 percent as "laggards" based on the number of high tech consumer products they owned or used. Higgins and Shanklin found the significant discriminators among innovators, adopters, and laggards were age, income, lifestyle, technical complexity fear, and obsolescence fear.

Ownership of a technological device does not necessarily guarantee its use. Piper (1990) reported a Link Resources study showing that one-third of the people who own video cassette recorders (VCRs) never record television shows while they are away from home. McKee (1992) corroborated these results with a study of 1,156 VCR owners showing more than one-half of them had problems using some of the machine's functions. Finally, a recent study by Dell Computer Corporation (1993) showed that one-fourth of American adults had never used a personal computer, programmed a VCR, nor programmed favorite stations on their car radio. The Dell survey reported that nearly one-fourth of the adults felt uncomfortable setting their digital alarm clocks!


Given the government and business emphases on developing technology available to all citizens, this study investigates whether some group or groups may be unable to navigate the information super-highway of the near future. Demographic characteristics and psychological reactions to technology are examined to determine why an adult (Study 1) or teenager (Study 2) might choose to use or not use a particular type of technology. A variety of technological devices are investigated, including personal computers, fax machines, computerized kitchen appliances, technological toys and games, and computerized entertainment devices.

Rosen, Sears, and Weil (1987) investigated the impact of negative reactions to technology (termed "technophobia") and found technophobes tend to avoid computer interaction. Based on these results and Weil, Rosen and Wugalter's (1990) study of the etiology of technophobia, it is hypothesized that psychological reactions to technology will compel both adults and teenagers to avoid computers and other forms of technology.


Little empirical work has been performed to determine why some people choose to use technology while others do not. In nearly all studies, however, one or more psychological factors have been pin-pointed as delineating between technology users and nonusers. For example, Ellen, Bearden, and Sharma (1991) found a person's perceived ability to use a product successfully (termed self-efficacy by Bandura (1977)) was related to his/her resistance to change to technological innovations. Another study found beliefs that underlie attitudes toward technology could explain behavior toward technology (Pancer, George, and Gebotys 1992).

Using Rogers' (1962) diffusion of innovation framework, Anderson and Ortinau (1988) examined differences between innovators and late adopters of in-home personal computers (PCs) and found attitudes toward future PC use, satisfaction with the PC, computer experience, and electronic product ownership were moderating variables between these two groups. …

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