The autumn issue of an information magazine recently carried an article on how Internet use among Japanese has changed since 2000. This data provided, which covered Internet access from household PCs, also indicated changes in Internet users by gender and age group. The following is a summary of the interesting results yielded by this survey by NetRating Japan Inc.
When Internet users over the past six years are categorized by age group, users in their twenties (20 to 29 years of age) accounted for 23.6% of the total in April 2000, but declined by nearly half to 11.8% in April 2005. By contrast, the proportion of users over forty has grown. Users in their sixties, for example, increased from 3.8% to 7.4%.
What explains this drop in Internet use by young people in their twenties? Given that Internet use and the total number of users have increased in the past six years, could it be possible that many users in their twenties are not accessing the Internet from their PCs at home?
In my research on children's media use conducted since 1996 at the CRN Research on Children and the Media, I have found that young people in their twenties today experienced the growing use of cellular phones when they were in high school and university. This makes them the first generation to use the wide range of possible cellphone functions such as sending e-mail, taking photographs, and accessing the Internet. By contrast, the generation over forty grew up using word processors, which means they are generally more comfortable using the Internet from a computer. The generation of teenagers today, on the other hand, is used to having constant access to the Internet at school or home before having a cellphone. Considering these background factors, we can say that the current generation in their twenties is a special one in terms of media use.
How will the current generation in their twenties use media in the future? They are the only generation to first access the Internet via the cellphone. They are more familiar with the buttons on their cellphones than with computer keyboards. Will they stay attached to their cellphones and create an original cellphone culture? Or, will they go back to the PC? It will be interesting to see what happens.