First tablet PCs, now smartphones
Internet use amongst older people (over-65s) was boosted enormously in the period around 2012 by the rise of the tablet PC. The tablet's convenience and large format made it more appealing to older people than the traditional PC or laptop. At about the same time, various apps came onto the market, which quickly gained popularity with this age group. Four years on, and many older people are switching to the smartphone. In 2014, only 33 per cent of surveyed over-65s had smartphones. Today, the figure stands at 55 per cent. On average, they spend 2.6 hours a month on line with their smartphones. The trend is partly supply-driven: it's nowadays hard to find a mobile that isn't a smartphone.
Reliability trumps convenience
One clear difference between older internet users and their younger counterparts is the importance they attach to security. When young people want to reach a website, they get there using the quickest and most convenient route (Google, autocomplete). By contrast, older people opt for the navigation method that they see as most reliable (e.g. typing a domain name into a browser). They also pay more attention to the domain name when judging the reliability of a website. One conspicuous effect of that is the high reliability rating given to the new TLD .bank (live since 2015). Even though the extension is barely used in the Netherlands, 29 per cent of the older people surveyed said that they would use a .bank site.
Emphasis on security
Older age groups attach more importance to on-line security as well. A clear correlation was observed between a respondent's age and how concerned they are about on-line security. Older people are also more likely than younger people to install anti-virus software on their mobile devices.
E-mail remains popular
Another stand-out finding is that older people are interested in having their own domain names too. However, while under-34s who wanted domain names were mainly motivated by business plans, older people were more likely to be interested in personalised e-mail addresses. With the rise of WhatsApp, e-mail has lost much of its appeal for the young.
Emphasis on security and reliability tends to distinguish older internet users. But they don't lag behind the young where internet use is concerned. On the contrary, when it comes to staying safe on line, they can definitely teach the young a thing or two.
- SIDN Trends in internet use 2016 PDF document, (1,022 kb)