Emerging Digital Inequalities: A Comparative Study of Older Adults’ Smartphone Use



Older adults are increasingly using smartphones. Researchers have identified demographic, attitudinal factors and social outcomes related to inequalities in access, skills, and activities of internet use. While this research has been ongoing for years, studies about the digital inequalities related to the use of smartphones by older adults are still scarce, and they rarely have undertaken sociocultural comparisons of usage. This article builds on an analysis of tracking data of older adults’ (pp. 55–79) smartphone use, to explore digital inequalities around traditional axes of inequality and sociocultural factors that shape older adults’ smartphone use. It adds a comparative perspective for understanding emerging inequalities related to sociocultural contexts to the existing literature. The results show that differences cannot be explained solely by sociodemographic factors, but also possibly by national policies and culture. Particularly, age, on its own, is not able to explain the differences reported. Older adults engage in a range of different activities on their smartphones, and differences between groups across the traditional axes of inequalities do not mirror exactly the differences found in previous research on internet use. This is important considering the risk of emerging new inequalities and the ongoing revisiting of policies to mitigate them.

Beneito-Montagut, R., Rosales, A., & Fernández-Ardèvol, M. (2022). Emerging Digital Inequalities: A Comparative Study of Older Adults’ Smartphone Use. Social Media + Society, 8(4). https://doi.org/10.1177/20563051221138756

Andrea Rosales (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya)

Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya)