The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released 2 research papers that offer a snapshot of the digital lives of younger and older Australians.
The snapshots are part of the ACMA’s Communications and media in Australia series which tracks patterns of consumer communications and media use over time.
Younger Australians (18- to 34-year olds)
Younger Australians are living more digitally-based lives than ever before.
Compared to other age groups, younger Australians are more comfortable in online environments, quick to adapt to new technological developments and use more digital platforms and apps to navigate their worlds.
The report shows those aged 18 to 34 used an average of 5.2 social media apps in 2020, compared to 3.4 for older Australians.
Internet use is also spreading across more devices, with almost half of young Australians using 5 or more types of devices to go online in 2020, up from 30 per cent in 2017. The most common devices were mobile phones, laptops and tablets.
Social media plays a big role in the online habits of young Australians. At June 2020, 85 per cent used at least one platform in the previous 6 months, and 64 per cent used 5 or more, compared to just 22 per cent of older Australians.
Despite spending a similar amount of time watching video content to the rest of the population, younger Australians are more likely than older Australians to do their viewing online rather than on free-to-air or subscription TV.
Younger Australians are also more comfortable with digital technology than older generations. In the 12 months to June 2020, 60 per cent felt that computers and technology gave them more control over their lives, compared to 44 per cent of Aussies aged 35 and over.
Older Australians (65+ years)
Older Australians have experienced a considerable change in their digital habits. They are engaging in a broader range of online activities, more frequently and across different devices.
Mobile phones and tablets are now their main gateway to the internet, while the use of desktop computers has remained consistent.
Mobile phones were used to access the internet by 78 per cent of older Australians in the last six months to June 2020, up from 51 per cent in 2017. The use of smart TVs was on the rise as well, with 48 per cent having used one in 2020, up from 14 per cent in 2017.
Most older Australians now have internet in their home, with 93 per cent having access in 2020, compared to 68 per cent in 2017.
The data showed a significant rise in the number of older Australians using the internet to do their banking, shopping, watching video, listening to audio, accessing telehealth and other professional services.
Despite the increase in online activity, the attitudes of older Australians towards technology may not have shifted significantly. The research showed older Australians still found the online environment challenging, with 80 per cent in 2020 reporting that they find technology difficult to keep up with. This suggests that their increased engagement with technology may be due to necessity, rather than choice as the digital environment continues to evolve.