Generation Yers, defined as 18 to 26 years old, are spending more time online, watching less TV, engaging in more social computing activities, such as instant messaging; and using more social networking sites like MySpace than any other generation, Forrester Research Inc. said.
Other generations are using new devices such as mobile phones in similar numbers as Gen Yers, but they haven't embraced the technology like youngest adults.
"(Older consumers) tend to use the new technology to do old things," Forrester analyst Ted Schadler said. "Younger consumers use the new technology to do new things."
Mobile phone use provides the best example of how the younger generation is integrating technology into their lifestyles. Fully, 45 percent of Gen Yers who have mobile phones use data services, led by text messaging, ring tones and games.
That percentage, however, drops significantly for the older generations. Fully, 27 percent of phone-carrying Gen Xers, defined as 27 to 40 years old; and 17 percent of younger Baby Boomers, 41 to 50 years old, use data services.
Gen Yers spend an average of 12.2 hours online every week, which is 28 percent longer than Gen Xers and almost twice as long as older Boomers, which range from 51 to 61 years old, Forrester said. Gen Yers are 50 percent more likely than Gen Xers to send instant messages, twice as likely to read blogs and three times as likely to use social networking sites.
Forrester's annual consumer technology adoption study for the United States and Canada also found a big difference between older and younger Boomers.
"There's no such thing as the Boomer generation when it comes to technology," Schadler said. "There are younger Boomers and older Boomers, and their very different."
For example, while 17 percent of younger Boomers use data services on their mobile phones, only 8 percent of older Boomers do the same and 3 percent of seniors, the study found.
When it comes to online shopping, Gen Xers lead the charge. This year, 16.9 percent of Gen Xers are expected to shop online, compared with 9.6 percent of older Boomers, 12.4 percent of younger Boomers and 4 percent of Gen Yers, Forrester said. Those numbers are not surprising, considering that the prime spending years are 27 to 50 years old. Fully 41 percent of U.S. household now shop online.
When it comes to online banking, however, Gen Yers lead with 67 percent having checked bank account balances during the last three months, compared with 64 percent for Gen Xers, 53 percent for younger Boomers and 49 percent for older Boomers.
In U.S. and Canadian households, broadband growth exploded last year, rising to 41 percent from 29 percent. Half of Canadian households have broadband today, while 40 percent of U.S. households subscribe to high-speed Internet services, Forrester said.
The study points to how advertisers can better reach the different age groups. Mobile phones are likely, for example, to be a good marketing vehicle for connecting to Gen Yers, while traditional media, such as newspapers and TV, remains strong for reaching Baby Boomers, Schadler said.
Forrester's North American Consumer Technology Adoption Study 2006 is based on a survey of 66,707 U.S. and Canadian households.