Is E-mail for Old Fogeys?

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E-mail was the Internet's first killer application, but now it appears to be dying out -- at least among teenagers.

The number of Internet users ages 12 to 17 who claim to use e-mail has dropped from 89% in 2004 to 73% in 2009, according to a new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

In contrast, 91% of all online adults send and receive e-mail, making e-mail the most popular online activity for Internet users age 18 and over.

The graying of e-mail is one of the more interesting findings of the Pew Internet study titled "Generations Online in 2009."

The study found that how people use the Internet depends largely on their age. Internet users in their teens and 20s tend to go online for entertainment and socializing, while older generations use it to send e-mail, find information and shop.

Fewer teenagers use e-mail than any other age group. While 73% of these students use e-mail and 68% send instant messages, the most popular activity for this age group is playing games online, which 78% of them do. Overall, 93% of teenagers are online -- the highest percentage in the study.

E-mail is the dominant online activity for all other age groups. More than 90% of Internet users ages 18 to 72 use e-mail. E-mail is also the most popular activity for Internet users age 73 and older.

While Internet usage is highest among teenagers, seniors are the fastest growing age group. Today, 45% of Americans age 70 to 75 are online, compared with 26% in 2005. Similarly, the number of Internet users age 76 or older has risen from 17% in 2005 to 27% in 2009.

Here are the most popular online activities by age group:

* Teenagers (ages 12 to 17) are the most likely to be playing games online, visiting a virtual world, downloading music, reading blogs and creating blogs.

* Young adults (ages 18 to 32) are the most likely to watch videos online, download a podcast, use social-networking sites and create profiles on them. They're also more likely to seek job information online.

* Adults age 33 to 44 are the most likely to buy something online, participate in an online auction, do their banking online, visit government Web sites online and read news online.

* Baby Boomers age 45 to 55 are the mostly likely to seek out religious information online, while older Baby Boomers age 55 to 63 are most likely to get health information online.

* Seniors age 64 and over don't dominate any category of online usage, but their favorite activities besides e-mail are searching for information -- particularly health and product information -- and making travel reservations online.

This story, "Is E-mail for Old Fogeys?" was originally published by Network World.

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