Following up on our article from last week that shared Internet Population Distribution by country, we were directed to a recent report published by the Pew Internet & American Life Project detailing findings on Internet usage by age in the United States. The study, titled Generations Online in 2009, confirms that surfing the web is still primarily a young person’s game – 18 to 44 year olds accounting for 53% of the total number of users – but in recent years older generations have started closing the gap. The chart below that has been borrowed from the report shows the overall breakdown by age:
And while some of the insights might come as no surprise, it’s interesting to note the clear demarcations between what are essentially two groups – those who grew up with the Internet to some degree and those that didn’t – and they ways that they utilize the web in their daily lives.
Among younger users, traditional email is losing ground to the immediacy of instant messaging and the richer experience offered by social networking applications, whereas the older demographic is actually increasing their use of this method of staying in touch. Furthermore, younger generations are more likely to view the Internet as a form of entertainment – video sharing, gaming, downloading music and reading blogs – while older generations utilize the Internet as more of a utilitarian tool for banking, shopping, and researching their health.
Granted, this trend is as much a function of generational needs and what issues are important to them, but it also points to a degree of sophistication and familiarity with the technology. Which leads us to wonder if it is only a matter of time before younger generations – particularly teens and below – develop cases of “online ennui” when the web fails to evolve fast enough to meet their growing expectations, forcing them back outside while their parents stare engrossed into a glowing screen trying to upload a photo to their Facebook page?