There are still notable differences by generation in online activities, but the dominance of the Millennial generation that we documented in our first “Generations” report in 2009 has slipped in many activities.
Milliennials, those ages 18-33, remain more likely to access the internet wirelessly with a laptop or mobile phone. In addition, they still clearly surpass their elders online when it comes to:
Use of social networking sites
Use of instant messaging
Using online classifieds
Listening to music
Playing online games
Participating in virtual worlds
However, internet users in Gen X (those ages 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.
Finally, the biggest online trend: While the youngest and oldest cohorts may differ, certain key internet activities are becoming more uniformly popular across all age groups. These include:
Search engine use
Seeking health information
Making travel reservations or purchases
Doing online banking
Looking for religious information
Rating products, services, or people
Making online charitable donations
Even in areas that are still dominated by Millennials, older generations are making notable gains. Some of the areas that have seen the fastest rate of growth in recent years include older adults’ participation in communication and entertainment activities online, especially in using social network sites such as Facebook. Among the major trends in online activities:
While the youngest generations are still significantly more likely to use social network sites, the fastest growth has come from internet users 74 and older: social network site usage for this oldest cohort has quadrupled since 2008, from 4% to 16%.
The percentage of all adult internet users who watch video online jumped 14 points in the past two years, from 52% in May 2008 to 66% in May 2010.
51% of all online adults listen to music online, compared with 34% the last time this question was asked, in June 2004. While Millennials used to be by far the most avid listeners, Gen Xers and Younger Boomers are catching up.
As of May 2010, 53% of online adults have used a classified ads website such as Craigstlist, up from 32% in September 2007.
Additionally, searching for health information, an activity that was once the primary domain of older adults, is now the third most popular online activity for all internet users 18 and older.
Few of the activities covered in this report have decreased in popularity for any age group, with the notable exception of blogging. Only half as many online teens work on their own blog as did in 2006, and Millennial generation adults ages 18-33 have also seen a modest decline—a development that may be related to the quickly-growing popularity of social network sites. At the same time, however, blogging’s popularity increased among most older generations, and as a result the rate of blogging for all online adults rose slightly overall from 11% in late 2008 to 14% in 2010. Yet while the act formally known as blogging seems to have peaked, internet users are doing blog-like things in other online spaces as they post updates about their lives, musings about the world, jokes, and links on social networking sites and micro-blogging sites such as Twitter.