Kids Get Parents Wired

Children who think they know more than their parents are correct when it comes to computers. A survey from AARP, conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide, found that 78 percent of the 25-to-44-year-old respondents have taught older adults how to use the computer, and 87 percent have aided their parents in finding information online.

The June 2003 survey of 534 Americans was very specific about participation requirements. All participants were required to have one or more parent or relative – 50 years or older – going online at least every three months and who contacts them for help with the computer or Internet.

The report found that nearly three-quarters of respondents have helped an older adult use email, as 96 percent of those surveyed communicated through the medium. An overwhelming 94 percent of the adults 50 and older that were surveyed by SeniorNet in late 2002 indicated that they primarily used the Internet to stay in touch with friends and relatives.

AARP found that the other methods for keeping in touch were sending online cards (60 percent), sharing family pictures (57 percent), and instant messaging (43 percent). Intergenerational communication was least likely to happen through a family member’s Web site (13 percent), cell phone text messaging (7 percent), or Web phone/cam (5 percent).

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of the AARP respondents have helped the older parent or relative set up a computer, and 71 percent have acted as “tech support” when the older generation encountered computer or Internet problems. In fact, of these, 78 percent are the first person their relative turns to for help, with nearly 50 percent saying they are contacted more than twice a month. Three-in-ten of the SeniorNet survey participants indicated that they learned to use the Internet by getting help from a relative.

Further evidence that those in the 50-to-64 age group are embracing the Internet comes from a Pew Internet & American Life Project report showing that non-users hold a modest lead over users.

Users Compared to Non-Users, By Age
Users Non-Users All
18-29 29% 14% 23%
30-49 47% 32% 42%
50-64 18% 22% 20%
65+ 4% 28% 15%
Note: This table reports the share of the Internet population
that comes from each group.
Base: 3,553, March-May 2002.
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project

According to AARP, 38 percent of the parents have been using a personal computer between 3 and 5 years, 41 percent have been using a computer for 2 years or less; and 21 percent have been using computers for 6 years or longer.

I have been using the Internet for:
Less than 6 months 1%
6-11 months 3%
12-23 months 8%
2-5 years 41%
Over 5 years 46%
Base: 2,084 individuals, 50+
Source: SeniorNet

Even after the parents are online, the children are still providing support. The AARP study revealed that 87 percent of respondents help their parents find information online. Almost half (47 percent) of parents have had help searching for information related to travel and entertainment (45 percent), followed by healthcare (36 percent); books/movies/music (36 percent); technology/computer hardware or software (32 percent); and financial information/bills/banking (31 percent).

The SeniorNet survey found that the majority (61 percent) of their respondents researched computer software or hardware online, followed by travel packages, plane tickets, rental cars, etc. (55 percent); books (53 percent); automobiles (46 percent); and other electronics (39 percent).

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