Is the Technology Generation Gap Widening?

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Cambridge, Mass. — Sept. 27

The generation gap of technology adoption between younger and older Americans is widening, spurred on by Gen Y’s rapid integration of mobile and social behaviors, according to the largest annual survey of Americans’ technology adoption and attitudes by Forrester Research Inc., an independent research company that provides advice to global leaders in business and technology.

The report — titled “The State of Consumers and Technology Benchmark 2010” — is a graphical analysis of Forrester’s North American Consumer Technographics Benchmark mail survey of nearly 43,000 consumers in both the U.S. and Canada. Now in its 13th year, the study is the largest and longest-running survey of consumers and technology in the world.

The report provides a generational overview of U.S. consumers’ demographics, behaviors and technology attitudes. Survey results were segmented by Gen Y (ages 18 to 30), Gen X (ages 31 to 44), younger boomers (ages 45 to 54), older boomers (ages 55 to 65), and seniors (age 66 and older). While Americans’ adoption of a digital lifestyle continues, Gen Y and Gen X outpace baby boomers and seniors on almost everything technology related.

This year, the rapid rise in mobile adoption is particularly noteworthy. Among Gen Y and Gen X, 23 percent of consumers own a smart phone, while 17 percent of Americans of all ages own one of these devices, up from 11 percent one year ago.

Gen Y is particularly mobile savvy: 85 percent of consumers in this demographic regularly send or receive SMS/text messages, compared with 57 percent of all U.S. consumers over the age of 18; 27 percent of Gen Yers access social networks on their mobile devices, compared with 14 percent of all U.S. consumers; and 37 percent of Gen Yers access the mobile Internet, compared with 23 percent of all U.S. consumers.

“The digital attitudes and behaviors that Gen Y and Gen X are cultivating now will follow them as they age and will only be multiplied in the generations that follow them,” said Forrester Research consumer insights analyst Jacqueline Anderson. “Gen Y in particular is living and breathing a digital social life. In almost every online or mobile behavior, Gen Y leads the adoption curve. About two-thirds update or maintain a profile on a social networking site, which for them is a way to facilitate all social aspects of their lives.”

“On the other hand, Gen X is the master of maximizing the functional benefits of technology. In many activities, Gen Xers closely rival Gen Yers in adoption. For example, both spend about 17 hours online a week. But Gen Xers have mastered the art of using digital tools in a more functional manner, especially if it supports their family’s needs,” Anderson said.

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