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You might have seen a story recently decrying the uselessness of ‘millennial dads’ compared to their ‘boomer parents’. Apparently young adults who are just entering the parenthood phase of their lives are suffering from a serious lack of ‘handiness’ compared to their parents. The story was the result of research from an alarm company, which found that more than half of millennial dads owned neither a cordless drill or a stepladder. The research completely neglected the reality that many of the most useful skills in today’s home are digital.
While millennials, whether they’re parents or not, may not possess the same skillset (or toolbox) as their parents, it’s hard to argue they’re not handy around the house. Most millennials can recall at least one instance where their parents have needed their help fixing a problem at home. If you’re a ‘boomer parent’ and you nodded in agreement with the claims of the study decrying your millennial kids, ask yourself this; who did you call last time you needed help getting online, backing-up data or setting up smart home devices?
The issue isn’t that millennials lack handiness, it’s that we’re defining handiness – and DIY – wrong. The world has changed. Millennials are less likely than their parents to own their home. So they have fewer opportunities to develop traditional DIY skills like plumbing or electrics. But millennials are certainly capable of fixing their own problems. And when usefulness is viewed through the prism of the modern home, rather than the idea that everyone should be able to fix a leak or rewire a faulty lightswitch, perceptions of millennials improve massively.
Research on behalf of property maintenance specialists, Aspect revealed that while traditional DIY skills are still highly valued, digital DIY skills are catching up and, in some cases, overtaking them in terms of perceived usefulness. For example, restoring a lost Internet connection and programming a smart TV are generally perceived as more useful than the ability the hang wallpaper. Finding online bargains, syncing smartphone contacts and backing-up data to the cloud are perceived as more useful than wall-mounting a TV.
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Of the top ten DIY skills perceived as most useful, three – fixing a faulty router or modem to restore a lost Internet connection, programming and operating a smart TV and finding deals online – were digital DIY skills.
It’s not just millennials who think this either. Perceptions of these so-called millennial skills are most positive among older people. The over-55s in the study gave digital skills the highest rating for usefulness and impressiveness.
Nick Bizley, director of operations at Aspect, said of the study: “These findings show that although people still really value traditional DIY talents, the concept of ‘handiness’ is evolving to include skills that didn’t even exist ten years ago. For example, changing a lightbulb was something most people could do quite easily, but the advent of the ‘smart home’ has introduced new complexities to what used to be a simple task.
“Handiness is in the eye of the beholder and it’s unfair to criticise people for lacking traditional DIY abilities because the chances are, they’ve got equally useful and impressive skills that are set to become more necessary as homes evolve.”
“Young people have been getting flack for not being as handy as their parents, but when you consider the proportion of 18-34 year olds in rented homes compared to their parents’ generations, and that renters are often prohibited from doing their own maintenance due to their rental agreements, it’s no surprise they’re typically less experienced with traditional DIY skills. But young people are the ones most of us turn to when the Internet goes down or when we need help setting up the latest smart device. Everyone is handy with something and the study shows that we’re learning to value new expressions of handiness more and more.”