January 22, 2006

Generations Online

Internet users ages 12-28 are more likely to IM, play online games, and create blogs; Internet users over age 28 (but younger than 70) are more likely to make travel reservations and bank online

Internet Use and Email

All age cohorts of internet users (ages 12 and older) are equally likely to use email; about 90% of all internet users send or receive email.  Given the many other variations in internet use among different age groups, it is notable that this basic communications tool is almost universally used. Even teens, many of whom disparage email as something for “old people,” and tend to prefer instant messaging, have not completely abandoned it. Email is the most popular online activity, especially for internet users age 65 or older. However, the best place to reach someone age 70 and older is still offline. Only 26% of Americans age 70-75 and 17% of Americans age 76 or older go online.

Chart: Share of Americans online by age (Teens Oct-Nov. 2004, margin of error = ± 3%. Adults Jan-June 2005, margin of error = ± 1%.)

Teens and Generation Y

Internet users ages 12 to 28 years old have embraced the online applications that enable communicative, creative, and social uses. Teens and Generation Y (age 18-28) are significantly more likely than older users to send and receive instant messages, play online games, create blogs, download music, and search for school information.  An always-on, high-speed connection at home enables some of these activities for young internet users, but broadband access is not the whole story. Internet users in their 30s are about as likely as users in their 20s to have broadband at home and yet do not match the younger users in their enthusiasm for games and IM.

Chart: Share of Americans with broadband at home by age (Teens Oct-Nov. 2004, margin of error = ± 4%; Adults Jan-June 2005, margin of error = ± 2%.)

The New Middle

Internet users ages 29 to 69 years old are more likely than internet users in other age groups to engage in online activities that require some capital: travel reservations and online banking. In both cases, internet users with high-speed access at home are more likely to do these activities than those with dial-up connections at home, but again, there are notable generational differences. Fully 50% of internet users between 29 and 40 years old bank online, compared to 38% of their younger peers (internet users age 18-28).

Buying a product online is equally popular with all internet users except those at either end of the age scale: teens and internet users age 70 or older.

Generational Differences in Online Activities