A survey of 1000+ consumers reveals their top security concerns in the 21st century

Remember the days when our biggest worry was not making it home before dark? Now, many of our safety concerns reflect a more technology-driven world.

Are our digital assistants listening to us? Is our personal information really safe online? These are some of the modern-day fears weighing on the minds of Americans, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by security solutions company Cove, surveyed 1,003 Americans about their top safety concerns in the 21st century.

According to 75% of respondents, security cameras are one of the most helpful developments.

Ride-hailing apps, like Uber and Lyft, have also been helpful for many of us. Getting around has become easier, and drinking and driving are on the decline.

But with stories of dangerous and unsafe experiences making headlines recently, women were four times more likely than men to say they wouldn’t take a ride-hailing car alone.

And while self-driving cars would help eliminate driver errors, the concept is still relatively new to many people. Still though, the majority of respondents stated that autonomous cars were more helpful than harmful.

Airbnb has made finding accommodations when traveling easier than ever before, but the idea seems to raise safety concerns for some, too: 1 in 5 baby boomers wouldn’t stay in one.

Many of us would be hard-pressed to think of a day where we didn’t scroll through our seemingly endless social media feed. We update our followers with our every move, but just how safe is doing so? We’ve essentially left a digital footprint of personal information behind.

Fifty-nine percent of people believed social media containing personal information was more harmful than helpful.

Perceptions of Safety in the 21st Century
Perceptions of Safety in the Digital World

But when it came to voice-enabled smart devices, like Alexa, Siri, and Google Nest, people were more torn about whether they were beneficial or risky.

Thirty-five percent of people felt these devices are equally harmful and helpful, and 38% of people felt they were more harmful.

While these devices are only supposed to listen when they hear command words, technology like the Echo often record and store conversational data. In fact, Amazon has come under fire in recent months, with reports surfacing that employees were listening to conversation recordings.

Facial recognition technology, which is used as a more secure way to unlock many devices, was viewed as more helpful, according to respondents. Many law enforcement agencies have even considered using this technology to help identify missing people.

As technology’s role in our lives becomes even more prominent, how we parent may change too. Children are growing up with access to technology that wasn’t available when their parents were growing up. And the online world comes with an entirely new set of risks.

Seventy-eight percent of parents were worried about raising their kids in the modern world, and most of their biggest concerns were technology-driven. The most prominent concern, according to 67% of parents, was online interactions with strangers. It was followed closely by cyberbullying at 61%.

To keep kids safe online, 76% of people believed children should have restricted internet access. Baby boomers agreed with this sentiment the most, as 87% thought restrictions were necessary.

Giving out personal information online, mass shootings, sexual assault, and kidnappings were also common concerns for the modern-day parent.

But is today’s world really more dangerous, or are we falling victim to sensational headlines and bad news? Most people seemed to think things are more dangerous now than in their youth.

The majority of each generation said they felt less safe in 2019 compared to when they grew up. The only year people reported feeling more unsafe was in 2001 when the 9/11 attacks occurred.

Relatably, terrorism was the fourth biggest safety concern among respondents.

Baby boomers were 21% more likely than millennials to report feeling unsafe in today’s world, and all this concern was enough for over 1 in 4 millennials not to want to have children at all.

How people felt about their safety varied by political affiliation too, as the fears that affected Democrats and Republicans were quite different.

Democrats were more concerned than Republicans about mass shootings, which they named as their top concern. Online hacking by foreign entities, gun laws, and cyberterrorism were also mentioned.

Republicans were more worried about the tracking of personal information online, however. Robberies, terrorism, and a lack of societal morals were also big concerns for this group.

Gun laws revealed the greatest disparity in opinions of security concerns. Fifty-three percent of Democrats said it was a concern, while only 18% of Republicans felt the same.

Gen Zers, who have lived through several of the deadliest shootings in history, were especially fearful of mass shootings. Seventy-three percent of this generation said it was their top concern.

Walking alone at night is still a common concern for many, though. In fact, 46% of Gen Zers wouldn’t do it due to safety risks.

Perceptions of Safety in the Digital age

And while some people may think of Generation Z as the most tech-savvy generation, they were the only group where the riskiest behaviors they would never do weren’t tech-related.

In fact, they were the only generation that didn’t say they would never send an X-rated photo. Baby boomers were the most wary about sending an X-rated photo, followed by Gen Xers and millennials.

Developments in technology are also shaping our fears for the future. Data breaches and election hacking were among the respondents’ top fears for the upcoming years.

Companies selling personal information to advertisers has been the subject of many privacy complaints and grievances, but this was actually the least common fear when looking ahead to the future.

As technology becomes more advanced, our everyday routines might become a little bit easier. But times are changing, and so are our biggest worries.

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