Internet users have split into the two groups: those under 30 and older generations. The two groups use the Internet for different purposes via different devices in a different way. For young people, the Internet is the primary source of information where they search for movies, videos and images rather than written texts. Social media sites have replaced e-mail while more and more people want to be online all the time and use their smartphone to get ongoing access to the Internet. Young people have a huge competitive edge, reveals eNET – Telekom’s „Report on the Internet Economy”.
Starting at an Early Age
People aged over 30 (ages 31-65) and younger people (ages 15-30) started intensely using the web and Internet-capable devices 5-6 years ago, according to eNET’s report compiled in October, 2012. The majority of young people under thirty received their first mobile phone at an early age and used a computer and the Internet. In terms of the use of info communication technologies, this is a huge advantage over those who learnt how to use a computer and the Internet as an adult. Using the Internet and the related devices and technologies comes as natural to young people as reading is to people over 30.
As a consequence, young people, often called digital natives, use the Internet far more effectively, getting a massive competitive edge over older people, i.e. digital immigrants, in today’s information-intensive social and economic environment. Young people’s intensive Internet use also influence how devices and content evolve. Analyzing their habits of information consumption and Internet usage reveals which communication channels and media surfaces will be preferred in the future.
Television and the Internet Neck and Neck?
According to eNET’s survey, both in the group of under 30s and over 30s the Internet and television serve as the key source of information. The Internet, however, is used by 88% of young people and by only 45% of people over 30. In the group of Internet users, there are no major differences in the intensity of usage. Young people assign less importance to the written media and radio as sources of information. On the other hand, older Internet users regard the Internet less important as a means of getting information although its popularity has surpassed that of television even in this generation too. Television holds roughly the same level of significance for both age groups.
The amount of time spent watching television and using the Internet clearly illustrates the changing content consumption habits of the younger generation and the increasing importance of the Internet:
Young people spend the same amount of time online as in front of the television while older generations still dedicate considerably more time to television viewing – they spend 7 hours more per week on average watching TV.
The difference between television and Internet consumption is not only seen in the number of hours but also in the content users choose. Young people prefer shorter content requiring less time and attention (videos, television series) whereas longer programmes lasting even several hours (popular science films, feature films, news programmes) are more frequently viewed by the older generations.
Engine of Growth: Downloads and Social Media
There is also a major difference between generations regarding the uses of the Internet. Young people are a lot more adventurous in obtaining content online, e.g. using download services, torrent sites where they mostly look for movies, television series, music, software and games.
Also, under 30 users tend to lead their private life more intensely on the Internet, happily sharing photos and videos about themselves on social media sites.
The new generation downloads audio and audiovisual content and visits social media sites more frequently. Users over 30, however, more often read longer texts and articles online and use the Internet to manage their affairs. While nearly half of the younger Internet users download movies and nearly one-third of them download music and software, only 10-15% of the over 30 users do the same. The e-mail is equally popular in both groups but social media sites, the other main area of communication, are regularly used by more than two-thirds of young people and less than 40% of users over 30. This means that for young people, email is being replaced by communication via social media sites. In addition, young people more frequently use the Internet to listen to the radio, watch television or visit dating sites.
Still Watching TV Shows But No Longer on Traditional Television
Even though young people watch less traditional television they also require movies, television series and structured programmes. Their media consumption, however, is gradually shifting to various devices with Internet access, e.g. computers, smartphones, tablets or interactive television which offers advanced image and video on demand. This trend is linked to viewer comfort as young generations want to watch television content on the device and in the order of their choice at a time they can select.
At the same time, young people read less online than users over 30. Only a little more than one-third of them read news on the Internet compared to over 50% of older generation users. Obviously, it doesn’t mean that young people need no information – just that their consumption and usage are different. Thanks to the possibilities of the Internet, non-written content, photos, videos and audio content are more popular in this user group.
Constant Online Presence
In addition to their more open and active attitude to online content, the younger generation also differs from older users in their choice of device. 33 % of young people own a smart phone while only 23% of over 30 users have one. Roughly 20% of young people use their phone for surfing the net while only 6% of users over 30 do the same.
eNET – Telekom
The survey was conducted in October, 2012 using a national representative sample of 1,000 people aged 15-65. 900 respondents replied via an online questionnaire, 100 people (ages 50-65) gave their answers by phone, ensuring the representativeness of the survey.
Digital native: a person who was born after the introduction of digital technologies and through interacting with digital technology from an early age, has a greater understanding of its use.
Naturally, this is only a short version of the concept created by Marc Prensky in his article Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants in 2001 where he described in detail the differences between generations born digital and born before digital technology. Though written ten years ago, the article still gives an accurate picture of the distinction between generations.