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article imageAARP and Microsoft show how generations use online communication

By Carol Finch     Feb 7, 2012 in Technology
A new study shows how different generations view and use online communication and social networks to bridge age gaps and build relationships.
The recent release of the Connecting Generations report outlines how different generations in a family use technology to build better relationships. Produced by AARP and Microsoft, this study analyzes how different age groups perceive and use tools such as the internet, social media, email and texting to communicate. It also reveals some interesting facts about online safety that may make parents sit up and think.
One of the key questions asked in the study covers the benefits of communicating online. 83 percent of those polled across all age groups found that being online improved the quality and quantity of their interactions with their families, especially if they live far away. Most also commented that this helped them understand each other and to feel better understood across generations.
An AARP report on the study explains how many people aged 50+ have now moved to using technology for social purposes rather than just as work tools. According to Jody Holtzman, Senior Vice President, AARP Thought Leadership, this inter-generational usage is "improving the quality of life for people of all ages.”
Not surprisingly, however, there were some generational differences in technology preference. Younger people would like older family members to use social networking sites and text messaging more; older people are less willing to do this and are more attached to email which is, in turn, of lower importance to younger respondents.
Despite their preferences for social networking, younger age groups are far more concerned about tailoring the content they show to their parents and grandparents on sites. Also, 30 percent of teens and young adults worry about older generations posting something embarrassing on their accounts while only 4 percent of older people find this a concern.
Being embarrassed by your parents isn't a new concept but social networking has made this much more of a public event. According to a CBS News report, parental behavior, no matter how well meaning, on sites like Facebook can lead some teens to unfriend them completely and to refuse to interact with them online.
From a parents' perspective, online safety may be more of a worry than they think. At the moment, 49 percent of parents believe that their children know to talk to them if they have concerns about stuff they see online that makes them uncomfortable. But, only 29 percent of teens say they know they can do this. Safety is a concern for all age groups; based on these stats, some parents may need to remind their kids that they are there to help.
More about Aarp, Seniors, Baby boomers, Boomers, Social networks