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Though the adoption of emerging Web activities such as social media is still dominated by Millennials, older generations are making sharp gains, according to a survey from Pew Research. Moreover, key Internet activities such as email and search are becoming more uniformly popular across all age groups.

Email and search engine use are the backbone of online activity across all age groups:

  • 88% of online adults age 74+ say they use email, as do 94% of all online adults. However, communicating via email is not as popular among the young with 73% of teens (age 12-17) doing so.
  • 87% of online adults have used the Internet to search for information; 83% have used the Internet to search for health information, making this activity the third-most popular among all online adults.

Most online adults, even among the oldest generation, buy products and get news online:

  • 57% of adults age 74+ purchase products online, compared with 66% of all adults.
  • 54% of adults age 74+ read online news content, compared with 75% of all adults.

Online adults age 56-73 are slightly more likely than younger adults to have rated a product, service, or person online, and are just as likely to have donated to charity online.

Meanwhile, blogging, once the domain of teens and Millennials, is now relatively common throughout most age groups.

Below, other findings from the Online Generations 2010 report, issued by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project and Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Where Millennials Lead

Online Millennials (roughly age 18-33) are more likely than all online adults to access the Internet wirelessly via laptop or mobile phone (82% vs. 59%). They also surpass their elders online in the use of key Internet activities, including:

  • Social Networking Sites: 83% of Millennials use social network sites, compared with 50% of Younger Boomers (age 46-55) and 16% of adults age 74+.
  • Instant Messaging: 67% of teens (age 12-17) and 66% of Millennials communicate via instant message, compared with 35% of Younger Boomers.
  • Blogs: 43% of Millennials read blogs, compared with 27% of Younger Boomers.

Where Older Adults Lead

However, Gen-X adults (age 34-45) and older cohorts are more likely than Millennials to engage in several online activities, including visiting government websites and getting financial information.

Online adults age 34-64 lead in visiting government websites—roughly seven in ten have done so—but younger adults are catching up: 61% of Millennials online have visited a government website, up from 55% in November 2008.

Older generations are more likely to go online for financial information, though in that activity, the Silent Generation leads: 44% of online adults age 65-73 turn to the Internet for financial information such as stock quotes or mortgage interest rates.

Looking for great digital marketing data? MarketingProfs reviewed hundreds of research sources to create our most recent Digital Marketing Factbook (May 2010), a 296-page compilation of data and 254 charts, covering email marketing, social media, search engine marketing, e-commerce, and mobile marketing. Also check out The State of Social Media Marketing, a 240-page original research report from MarketingProfs.

Growth in Social Networking

Although the youngest generations are still more likely to use social networking sites, the fastest growth has come from older adults: 16% of online adults age 74+ use social networking sites, four times the 4% recorded in 2008.

Similarly, 43% of Older Boomers online (age 55-64) use social networking sites, more than four times the 9% recorded in 2008.

About the data: Findings are based on a Pew Internet Project survey conducted from April 29 to May 30, 2010. The most current teen data in this study is from a separate Pew Internet survey of teens and their parents conducted from June 26 to Sept. 24, 2009. Both surveys were conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International.

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