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Online Generation Gap Shrinking, Study Reports

December 16, 2010

The Internet generation gap is starting to shrink, as older computer users are catching up with their younger counterparts when it comes to using the World Wide Web, a new Pew Research Center report has discovered.

Individuals between the ages of 18 and 33, identified in the survey as Millienials, are still far more likely to go online using a laptop, mobile phone, and wireless connection, the study says. Furthermore, people in this age group are also the most likely to use social networking sites, instant messaging, and online classifieds, as well as to listen to music online, play games, and read blogs on a regular basis.

However, those classified as Gen X-ers (Internet users between the ages of 34 and 45) are now more likely to use the Web to view government websites or obtain financial data online, the 2010 Pew Generations Online report discovered.

“Even in areas that are still dominated by Millennials, older generations are making notable gains,” the authors of the Pew Report said. “Some of the areas that have seen the fastest rate of growth in recent years include older adults’ participation in communication and entertainment activities online, especially in using social network sites such as Facebook.”

The report also revealed that there is also much common ground across generations, as the same activities–including email, using search engines, getting news, shopping, making travel reservations, doing online banking, and seeking medical information–are “becoming more uniformly popular across all age groups,” the Pew researchers observed.

While social network is still most prevalent among the youngest Internet users, the fastest-growing demographic in this department has come in those over the age of 74 (the so-called ‘G.I. Generation’). Since 2008, social network usage in this age group as quadrupled, from 4 percent to 16 percent. Furthermore, the study discovered that two-thirds of all adult Internet users watch video online, and more than half have listened to music online or visited a classified ad website.

The one major area of online activity that suffered a noticeable decrease among some age groups in 2010 was blogging. According to Pew officials, only half as many teenage Internet users operate their own blog compared to four years ago, and fewer adults between the ages of 18-33 are engaged in the activity. Despite the downward trend, the overall percentage of adults blogging increased from 11 percent in 2008 to 14 percent this year, fueled largely by older generations.

The study results were compiled following a series of telephone interviews, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI), between April 29 and May 30 of this year. A total of 2,252 adults were polled for the study, according to Pew’s official website.

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