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COVID restrictions helped increase digital communication use for older Australians

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Australia’s COVID-19 restrictions have led to more older Australians using digital communications, including social media apps, than ever before.

Research from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) shows the number of people aged 75 and over who use social media doubled from 18 per cent in June 2019, to 41 per cent in June 2020.

For older Australians emailing had increased from 37 per cent in 2019 to 81 per cent in 2020. Use of messaging/calling apps and mobile texting have also increased significantly.

“The digital divide between younger and older Australians has narrowed, with this trend accelerated by the desire to maintain contact with friends and family during lockdowns,” ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said.

Overall 77 per cent of Australians in June 2020 had used an app to make voice calls, video calls or send messages in the last six months, compared to 67 per cent in 2019.

More than one in three Australians increased their use of social networking apps following the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions.

“After years of gradual drift towards communications and social media apps, we have now seen a more pronounced shift in the way Australians connect,” Ms O’Loughlin said.

“More people are relying on social networking apps and mobile communication services like Facebook Messenger and Zoom to stay connected.”

Other findings from the research included:

  • In regional locations, use of nearly all communication services increased. Use of messaging/calling apps increased from 48 per cent in 2019 to 73 per cent in 2020.
  • Facebook was the most used social networking app for all age groups, used by 93 per cent of social network users, followed by YouTube (73 per cent), Instagram (57 per cent) and Whatsapp (48 per cent).
  • The report shows a continuation of the long-term trend of declining use of fixed-line home phone services for all age groups except those aged 75 and over – their usage was unchanged since 2019.
  • Nearly all (99 per cent) adult Australians used a mobile phone in the previous six months to June 2020.

The Communications and Media in Australia: How we communicate interactive report provides insights into Australians’ take-up and usage of communication services, including social media and has been published on the ACMA website.

MR 09/2021

For more information, please contact ACMA Media on 0438 375 776 or media@acma.gov.au.

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