21st Century Touch-Points: Changing How We Communicate

from the Nonprofit Technology Network:

The Shrinking Generational Digital Divide

The gap between older and younger digital users is rapidly diminishing, especially as boomers explore the vast array of uses for the Internet. Imagine a typical Internet surfer and your first thought might be of a teen or young adult, not a grandparent or retiree. But studies over the past decade show the age gap between who’s online and who’s not has narrowed significantly.

A recent study by the Center for the Digital Future, in conjunction with AARP, revealed that 41 to 46 percent of Internet users, spanning all age ranges, cited the Internet as “important or very important” in maintaining social relationships.

The same study showed that among older Internet users who are members of online communities, 58 percent log in to their communities one or more times daily, compared to 47 percent of community members under 20. Additionally, 70 percent of the older users rated their communities as very important or extremely important, compared to 58 percent of younger users.

Clearly, while generational destinations may be different, older and younger users share many common interests, and online traffic by older generations is no longer dramatically eclipsed by younger groups.

One obvious reason for the generational digital divide is timing. The arrival of the Internet in the mid-1990s plus advancing communication technology means children of the current generation are growing up as native users of the Internet, email, text and instant messaging, blogging, tweeting, gaming and a host of other cyber vehicles. They’ve always been connected.

Generations X and Y – born between 1965 and the mid ‘90s – grew up absorbing these tools early in life, while boomers and older generations have had to adapt and orient to a changing world of 24/7 communication. While some have embraced the new order of constant connectivity and cyber stimulation, a relatively small group of older non-users is committed to remaining Internet-free.