How the Digital Divide Favors Older Generations of Parents

April 27, 2023

How the Digital Divide Favors Older Generations of Parents and Guardians


Believe it or not, older generations are on the winning side of the technology gap.


Millennials and Gen Zers are typically adept at operating digital products but usually do not have access to paper-based technology. Older generations have more experience with and access to both types of technology. If your school or district relies on antiquated products like printers, scanners, and copiers, you are favoring Gen Xers and Baby Boomers and leaving behind the majority—parents, guardians, and students from younger generations. 


Family members are less likely to trust your district if they can't communicate with you easily. Less trust equals less engaged families, making your district’s daily operations harder.


Overcome the generational technology gap by understanding needs, preferences, and challenges

All generations are tech-savvy in their own right. Millennials and Gen Z grew up in the age of digital technology. They came of age with cell phones and the internet, whereas Gen X and Baby Boomers historically used paper-based technology.


This has created an unexpected digital divide. The term "digital divide" typically refers to the gap between people with access to the internet and digital technology compared to those without. This still holds true today, particularly with internet access. However, a shift has occurred. Families across the country are gaining access to digital technology, and deprioritizing investing in paper-based technology like printers and fax machines.


If your district is adding to the new digital divide, communication with families will become fractured. Break down this divide by understanding their needs, preferences, and challenges. Preference is generally trending toward digital technology.


For example, our report finds 73 percent of Americans think emerging generations will demand all their interactions with the government be through mobile devices. 


But the best way to determine those needs is to ask. Survey your district's families to see if this preference aligns with what they want. Don’t assume anything—assumptions perpetuate the digital divide. If you're ready to digitize your district's technology, ease out of your antiquated technology. Provide extra communication and guidance to parents and guardians during this transition.


How school districts can bridge the technology gap

The Pew Research Center says 85 percent of Americans own a smartphone. Take advantage of that statistic to engage with younger students, parents, and guardians. Bridge the technology gap by offering digital alternatives to paper-based processes.


Shifting to digital processes reflects the change in the preferred technology for the majority of Americans. It better satisfies the wants and needs of people who have more access to digital technology. Partner with the right vendor to help your school or district transition to digital processes properly. For example, Scribbles Software digital records management and enrollment software helps you bridge the gap and streamline administrative tasks for school staff.


How access to technology benefits younger and older generations 

Even if some families currently being served have access to the technology needed for district processes, consider what will be needed for the digital-native generations.


For younger generations, digital systems are more familiar and accessible, allowing them to complete forms and applications efficiently. There’s also increased flexibility as they can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection and completed at any time, which is especially helpful for busy families.


For older generations, digital processes may be a new or less familiar experience. Training and resources help them adapt. Once they become familiar, they will come to find them more convenient and accessible than paper-based processes. Especially if they have mobility or communication barriers.


Providing resources for families who are unfamiliar with digital processes supports them during this inevitable learning curve and makes the most of the benefits of going digital.


Recommendations for district leaders to improve access to families and guardians

If your district has begun to go digital, you will have access to data about the families your district serves.


For example, are most records requests for transcripts of recent graduates, or do you have a high volume coming in through folks who graduated decades ago? What generations do the family members completing the registration or program application processes belong to? Consider the types of questions you’re fielding and think about how you can make life easier for families based on their circumstances.


Offer digital literacy training

While younger generations may have grown up with technology, it doesn't mean they are automatically equipped with the skills to navigate it effectively. Similarly, older generations may need support developing their digital literacy skills. Offer training to improve knowledge where people have the most questions and inquiries, and make sure to partner with a vendor that also offers training and support for their digital software solution.


Provide resources for digital skills development for all age groups. Consider special classes, workshops, or online resources that are catered to beginner, intermediate, and advanced users. Create helpful instructions and explainers, and have frequently asked questions ready to go for troubleshooting technical issues.


Go digital to improve ESL access

Going paperless improves accessibility for people who don’t have strong English language skills. There’s less of a need for interpretation services because documents are easier to translate and understand for people who speak English as a second language.


Improve outcomes for people with disabilities

Digital processes also ease undue burdens for people with disabilities or mobility issues. Offering electronic resources improves accessibility and helps people with any sort of special need or circumstance. 


By investing in digital literacy for families, school districts improve engagement and help families feel more connected. By prioritizing equitable access to technology, district leaders guarantee all families have the support they need for students to succeed.


Break down digital barriers with Scribbles

Younger generations rely more on digital tools than paper-based technology like printers, copiers, and fax machines. When your district relies on antiquated technology, you isolate these families. Break down those barriers by offering digital communication options for them. 


The digital divide is not just about access to the internet or digital technology, but also about access to digital processes and communications versus paper-based ones. Schools and districts need to recognize this gap and take steps to bridge it by properly understanding the needs and preferences of different generations.


By offering digital alternatives to paper-based processes and providing resources for families to improve their digital literacy, districts can improve engagement and help families feel more connected. By investing in digital literacy and equitable access to technology, district leaders can ensure all schools have the support they need to succeed in today's digital world.


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Learn more about the benefits of going paperless in school districts by downloading our latest report below!