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Age No Longer Determining Factor In Internet Usage, Pew Research Finds

For some time, many researchers have assumed (with some statistical support) that a person’s age represented the most important factor in whether he or she used the Internet.  According to a new report from Pew Internet and American Life – the 2010 Generations Report – age as a determining factor seems to be losing significance.  While age continues to play a role in how individuals use the Internet, the Report found that age is no longer key in whether an individual uses the Internet.

The 2010 Generations Report found, among other things, that:

  • Internet users over the age of 34 were more likely to use the Internet to access government and financial information than those under the age of 34;
  • Accessing health-related information online is now the third most popular online activity for all Internet users regardless of age. Previously, using the Internet for this purpose had been considered common only among older users;
  • The percentage of adults who watch video online jumped from 52% in 2008 to 66% in 2010; and
  • Although social media/networking sites continue to be more popular with younger users, social media experienced its sharpest increase among older Internet users; namely, users age 74 and older.

In other words, get ready to see a lot more Facebook grannies.

You can read more about the Pew research results here and here.  I have also put a copy of the full report in the Cyber Box which you can download.

What does this research mean for lawyers and law practice?  In my opinion, it means that if you continue to harbor doubts – or dismay – about your need to understand and incorporate new technologies into your law practice, then you are distancing yourself from more and more potential clients.  As the use of technology increases among all demographics, clients will be less likely to hire lawyers who are, themselves, unfamiliar with technology.  Like attracts like.  And, that translates into less profit.

Another aspect of technology that is not often discussed in the context of providing legal services is worth mentioning at this point.  Used correctly, technology can expedite and streamline the provision of legal services.  When a law office embraces technology and provides legal services more efficiently, they can – and should – be able to provide legal services more affordably. Law offices that do not maximize technology will find themselves (if they  have not already) unable to deliver legal services on terms comparable to  their competition.  As clients of all ages become accustomed to using technology themselves, they will almost certainly come to appreciate the cost savings that a tech-savvy law office can provide, choosing not to hire offices with outmoded, albeit “traditional” approaches.

Finally, what the Pew research teaches us is that we lawyers should no longer blindly assume that being tech-savvy equals being young (and presumably, less able to afford our services).  In today’s market, a tech-savvy client is just as likely to be a baby boomer who has plenty of assets or capital and just happens to need a lawyer.

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