#MSFTCOSO POV: Millennials, Baby Boomers, technology & the Internet: new data

Differences in both Internet use and online safety practices can be quite dramatic across generations, results of a Microsoft survey show. Millennials (those born roughly between 1980 and 1992) tend to use the Web quite differently than Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), connecting via multiple devices, being more engaged with social media and, most interestingly, being more concerned about online fraud and scams.

Indeed, a finding that came as a bit of a surprise is that Millennials report being more worried about online scams and schemes than their older counterparts. Across all categories—general fraud, advance-fee/job scams, shopping, impersonation, social media and telephone scams—the degree of concern among Millennials outpaced that of older adults by between two and 18 percentage points. The biggest gaps with Boomers centered on online shopping and social media scams, a likely indicator of Millennials’ more “wired” nature when it comes to online purchases and socializing.

Still, for both generations, scam attempts via the PC were reported as the most common. Seventy-seven percent of Millennials report receiving the most scams via their desktops or laptops compared to 72 percent of Boomers. Meanwhile, the daily or weekly frequency of fraud attempts by device was most significant for Boomers via home computers and laptops, at 38 percent. That compares to 48 percent for Millennials. More than a third of the younger generation reported daily or weekly fraud attempts via all other devices, except mobile phones, where a daily/weekly frequency of fraud attempts was reported by 28 percent of respondents. Boomers’ percentages were noticeably lower in these non-PC categories.

Reported frequency of fraud attempts differed due to variations in preferences for the devices themselves. Millennials use newer devices such as tablets and eReaders and, in particular, smartphones. Ninety percent of Millennials report owning and using smartphones regularly, compared to 54 percent of Baby Boomers. That 36 percentage point gap narrows to nine percentage points for eReaders (30 percent of Millennials use them vs. 21 percent of Boomers) and 19 points for tablets. Sixty-three percent of Millennials say they use tablets versus 44 percent of Boomers. Meanwhile, the older set seems to be more comfortable with landline telephones (72 percent vs. 43 percent of Millennials), desktop computers (78 percent vs. 66 percent) and feature-only cell phones (47 percent vs. 24 percent).

And, Millennials are certainly part of the “always on” generation. According to the survey, the average Millennial uses 3.9 devices to connect to the Internet compared to 2.4 used by the average Baby Boomer. The younger generation is more than twice as likely to use a smartphone to get online versus his or her older counterpart. Indeed, 84 percent of Millennials said they use a smartphone to connect to the Internet compared to 41 percent of Boomers.

Millennials are also staunchly protective of their mobile devices. Data show 84 percent take steps to protect mobile technology, while Boomers tended to favor safeguarding their personal information. Fearful of criminals gaining unwanted access to the fruits of their life’s work, 98 percent of Boomers said they take steps to protect sensitive personal data.

Still, no matter what one’s age, everyone can benefit from exercising a few, simple online safety best practices. These include:

  • Defending devices by keeping all software current with automatic updating; installing legitimate antivirus and antispyware software; and never turning off the firewall.
  • Protecting personal information and never sharing sensitive data (like an account number or password), or calling a phone number in response to an email, IM or social network request.
  • Creating strong passwords of long phrases or sentences that mix upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols; changing them regularly; and keeping them secret.
  • Taking charge of your online reputation by learning what’s on the Web about you and periodically reevaluating what you find; also, seek to correct inaccuracies.
  • Using social networks more safely by managing who can see your profile; looking for photos tagged with your name; and learning how people can search for you, make comments, and how to block people.
  • Taking extra steps to protect children online, like setting “house rules” for Web and online game use that take into account each child’s age, maturity level and family values. And, pay attention to what kids do and who they meet online.

For more information on exercising safer habits and practices online, visit our Safety & Security Center; “like” us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter, and look for my “point of view” following the #MSFTCOSO hashtag.

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