En español | Older and younger people want the same thing from the Internet: to use online tools to connect with one another and protect their privacy.
That’s the gist of a new AARP/Microsoft study, which found that most Americans think social media sites (Facebook, Twitter and so on) are boosting the quantity and quality of family communication. At the same time, many people harbor deep concerns about the safety and security of their online activity.
The AARP/Microsoft study, coinciding with Safer Internet Day (February 7, 2012), polled more than 2,000 Americans in two demographics: 13- to 25-year-olds and 39- to 75-year-olds. Eighty-three percent of those who responded see online communication (both email and social media) as a handy way to stay in touch with family. Social media may even be bridging the generation gap: More than one-fourth reported that communicating online with family members helps them better understand older or younger family members.
How Safe Are We Online?
A whopping 98 percent of those polled said they feel comfortable communicating via social networks. More than half, though, worry about their safety and security online: Twentysomethings are more concerned than teenagers, while nearly two-thirds of parents and grandparents are troubled by the safety risks of online identity theft, harassment or malicious software.
When it comes to safety, though, we need to talk: Nearly half of parents who responded say their children know to speak up when they encounter something uncomfortable online. By contrast, almost three in 10 teenagers say they know to alert their parents in such a situation.
Despite respondents’ Internet safety concerns, the AARP/Microsoft study found that online communication is gaining a toehold in all age groups. The reason for the surge? Family ties: Just over two-thirds of people said the main reason they use social networking sites is to keep in contact with family members they don’t regularly see. Social media also facilitate virtual interactions among relatives who do see one another on a regular basis. (The younger survey group was far more likely to use social media this way than the older group.)