Maggie Shiels

Are you a digital native or an old dog?

  • Maggie Shiels
  • 29 Jul 08, 08:42 GMT

Companies love nothing more than being able to slot us all into a convenient box so they can target their advertising dollars and pitch their products in a more sales oriented way.

Woman using mobile to watch TVFair dues I guess you could say. Well now a new study by the research company Forrester will help them in their quest with what it calls "the largest ongoing survey in the world to explore consumers' attitudes, ownership and use of technology."

While some of it is standard fare and is pretty obvious, the survey does tie down a few interesting trends.

According to Charles Golvin, a principal analyst at the company, a major strength of the report is that it includes a broad swath of so called Gen Y members. They are youngsters in the 18-28 age bracket, a group of 38 million American citizens that "sets the pace for technology adoption."

And for most companies this group is apparently the most elusive said Mr Golvin.

"Gen Y is the audience that most companies are struggling to understand right now because it's key to their future revenue growth."

Surely you might think its Generation X everybody wants to sweet talk because they have the spending power? Not so said Mr Golvin who noted the distinction as thus.

"Gen Xers use technology when is supports a lifestyle need, while technology is so deeply embedded into everything Gen Yers do that they are truly the first native online population. They are heavy users of new media. It is their default."

What does that mean in real terms? Well it's much of a muchness at this stage.

Elderly man reading newspaperThe survey showed that nine in 10 Gen Yers own a personal computer and 82% own a mobile phone.

More crucially Gen Y spends more time online, for leisure or work, than watching old fashioned TV. 72% use their phone to send or receive texts and 42% watch internet video at least once a month.

Gen Xers are no slouches. Of the 63 million adults in this sector, 32% own an HDTV, 29% have a DVR and in the last three months, 69% shopped online and 65% banked online.

In short what the study seems to say is that it's not just about how much technology these sectors of the digital society have, but how they use it.

So what about those other age groups?

The Boomers, aged 43-63 are apparently 'older dogs reluctantly learning new tricks.' They do not go online for new activities and use technology for convenience.

The 39 million seniors out there, who are aged 64 and over, spend the least amount of time online and still watch more TV and read more newspapers than the others.

Mr Golvin said "One might say an older dog is even more difficult to teach tricks to."

The scamp!


  • Comment number 1.

    I'd like to suggest that readers check out the blog "Net Gen nonsense" which takes a critical look at the notion of a 'digital native' generation (speaking as one of them - though only just!).

  • Comment number 2.

    I am a digital dog and an old native. I am 43, the last of the boomers. I love the new tech, but often revert to old tried-and-tested to get the job done properly. Yes i am stuborn but intentionally so. I often wonder if the new kids will be able to develop a value-system as they get older, or does having a value-system belong to my generation? The old tech used to stick around much longer and was a much more stable environment to work in and produce stuff. New tech changes too fast and i worry that the new kids lack value-sense because of this.

  • Comment number 3.

    Funny how you give space another piece of US centric irrelevance and ignore Forresters survey of UK based ecommerce websites, the results of which they describe as "mediocre"

    Of course the more telling thing is that survey's invariably prove precisely what they set out to prove, and of course provide the organisation responsible with an opportunity to peddle their expertise to resolve the issues their survey has miraculously uncovered.

    Needless to say the results are reported as breathless fact with no consideration of who and why it was commissioned.

  • Comment number 4.

    Phil, Maggie is reporting from the US which is precisely why it's US centric. Darren and Rory are our men in London.

    Although one has to take any analysts output with a pinch of salt I wouldn't disagree with the general thrust of the argument - it's quite clear that the younger generations have considerably more exposure and integration with new technology, particularly mobile, instant access technology. Clearly this is going to continue to have a strong impact on societal trends as time goes by.

    Whether this is a good or bad thing rather depends on one's point of view.

  • Comment number 5.

    I accept that she's reporting from America and it needs to be read with that in mind. But a simple reguritation of the results of a survey, with no attempt at analysis or context is hardly "Letters From America".

  • Comment number 6.

    It always used to be sufficient to answer 'B1 don't know' to any survey now I have to classify myself in yet more ways just because some young twerp* wants to classify me as an old dog!

    By the way I can 'use' all of my huge collection of technology but (unfortunately for the sellers) only replace it or add to it if the extra features both work and are useful! I am not a creature of fashion and buy things, and cannot be sold things I do not want or value - in other words a rotten consumer! Old dogs will adopt new tricks and do so quickly as they have the money, but only if they have some utility!

    Cars for example are for sitting in out of the rain in air conditioned comfort with friends and perhaps with a view of getting from A to B, traffic permitting.

    Computers need to work, start up quickly, be reasonably quiet and be able to safely store tens of gigabytes of my film library - semi-automated back up is essential using a domestic network attached storage device (running Linux).

    Phones should be VoIP and free to permit unconstrained gossip. Mobiles are an unfortunate evil. Cameras are for taking photographs. Sat navs are to prevent getting lost and the one-upmanship of knowing it is wrong! Broadband suppliers should be prevented from being dishonest about the speed.

    Oh, and lastly, 'confusion marketing' should be punishable by having the marketing director's fingernails pulled out, very slowly, one by one!

    * twerp= trainee, western, educated, response, person.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    This sort of article "are you an xyz or a zyx" appears about once every month or so , usually in response to some sort of marketing bumpf. They are always terribly dull.

    Like every other human being I am myself, doing what I can and using whatever tools I need and can get hold of. It is the way we have always been. There is nothing remarkable about digital tools. They are simply an extension of ourselves like any other tool and part of a progression that goes back many millenia.

    Why we need special correspondents to write about this is beyond me.

  • Comment number 9.

    i'm almost insulted.. Gen X vs Gen Y.. I'm a first generation computer user starting with the 2600 and atari 400/800, commodore, st and amiga, apple and tandy's up to todays current machines and am currently an IT / IS Director.

    I owned and operated one of the worlds largest BBS's before the net was even the net and helped create what you call the Gen Y users who lived online but they are NOT the only ones.

    Gen X and Gen Y represent a very very heavy mix of users who both have buying power and influence in todays world as far as the direction Tech will go down the road, and i'm one of them.. a Gen X user NOT a gen Y user.

    Take it from someone that buys just about everything that comes out both in the STATES and ABROAD that you are so very wrong on some of your aspects of reality are a little OLD DOG mentality.

    Anyone 50 and under TODAY is your market for Tech PERIOD.. doesn't matter what country your in.. The Money they have to spend may change but the demographic desn't.

    I'm sitting in my office with 2 notebooks, 4 desktops and 5 servers .. each with dual screens, multi tasking away.. and you want to say i'm one of the generation whom doesn't make decissions of direction or postion for the market when everyone comes to me asking what should thier solution be for thier next step.

    I personally think you better understand your readers before you make statements that are not even based on fact nor reality.

    BOTH are important .. and if you want to know the fist TRUE generation of DIGITAL baby's, is the ones still in HS and Junion HIGH...

    they may not have spending power.. but they tell everyone else what they want ..

    at least get that part straight, how many of us had cell phones at age 12 and 10.. pff

    i swear.. and some of you out there think the USA is narrow minded hahah


  • Comment number 10.

    The title should be, 'Are you a digital naive or an old dog?'

    I find the old dog generation to be much more inquisitive, sceptical and knowledgeable about technology.

    The subsequent generation are suckers for technology. They have little idea how it works and care even less.

    They maybe able to text faster and score high with computer games but they are ripe for ripping off every time a new shiny gadget comes along.

  • Comment number 11.

    what about us in the middle 29-42 we are always forgotten, i'm 33 and got my first bit of tech at age 10 and haven't stopped using all sorts of tech both in work and at home, and my generation was referred to as the tech generation, so i would like to know where these stats are comming from.

  • Comment number 12.

    To be honest, I find people's reactions to this far more telling than the story itself. It seems that anyone who is not part of "Generation Y" is upset. Either at the implication that they don't (or can't) use technology, or that their preference for older practice is a failing. It is all very well saying "that's not true! I'm xy years old and I'm not like that!" but a survey does not say that you are, it simply points out trends across a wide body of people. If you believe these findings to be incorrect, well, maybe they are! maybe the questoins people were asked were not adequately considered, perhaps the sample size was not large or varied enough. MAYBE..... People just spontaneously decided to lie. we don't know. the article above is a brief overview of trends suggested (not definitively shown) by a survey, that is all. Chillax peeps! Oh, just for your guide, I'm 22, and yes, I did have a mobile when I was 12.

  • Comment number 13.

    Old dogs,new tricks indeed. I have always used and was (am) very interested in buying and using new tech. I was e.g. very keen to adopt Digital Radio both DAB and DRM and bought the DAB. What a rubbish this is. Poor sound, even dropping stereo on some stations (like Radio4) a marked step back from FM. And Freeview is a marked step back from the old TV quality (let alone the permanently annoying channel ident or DOG on screen) enough reason to switch off. And digital tech is applied to restrict users freedom to use the tech by artificial DRM etc, just wait until Freeview stops you from recording off TV and burning a DVD. The BBC is already testing this, but will wait until the analogue switch–off.
    I also bought an expensive High Def TV LCD, almost a £1000 two years ago. I have been waiting for flat screens when I got aware of these in mid-eighties, I used to work in broadcast tech. Another step back from the usual quality, so I hunted and found a HDTV based on a tube, the tech specs may be a bit lower compared to LCD or plasma on paper, but in reality side-by side it blows away the flat ones I have. So I am more on-line now than watching TV, whilst listening to FM or instead to DRM good old 90+ year old AM, reverted back to analogue TV and it suits me fine.
    I also have seen many systems come and go, so am rather skeptical now to rush out for the latest, anyone for VCR, VCR LP, V2000, Beta, V8 or LaserVision, LD. Had those. So I am well taking my time now, was intrigued but happily refrained from buying HD–DVD.. But old habits are strong, I still did get an iPhone on its second day after release...


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