Pew: Older Generations Catching Up On Web

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Millennials, the 18- to-33-year-old population bracket prized by marketers, no longer dominates the Internet as it once did as activities like email and search become more common across all U.S. age groups. But a new study by the Pew Internet & Life Project found Millennials are still well ahead in areas like social networking, instant messaging, and playing online games.

Blogging was the only activity that dropped off in popularity for any age segment, with half as many teens blogging as in 2006 and Millennials also seeing a slight decline. Blogging among all online adults increased only to 14% from 11% in late 2008.

The report -- the second by the Pew Research Center to study how different generations use the Internet -- highlighted how older Web users are catching up to younger ones across a range of online activities. In addition to email and search, a majority of Internet users of all ages search for health information, get news, buy products and make travel reservations or purchases, among other things.

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People in Gen X (ages 34-45) and in older cohorts are more likely than Millennials to engage in several online activities, including visiting government sites and getting financial information online. And even in areas still ruled by Millennials like social networking, older generations are the fastest-growing segments. Use of social sites by the so-called GI generation (74 and older) has quadrupled since 2008 to 16% -- the steepest rise of any group.

"While seniors still rely on email as their main form of online communication, social network sites allow users to reconnect with people from the past, find supporting communities to deal with a chronic disease, or connect with younger generations -- all of which may drive social network site use among older generations," states the repot.

But younger adults without question are the most pervasive demographic on social networks, with 83% of Millennials going to sites like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn. That's up from 67% two years ago. A separate study released Wednesday by the Pew's Global Attitudes Project on social networking worldwide showed the activity skews younger in other countries as well.

In fact, there are only three countries -- Britain, Poland and the U.S. -- in which most 30- to-49-year-olds are involved in social networking.

When it comes to watching online video, Millennials are again the most prevalent group, at 80%, but other age segments have made gains. So 55% of Older Boomers (55-64) have watched video, up from 30% in 2008, and one in five members of the GI Generation have checked out YouTube or other video sources.

More than half (51%) of all online adults listen to music online -- up from 32% in 2004, when Pew last asked the question. While Millennials are the most avid Web music fans, at 65%, Gen Xers (58%) and Younger Boomers (48%) are catching up.

Not surprisingly, Millennials are also the demographic most likely to have home broadband connections (81%) and to connect to the Internet wirelessly (82%). That compares to two-thirds of all adults with home broadband, and 59% browsing the mobile Web. Gen Xers are not far behind in either category, at 73% and 71%, respectively.

The primary data for the Pew report came from a survey conducted from April 29 to May 30, 2010 among a sample of 2,252 adults, ages 18 and older. Findings for some activities were based on prior surveys.

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