The Age Factor: How Internet use varies from teens to seniors

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When it comes to the big picture, age makes little difference in how users view the Internet. The Advertising Age study of consumers' Internet habits shows that respondents from all age groups uniformly say the Net will play an increasingly prominent role in their lives.

According to the survey, conducted by Applied Research & Consulting, New York, the vast majority (89%) believe that everyone, everywhere, will soon be online, and that the advent and refinement of new technologies -- particularly broadband (81%) and wireless Internet connections (92%) -- will continue to make the Internet faster and more convenient.

Current Internet users say the Net makes their lives easier (71%), particularly for keeping in touch (84%).

Age differences start to show up when users talk about what they use the Internet for, in the kinds of product and service information they seek, as well as in what they purchase online. For example:

* For all age groups, using search engines is expected to remain the most frequent informational activity on the Net.

* Using the Net as an educational resource is among the top five future Internet uses. However, the youngest group (13-17) is currently the most frequent consumer of these services and expects the greatest increase in this activity in the future.

* All respondents anticipate a substantial increase in their use of the Net as a resource for news, sports and weather information. But the youngest group is the least likely to engage in this activity.

* All age groups anticipate using the Net to get information about computers and computer products, with the youngest group again the least likely to use the Internet in this way.

But overall, younger members of the online community are significantly more likely than their older counterparts to use the Internet to get information about a variety of consumer categories. For example, younger Internet users are significantly more likely to use the Net to get information about fashion and clothing than older users, and this difference is expected to increase in the next few years. In much the same way, getting information about music is a far more frequent activity for younger Internet users, those 13 to 35, than for older members of the online community. In addition, younger groups anticipate a much greater increase in how often they use the Net for this purpose than do older groups.

Getting information about events (e.g., sports, theater, movies) is more popular among younger groups currently, and it is among the top five anticipated future uses of the Net for 13-to-35-year-olds.

When it comes to buying online, younger respondents were more likely to report an increase in watching live video broadcasts online, as well as in purchasing music and clothing over the Internet. This suggests the viability of these categories will increase over time.

Older groups, on the other hand, are using certain consumer categories far more than their younger counterparts.

As users get older, they are more likely to seek out information about health and healthcare. Given current trends, this is likely to increase in the future.

In much the same way, older users, who are more likely to have higher incomes and more disposable income than their younger counterparts, are the most frequent users of the Internet to seek travel and financial information.

At the same time, older respondents are most likely to increase their use of the Internet for purchasing travel-related products, financial products and services, healthcare products, books and computers.

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