Are boomers less tech savvy than younger generations? Not by much, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.
The study reveals boomers are closing the gap on the use of smartphones, tablets and social media compared with millennials and Generation Xers.
The data, based on telephone interviews of 1,502 adults from all 50 U.S. states, focuses on the devices people use, how they use those devices, and whether they believe the internet benefits society.
According to the study, 68% of boomers (ages 55 to 73) now own a smartphone, up from 25% in 2011. That still trails millennials (ages 23-38) and Gen Xers (ages 39-54) when it comes to smartphone ownership (93% and 90%, respectively), but shows a dramatic increase in a short amount of time. Gen Xers’ smartphone ownership is up from 85% in 2018.
When it comes to tablets, the generations are neck and neck: millennials (55%), Gen Xers (53%) and boomers (52%). That’s a big boost for boomers since 2013, when only 31% owned a tablet, the largest jump of all the groups. In an interesting development, Gen Xers who own tablets declined from 64% only a year ago.
Boomers have also closed the gap in Facebook use. Sixty percent now say they use the social-media site, compared with 50% in 2015 and 43% in 2012.
Pew’s results are in line with other recent studies of boomers’ tech use — and potential social problems it may cause. Screen time is at an all-time high for boomers, to the tune of almost four-and-a-half hours per day, often at the expense of good old-fashioned reading and socializing.
Not only is screen time for older citizens rising, grandparents are substituting screens for quality time with their grandchildren more than ever. By one estimate, grandparents were letting their grandchildren spend half of each four-hour visit in front of a tablet, computer, or cell phone.
So don’t assume older Americans don’t know how to use technology as well as their younger counterparts.
And don’t assume that’s automatically a great thing.