Security News

Think your kid is always online? You might want to talk to Grandma

Emma McGowan 20 Oct 2021

Living apart from family could lead older people to use technology more than younger people to connect, as they aren’t seeing their family members and friends daily

There’s a common belief that kids are always on their phones. And we assume they’re on there because that’s where their friends are. Whether it’s the newest social media or “old school” SMS texting or Facetiming, young people like to stay connected with their friends. 

But are tweens, teens, and twenty-somethings really being more “social” than the rest of us? According to the 2021 Avast Digital Citizen Report, maybe not. Between June 15 and June 27, 2021, we partnered with market research institutions YouGov and Forsa to conduct a global study of over 16,000 people in 17 countries. We wanted answers to a wide range of questions about global attitudes toward the internet, including who’s really spending the most time online. 

According to the survey, 43% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 use social media “multiple times per day,” compared to 55% of people ages 66 to 70, the highest percentage across all age groups. The numbers are closer for “staying in contact with friends and family via messenger services, email,” with the 18 to 25-year-olds coming in at 32% and the older group coming in at 31%. It’s only when we look at the last question about “socializing” digitally that the young people actually do it more, with 12% saying they video call “multiple times per day,” compared with 4% in the 66 to 70 group. 

The trends noted in the US population don’t translate globally, however. When we take into account people in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Czech Republic, France, India, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, United Kingdom, and the US, 65% of people ages 18 to 24 use social media “multiple times per day,” compared to 38% of people ages 66 to 70. When we look at “staying in contact with friends and family via messenger services, email,” 45% of 18 to 25-year-olds do it multiple times per day, compared with 27% of those ages 66 to 70. And 12% of people aged 18 to 24 are video calling multiple times per day, compared to 5% of the elder group.

Our data can’t tell us why older Americans are more likely than both younger Americans and older people worldwide to spend time online, but we can make some educated guesses. According to research conducted by the Pew Research Center, 11% of North Americans live in multigenerational households, the lowest of any region worldwide. (In comparison, 45% of people in the Asia-Pacific region live in multigenerational households, the highest percentage in the world.)

Living apart from family could lead older people to use technology more than younger people to connect, as they aren’t seeing their family members and friends daily. Older people — especially over the age of 66, as the age of retirement in the United States is 65 — are also less likely to be working, which means that they have both more time on their hands and, again, reduced social contact. 

For example, Jay McGowan, 83, tells Avast that he spends seven to eight hours per day online and has done so since 2002, which is the year he retired. 

“First off I do emails, then I do Facebook, then I do my Yahoo news,” McGowan says. “And I play a lot of solitaire. It keeps me busy. It keeps my mind active and it keeps me from getting bored.”

When compared with older people globally, it’s possible that older people in the United States have greater access to capital and therefore greater access to technology. According to the Federal Reserve Board, the median net worth of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 is $266,400. In comparison, 78% of the population of India (which was included in the survey), has a net worth of less than $10,000.

The reality is that the internet is now an integral part of all of our lives, regardless of age. So the next time you see a teen glued to their phone, why not suggest they ping Grandma? She’s probably online — and she’ll love to hear from you.