Mar 16, 2015 · 1 minute

Millennials aren’t supposed to be afraid of the Internet. We’re digital natives, cyborgs, the first generation without memories of a time when computers were oddities instead of mundanities. So why did a new study find that we’re terrified of technology?

Rasmussen College surveyed more than 2,000 adults about their digital literacy. Its findings might surprise those who believe millennials don’t care about the Internet’s continued spread.

“Around 37 percent of 18-34-year-old respondents said that they find the Internet scary,” Rasmussen says in its report, “And 35 percent admitted they don’t feel safe online.” That’s more than respondents in the 35-54-year-old and 55-plus-year-old brackets.

Those fears manifest themselves in the other areas Rasmussen studied. Millennials are more likely to have a private Facebook profile than older respondents, and they want to “know how to use the Web more safely” almost as much as people over 55 do.

Bloomberg’s Akane Otani thinks this fear might stem from the way millennials use online services. Maybe, Otani wrote, middle-aged people “just don’t chase the same kinds of potentially risky online behaviors that younger generations do.” (I assume that’s how Bloomberg dances around the phrase “send dick pics.”)

There might be a simpler explanation: millennials have more skin in the game than their older counterparts. And no, I'm not talking about "dick pics" again.

Our grandparents didn’t have every friendship or relationship documented on Facebook. Our parents made stupid jokes offline, not on Twitter, where a single mistake can end a career. Their lives haven’t been broken down into a series of bits and bytes.

Everyone worries that the past might come back to haunt them. Our elders’ pasts reside in their memories. Ours have been scattered across data centers around the world. No wonder we’re more afraid about how the Internet might hurt us.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]