Who are the younger generations, and why is their use of the internet important? Learn more about trends in internet usage across generations. Have you ever had a grandparent call you with a Wi-Fi question? Or did she have to explain to an elderly neighbor how to use Instagram?
You might assume that older internet users are not as digitally aware as younger internet users, but you might be shocked by the truth. Millennials are more technologically engaged than most people give them credit for, even though they may not watch viral videos or share memes. Some millennials are on a good path already using the internet for business.
Let's describe the "who" before we move into the "how." While the time limits for generational labels differ widely depending on who you ask, baby boomers are commonly recognized as someone born between 1946 and 1964. In 2011, the first baby boomers hit the retirement age, currently from 55 to 73 years of age. We should not underestimate their technical savvy although they might be eligible for senior discounts. Tech giants like Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and Time Berners-Lee, after all, are dropping into the gen x pile.
Generation X and Generation Y, better known as millennials, include the generations following the baby boomers. Gen X refers to the generation born between 1965 and 1980, and between 1981 and 1996, Gen Y refers to the generation born.
Millennials don't actually use the internet less than other people, but due to their internet behaviors, their habits may seem that way. As it turns out, 87% of adults aged 50-64 used the internet in 2018, only around 10% fewer than the two younger age groups in the survey between adults ages 18-29 and 30-49.
A certain study showed that Millenials are the least likely to use social media of all adult age groups. Surveyed adults were asked if they approved or strongly disagree with the statement "The popularity, follows, images, etc. you have on social networks, the more effective or popular you are." Although almost 50 percent of adults aged 55-64 disagreed fully, only about 20 percent of adults aged 25-34 thought the same. This suggests that while some millennials are socially active online, those interactions do not put as much emphasis on them as modern viewers do.
Just one of the many ways baby boomers use the internet differently from other adults is social media. Some of the different ways adults interact with the internet are shown in the chart below. As you can see, all three generations have different consumption habits—baby boomers, Gen X, and millennials.
Older web users may not view as many video clips or send as many direct messages as younger users, but they are involved in sending emails, tracking the weather, searching for and managing news and political information.
A report investigating the prevalence of false news distribution on Facebook was published in January by researchers at New York University and Princeton University. Their study based primarily on Facebook profile data from the U.S. presidential campaign era of 2016 when fake news concerns hit a new high. Although the findings showed that fake news sharing was relatively uncommon, researchers said, "... our most robust and consistent finding is that older Americans were more likely to share fake news articles."
Intriguingly, the previously described study featured in Forbes showed that millennials were the age group most worried about their internet privacy. They did not feel entirely protected online, but they had few security concerns to report and were careful to restrict what personal details they shared online. This finding contrasts somewhat with the results of the fake news report, as one shows the unintended dissemination of false information, while the other shows an attempt to preserve protection.
We can also consider the technological age they grew up in while analyzing the online behaviors of older customers. Although most older adults are familiar with TVs and computers, they are not familiar with newer devices, such as smartphones and tablets. A new generation of digital users who depend heavily on social networking sites, online shopping, and other internet-focused practices are based on these complex interfaces to sustain them.
With the rapidly shifting digital world, it's important to note how their interactions and devices communicate with different generations. Technology statistics indicate that older audiences are still heavy internet users, but their behaviors and attitudes, especially their social media usage, do not match those of younger generations. With their attention on security but possible uncertainty about safe tools, it is important to be aware of what they click on for older internet users and internet users of all ages.
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