Home Who’s Online and What Are They Doing There?

Who’s Online and What Are They Doing There?

Generation Y, aka the “Net Generation,” does not dominate every aspect of online life. That revealing statistic and many others like it come from Pew Internet and American Life’s recent “Generations Online” report which takes a look at how the different generations of users – from Millennials to the G.I. Generation – use the internet.

The web is still largely populated by younger generations as over half of those online are between the ages of 18 and 44 years old. But these days, larger percentages of older generations are going online and they are doing more activities while there.

According to Pew’s research, Generation X is most likely to shop, bank, and look for health information online, but boomers are just as likely as Gen Y to make travel reservations online. Even the older Silent Generation is competitive when it comes to email, although that could point to the fact that email is an activity that is trending older.

Who Uses Email?

It’s true: email is for old people – at least it is now. Today, 74% of internet users age 64 and older send and receive email, making it the most popular activity in this group. Meanwhile, email usage among teens is dropping. In 2004, 89% of teens said they used email. Now that number is 73%.

Social Networking Dominated by the Young

Teens and Generation Y (18-32*) are the most likely to use the internet for entertainment and for communicating with friends and family through social networks. They’re also more likely than others to play online games, watch videos, send instant messages, hang out in virtual worlds, and download music. In other words, they’re the most likely to use the net for fun.

The favorite online activity for teens, however, is not social networking – it’s game playing. 78% of 12-17 year-olds play games online, but only 50% of Gen Y does.

Older Generations Research, Shop, and Bank

It’s not really surprising to discover that the older generations use the internet less for socializing and entertainment and more for research, email, and shopping. Generation X (ages 33-44) remains the leader when it comes to online shopping with 80% using the internet to buy products online, compared with 71% of internet users ages 18-32.

What is surprising is that users age 73 and up use the internet just as frequently for doing health searches as does Gen Y. In fact, researching health information is only the third most popular online activity for seniors, after email and general online search.

However, when it comes to online banking, it’s Gen X that dominates. 67% of this age group does their banking online. Gen Y will most likely do more banking online as they grow older. You can see the activity trending up in their group from 38% in 2005 to 57% in 2008. As Gen Y ages, this number will continue to increase, as does the percentage using the net for booking travel. In 2005, 50% of Gen Y booked travel online and today 65% do.

More Info:

Pew Internet also released several charts and diagrams that accompany this report. You can find them online at Slideshare.

Generations 2009 Charts

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* In this study, the Generations are defined as follows:

  • Gen Y (millennials) – Born 1977-1990, Ages 18-32
  • Gen X – Born 1965-1976, Ages 33-44
  • Younger Boomers – Born 1955-1964, Ages 44-54
  • Older Boomers – Born 1946-1954, Ages 55-63
  • Silent Generation – Born 1937-1945, Ages 64-72
  • G.I. Generation – Born -1936, Age 73+

Image Credit: juanpol

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