Mapping the two levels of digital divide: Internet access and social network site adoption among older adults in the USA

Ping Yu*, Nicole B. Ellison, Ryan J. McCammon, Kenneth M. Langa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Scopus citations

Abstract

Older adults have increasingly adopted Internet and social network sites (SNSs), but little communication scholarship has explored systematic differences in access within this population. Using a nationally representative sample of Americans over the age of 50 years from the 2012 Health and Retirement Study, we examine Internet access (N = 18,851) and SNS adoption patterns (N = 869) among this sample and explore how these patterns vary by age. Regarding Internet access, results suggest that while the gender divide has reversed in favor of women, older adults who are economically, socioculturally, or physically disadvantaged are less likely to have reliable Internet access. In addition, the view that the various divides in Internet access are less of a concern for those who are younger is only partially supported, as some access-related divides do not vary by age or even decrease with age. For SNS adoption, we found that access to technological resources (diversity of online activities) positively predicts SNS use. Moreover, SNS users are more likely to be younger, female, widowed, and homemakers, perhaps because these individuals are more motivated to use SNSs to complement or compensate for their existing social status. These findings reveal unique challenges and motivations in relation to Internet access and SNS adoption patterns across the later life span.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1445-1464
Number of pages20
JournalInformation Communication and Society
Volume19
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - 2 Oct 2016

Keywords

  • digital divide
  • Internet access
  • older adults
  • Social network site

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