Millennials have often led older Americans in their adoption and use of technology, and that is largely true today. But there has been significant growth in technology adoption since 2012 among older generations, particularly Gen Xers and baby boomers.
More than nine out of ten Millennials (93% of those who 23 to 38 this year) own smartphones, compared to 90% of Generation X (those aged 39-54 this year), 68% of Baby Boomers (55-73) and 40% of the Silent Generation (74-91), according to a new analysis of a Pew Research Center survey of American adults conducted in early 2019.
Similarly, the vast majority of Millennials (86%) report using social media, compared to lower proportions among older generations. While the share of millennials who report using social media has remained largely unchanged since 2012, the shares of millennials, baby boomers and quiet people who use social media have all increased by at least 10 percentage points. percentage during this period.
Unlike smartphones and social media, tablet ownership is now comparable across most generations. Today, 55% of Gen Xers, 53% of Millennials, and 52% of Baby Boomers say they own tablets. A smaller proportion of Silencers (33%) report owning tablets.
Those in the silent generation also lag behind when it comes to having broadband service at home. While most millennials (78%), Gen Xers (78%) and baby boomers (74%) say they subscribe to home broadband, less than half of silent people (45%) say so .
In terms of specific platforms, around three-quarters or more of Millennials and Gen Xers now report using Facebook (84% vs. 74%, respectively). Boomers and Silents have both increased their Facebook usage by double digits since 2015. In fact, the share of Silents using Facebook has nearly doubled in the past four years, from 22% to 37%.
Nearly all millennials (nearly 100%) now report using the internet, and 19% of them are smartphone-only internet users, meaning they own a smartphone but don’t have broadband internet service at home. Large shares of Gen Xers (91%) and Baby Boomers (85%) use the internet, compared to only 62% of Silents. When it comes to smartphone-only internet users, 17% of Gen Xers primarily go online via smartphone, as do 11% of Baby Boomers and 15% of Quiet.
Baby boomers continue to lag both Gen X and Millennials on most tech adoption metrics, but adoption rates for this group have grown rapidly in recent years . For example, baby boomers are now much more likely to own a smartphone than they were in 2011 (68% now versus 25% then).
Although baby boomers have embraced a range of technologies in recent years, members of the silent generation are less likely to have done so. Four in ten silent (40%) say they own a smartphone, and fewer (33%) say they have a tablet or use social media (28%). Previous Pew Research Center surveys have found that older adults face unique barriers to the adoption of new technologies – from the lack of confidence in using new technologies to the physical challenges of handling various devices.
Although generations differ in their use of various technologies, one Center Survey 2018 found that young internet users were also more likely than older Americans who use the internet to say that the internet has had a positive impact on society: 73% of online Millennials said the internet is primarily good for society, compared to 63% of silent generation users.
Americans were also less positive about the societal impact of the internet last year than four years earlier. Gen X’s opinion of the Internet’s impact on society has declined the most over this period. In 2014, 80% of Gen X internet users believed the internet had been mostly a positive thing for society, a number that dropped to 69% in 2018. Gen Y and silent internet users were also somewhat less optimistic last year than in 2014.
To note: This is an update of an article originally published on May 2, 2018 by Jingjing Jiang, a former research analyst specializing in internet and technology. See full results and methodology here.