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Younger generation fears hi-tech

. . . Maureen O'Connor reports from the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Brighton

Young people may be even more anxious about the computer revolution than people from older generations who are reputed to fear the pace of change.

This was the surprising conclusion of Nicholas Bozionelos, of Strathclyde University, who has compared attitudes towards computers of a group of 18 to 23-year-olds and some 30 to 43-year-olds.

His research project set out to explore the general belief that anxiety and negative attitudes towards computers disappear as young people become more familiar with the technology. But in spite of having less computer experience, it was the older age-group which turned out to show less anxiety about using computers. The over-thirties also felt more positively about new technology. Computer anxiety was defined as involving the avoidance of places where computers were located, excessive caution when using the equipment, a tendency to keep usage as brief as possible, and making negative remarks about new technology.

The assumption has always been that such negative attitudes were caused by lack of familiarity with new technology. This research indicated that computer experience does not seem to overcome computer anxiety.

Given an apparently deteriorating situation, Mr Bozionelos suggested that further research is urgently needed to find out which factors - psychological, educational or social - are causing computer anxiety among younger people.

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