Our new digital skills report: Slipping Through The Net, was launched at a round table event held in the Houses of Parliament on 7th December.

Our independent research, supported by Samsung, and carried out by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), reveals that the disadvantages young people face offline are preventing them from making the most of the online world. 

The round table discussion was Chaired by Jessica Cecil, Controller of BBC Make it Digital and attended by Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP. Other guests included leaders of the business, educational, charitable and academic worlds.

Key findings

The report finds that a staggering 50% of young people who are currently not in education, employment or training (NEETs) believe that no one or almost no one can be trusted online. 

While 53% of the UK’s disadvantaged young people believe that information found on the internet is “generally reliable”, 50% say that no one or almost no one could be trusted online.

The findings show that while NEET young people were positive towards the potential benefits of ICTs (Information Communication Technology), they often ran into frustrations from what they perceived as dehumanising experiences..

Low levels of ‘netiquette’

Disadvantaged young people are also being held back in the digital world by their lack of softer social skills. Around 40% of them struggled with “netiquette”, that is decisions about their own behaviour or dealing with the negative behaviour of others online. The report shows that this issue also affects young people who are in education, employment or training.

The report’s author, Dr. Ellen J Helsper, Associate Professor in Media and Communications at LSE, said:

Most of the time, the young people we interviewed in the focus group did not realise that softer skills could be learnt and used to advance in life. Only more technical skills such as those taught in school, were seen as requiring training. 
Dr. Ellen J Helsper, LSE

Only 17% of NEETs – arguably those who need it the most – had asked for help with using ICTs in the last three months. When they did ask, these young people relied on a narrower and less expert network of support often unable to teach them sustainable skills, instead of going to professionals such as help desks or teachers.  

The Minister of State for Digital and Culture Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP said:

"I welcome The Prince's Trust report and recognise the vital importance of everyone being able to access and develop digital skills.

​The Government has invested £36 million, through partners, since 2010​ to enable 1.5 million more people ​to increase their online expertise and introduced a new computing curriculum in schools.

Through the Digital Economy Bill, we will also ensure that digital skills training is free of charge to all adults in England without relevant qualifications."

He added:

The findings in this report emphasise the need for us to continue addressing the skills gap so we can achieve our ambition for everyone in the UK to have the skills they need to succeed.
Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, The Minister of State for Digital and Culture


Martina Milburn CBE, Chief Executive of The Prince's Trust said:

We need to dispel the myth that all millennials know how to make the most of the digital world. Many disadvantaged young people, as this research shows, are not achieving positive outcomes online, in particular when it comes to education or employment.
Martina Milburn CBE, Chief Executive, The Prince's Trust

She added:

"The findings show that a lot of young people struggle with social interactions online. We should ensure that these softer social skills, including safeguarding, are included in training programmes."

The series of recommendations in the report also calls on employers to develop new digital services to avoid frustrating experiences, such as a lack of communication in particular with regards to online job applications.

Download the report (pdf, 3mb)

Find out more about how Samsung supports The Trust