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The Generational Digital Divide – And Bad Habits – Is Closing

The Generational Digital Divide – And Bad Habits – Is Closing

By Susan Williams

If you were asked who would have the biggest challenge in disconnecting from their their technology devices what would you say? Chances are you would probably generalize that the biggest culprits would be younger people. After all, many have grown up not knowing a time without the internet and social media and their dependency for information and their social activities are attached to these devices.

If this is what you thought you would be right – but to a point. Older people are quickly picking up on their active use of the technology as well. And along with this activity are coming some of the associated bad habits and risks too.

For example, in an article published by The Economist, they shared Neilsen research that millennials do in fact look at their phones an average of 150 times a day but they also reported;

“Americans aged 65 and over spend nearly ten hours a day consuming media on their televisions, computers and smartphones. That is 12% more than Americans aged 35 to 49, and a third more than those aged 18 to 34 (the youngest cohort for whom Nielsen has data).”

If you think this is surprising – how about this.

Distracted driving is also a major concerning by-product of mobile technology and that urge to check or respond to your phone can be extremely tempting. But the resulting impact of this activity can in fact be deadly.

The US Department of Transportation reported that in 2017 a total of 434 people died in fatal crashes that involved cell-phone-related activities as distractions. And in Canada,  distracted driving contributed to an estimated 21% of fatal collisions and 27% of serious injury collisions in 2016.

Granted, large percentages of younger generations do admit to using their devices while driving however baby boomers are also rising in the ranks. Research completed by Liberty Mutual shared the following statistics of baby boomers activities when driving;

  • 49% have used their phone
  • 43% glance at an incoming call or text
  • 31% glance at notifications
  • 11% send e-mails or texts
  • 3% use social media apps

So as much as older generations are joining in on engaging with technology, we are also joining in on the associated risky behaviours as well.

Beyond the health risks that a sedetary lifestyle  can have with too much screen time, and the significant dangers of distracted driving there are other risks that we also should be aware of too. Here are just a few;

Social Media

Baby boomers are online and socially active. In a study conducted by Google and IPSOS, they found that 71% of the boomers surveyed used social media on a daily basis. Social media can be a great way to get information, keep in touch with family and friends and also be entertained. However there is a dark side that needs to be considered as well.

Fake News

We’ve all seen the headlines and heard all the rhetoric of “fake news” but baby boomers seem to be the most susceptible to sharing it. The good news is that the frequency of passing along this false information is not that high however individuals 65 years and older were 7 times more likely to share fake news then individuals under 30.

Also Read: Separating Fact and Fiction On The Internet

Mental Health and Social Media

There is more research emerging everyday of the issues that social media can inflict on a person’s mental health. Whether it’s the feeling of your quality of life being inferior to what someone else is sharing on their social profiles to the overuse causing sleep issues, there are plenty of things to make sure to keep it in check. One recent study found that just by limiting your social media activities to 30 minutes a day can offer significant benefits to someone’s overall wellbeing.

Internet Addiction

A growing problem with youth could also soon be shifting to older generations as well as we spend more time in front of our screens. This is the issue of internet addiction.

Mental Health America described people who are addicted to the internet as; “…hav(ing) trouble filling personal and professional obligations because of their online activities, and their use of the Internet causes strain on relationships with family and friends. People who are addicted to the Internet often experience negative emotions or withdrawal symptoms when their Internet access is restricted.”

Given the potential of loneliness as we age, we could easily try to fill this void with the internet. Again, something to be aware of as the side effects of this could potentially lead to other significant issues.

Even though we may have been slower in numbers to initially embrace some of the new technologies we are certainly now there. We just need to be aware that along with all the benefits that this offers there are also some risks.

Here’s an interesting video about the relationship between loneliness and social media. It shares how we are naturally wired for connection however our online interactions may be contributing to this growing problem. Just something to consider as you go online;

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Susan Williams is the Founder of Booming Encore. Being a Boomer herself, Susan loves to discover and share ways to live life to the fullest. She shares her experiences, observations and opinions on living life after 50 and tries to embrace Booming Encore's philosophy of making sure every day matters.
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