'Generation C' likes social networking, tech gadgets

People between 18 and 34 are big social, tablet and smartphone users

Step aside Gen X.

It looks like Generation C is outpacing you and other older users when it comes to online connections, redefining social media consumption in the U.S.

Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 are more connected online and more into the digital devices than any other age group, according to a report out Thursday from Nielsen Wire.

The age group, also known as Gen C, makes up 23% of the U.S. population, but it comprises larger chunks of various social and digitally savvy groups.

Based on multiple surveys of online users in the U.S., Nielsen reported that Gen C users represent 27% of people watching online video. That makes it the second-largest age group watching online videos, just slightly behind the 35-to-49 age group, which makes up 28% of online video viewers.

When it comes to visiting social networking sites and blogs, 27% are from Gen C.

Bigger differences between age groups showed up when Nielsen looked at whose using digital gadgets.

Gen C is the largest age group when it comes to tablet owners (33%) and smartphones (39%). For smartphones, Gen C has a good head start on the next largest age group -- those between 35 and 49, which make up 30% of smartphone users.

"Their ownership and use of connected devices makes them incredibly unique consumers, representing both a challenge and opportunity for marketers and content providers alike," Nielsen said in its report. "Generation C is engaging in new ways and there are more touch points for marketers to reach them."

Some might ask what's so surprising about younger users being big on social networking and computer gadgets. After all, younger users are always the tech leaders. Right?

Well, that theory has been tested over the past few years.

In 2009, a report released by iStrategyLabs showed that while the number of Facebook's U.S. high school and college-age users had declined over a six-month period, its popularity among the 55-and-older crowd was booming. In fact, the number of Facebook users over 55 showed staggering growth -- 513.7% -- in a six-month time spam.

And that wasn't a one-time fluke.

In the spring of 2009, Facebook's audience of users over the age of 35 increased by 23% compared with the same time frame a year earlier.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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