AARP and Microsoft Release New Study on How Online Communication Connects Generations
Feb. 07, 2012
The report reveals social technologies are helping families connect and enhance intergenerational relationships.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Feb. 7, 2012 — AARP and Microsoft Corp. today released “Connecting Generations,” a new research report that examines how people of all ages are using online communication and social networking to enhance their family relationships. The report reveals three key pieces of evidence showing that online communication is bridging the generation gap:

  • 83 percent of those surveyed (ranging in age from 13–75 years old) consider going online to be a “helpful” form of communication among family members.

  • 30 percent of grandparents of teens/young adults agree that connecting online has helped them better understand their teen/young adult grandchildren, and 29 percent of teens/young adults say the same about their grandparents.

  • Teens agree that the computer increases both the quantity (70 percent) and quality (67 percent) of their communication with family members living far away.

“For decades, baby boomers and other older Americans have valued computers and mobile devices as tools for work, but technology is now playing an increasingly vital role in helping the 50+ population communicate and stay connected to their children, aging parents and other family members,” said Jody Holtzman, senior vice president, AARP Thought Leadership. “By enhancing communication across all generations, technology is improving the quality of life for people of all ages.”

Released in conjunction with Safer Internet Day 2012, an annual event organized by InSafe to promote safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile devices among people worldwide, this “Connecting Generations” report also confirms the need for educating all consumers, from teenagers to grandparents, about Internet safety and the steps they can take to help protect themselves online.

Although most respondents — teens, parents and grandparents — wish they knew more about how to keep personal information private (58 percent), and how to help safeguard their devices (50 percent), the younger generation wants more information than older respondents about using social networks safer (38 percent compared with 27 percent).

There is also a disconnect between how teens deal with online content that makes them feel uncomfortable and their parents’ perception of how they are dealing with such images and information. Nearly half of parents (49 percent) say their teens know to come to them when they see something online that makes them uncomfortable, yet less than a third of teens (29 percent) say they actually would know to go to their parents to talk about it. And while 49 percent of parents say the lines of communication between them and their teenage children remain open, only 37 percent of teens agree.

“Teenagers and young adults are very knowledgeable about technology, but their parents and grandparents often have better judgment and greater wisdom born of experience,” said Jacqueline Beauchere, director, Trustworthy Computing for Microsoft. “Together, AARP and Microsoft are helping generations of Americans stay connected and are providing the tools and guidance they need to help each other have safer online experiences.”

Tips Can Help Families Stay Safer Online

AARP and Microsoft offer these tips to help families connect the generations when it comes to online safety:

Use social networks safer

  • Look for Settings or Options in services such as Facebook and Twitter to manage who can see your profile or photos tagged with your name, how people can search for you and make comments, and how to block people.

  • Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want to see on a billboard.

  • Be selective about accepting friends; regularly reassess who has access to your pages, and review what they post about you.

Help protect sensitive personal information

  • Before you enter sensitive data, look for signs that a Web page is secure — a Web address with “https” and a closed padlock beside it.

  • Never give sensitive info (such as an account number or password) or call a number in response to a request in email or IM or on a social network.

  • Think carefully before you respond to pleas for money from “family members,” deals that sound too good to be true or other scams.

Parents and grandparents should have regular conversations with kids, keeping communications open:

  • Negotiate clear guidelines for Web, mobile and online game use that fit your children’s maturity levels and your family values.

  • Watch your kids for signs of online bullying, such as being upset when they are online or reluctance to go to school.

  • Be the administrator of your home computer; use age-appropriate family safety settings to help you keep track of what your kids are doing online. For example, in all editions of the Windows 7 operating system, you can create separate accounts for each family member. Using Parental Controls (found in Control Panel), you can do the following:

  • Specify the exact days and times when children can use the computer.

  • Prevent kids from playing certain games, based on title, content or age rating.

  • Block access to certain programs — for example, those that store sensitive financial data.

  • Keep communications open, since the Parental Controls icon is always visible so children know when the feature is in use.

  • Pay attention to what kids do and whom they meet online. Revisit regularly.

For those who truly want to make online safety a family affair, Beauchere recommends parents teach themselves and their family about computer security, data privacy and online safety by using Microsoft’s interactive Digital Citizenship in Action Toolkit.

Understanding the Research

“Connecting Generations” is based on data gathered in a nationwide online survey of 2,126 people in four different age groups:

  • Teens (13–17 years old)

  • Young adults (18–25 years old)

  • Adults ages 39–58

  • Adults ages 59–75

The quantitative survey was followed by two salon discussions in New York in mid-November, co-hosted by AARP and Microsoft, to deeper explore some of the issues identified in the survey. The first discussion was conducted with a group of teenagers (ages 13–17). The second was with a group of adults (ages 43–68), many of whom were parents or grandparents of teens or adults.

Excerpts from these discussions can be found at http://www.aarp.org/technology/safer-internet.

“By conducting both qualitative and quantitative research, we were able to gain insights not only about how people were using technology to communicate and stay connected, but also about the attitudes behind the actions,” said Jeffrey Love, Ph.D., Director of Strategic Issues Research for AARP. “Both the survey and the discussions were remarkable for what they revealed about the similarity, and the diversity, of experiences and attitudes among people of different age groups concerning online communication, social networking and Internet safety.”

For the full “Connecting Generations” report, please go to http://www.aarp.org/technology/safer-internet.

About AARP

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a membership that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world's largest-circulation magazine with nearly 35 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP's millions of members and Americans 50+; AARP VIVA, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP.org. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://www.microsoft.com/news. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://www.microsoft.com/news/contactpr.mspx.

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