Generations Online-Where Do You Fit In?

The Pew Internet & American Life Project recently released the report, Generations Online in 2009. Data was gathered from over 2,000 people to show what different’  generations do online. Probably not too many surprises, though I do wonder if they ever ask adults who state that they *always* use email more than teens, yes, but do you like it?’. Lately, I have been thinking that there is a lot to learn from teens (albeit there’s always a lot to learn from teens) who don’t use email on the whole as often as adults.

It is not uncommon for me to send hree emails about the same topic to someone’  before they respond, or before I decide to use another mode of communication. Dating myself here, but it reminds me of the scene in Ferris Bueller where the overly monotone teacher calls out Ferris’ name over and over and no one responds.

According to the report:

  • Teens and those 18-32 use the Internet for entertainment and communicating with family and friends
  • Online videos, online games, virtual worlds, and downloading music are more often what younger users engage in
  • Reading blogs, commenting, and setting up profiles are more common for teens
  • Using social networking and Instant Messaging (IM’ing) are popular ways to keep up with friends

The report also talks about what other generations mainly use the Internet for. What can we learn from each other about how we communicate with those we serve, as well as how we can have teens and those older working and learning together, are some things to think about when reading the research.

Having policies that support IM’ing, offering it as a service to patrons, providing a way or information on downloading music legally, and promoting online games are all ways we can try to reach out to our teens. If our administrators are blocking these capabilities, hopefully reports like thiswill help make the case to at least beta test something.

Try one of the technologies that according to the report aren’t as popular for the generation you represent -even if it’s just with your colleagues.’  Feel free to comment on what the experience was like.

About Kelly Czarnecki

Kelly Czarnecki is a Teen Librarian at ImaginOn with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. She is a member of the YALSA blog advisory board.
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3 Comments

  1. Here’s the question I always have with studies like these: do these results stay consistent as a generation ages? We’ve been hearing for years that teens don’t use email as much as their older peers–but does that remain true as they age into college or work environments? Does instant messaging stay as popular when IMers age, or is it just more heavily used by younger folks? Does texting stay popular as heavy users get older?

    I only ask because it seems like people often look at results like these and think ZOMG! What a totally crazy generation! And certainly we have to adapt to each generation, but it seems silly to assume that these habits will all remain constant even as teens grow up. I know I did a lot more instant messaging when I was in high school than I do now, and now I do a lot more emailing. (Hooray for anecdata!)

  2. I’d love to know which teens they’re talking to: few of my students look at blogs! They do IM (sometimes – FB chat and Gmail chat more than AIM) and text a lot. E-mail seems to be for formal communication, like with a teacher or adult, than between themselves.

    The problem with the Pew project is that it’s not statistically valid and yet everyone treats it like it’s the second coming of Moses and the tablets! My guess is that if you polled all YALSA (or AASL or ALSC) members about the behaviors they’re seeing, things would be different in the world o’ teens.

  3. In looking at their mission, the Pew Internet & American Life “provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. Pew Internet explores the impact of the internet on children, families, communities, the work place, schools, health care and civic/political life.” While I don’t think the studies are akin to the second coming of Moses, I do think they provide food for thought on some of the patterns and trends we might be seeing over time and that in particular this one can be useful to show that people’s interests with the Internet do indeed shift over time. As the opening sentence states, “Contrary to the image of Generation Y as the net generation, internet users in their 20’s do not dominate every aspect of online life.” While that might not seem like rocket science, I find it useful in how we may be able to understand each other better and perhaps even understand some of the policies we make at our institutions regarding Internet use.

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