Earnings from the age of 13 on the Internet
To explore the societal effects of Internet usage, scholars have been using social capital as an analytical tool. As the Internet becomes a prominent source of information, communication, and participation in industrialized countries, it is critical to study how it affects social resources from an age-comparative perspective. Research has found a positive association between Internet use and social capital, though limited attention has been paid to older adults. Studies have also found a positive association between social capital and wellbeing, health, sociability, and social support amongst older adults.
However, little is known about how Internet usage or lack thereof relates to their social capital. To address this gap, we used a mixed-methods approach to examine the relationship between Internet usage and social capital and whether and how it differs by age. Social capital was measured through bonding, bridging, and specific resources, and analyzed with Latent Class Modeling and logistic regressions.
Internet usage was measured through frequency and type of use.
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Fourteen follow-up semi-structured interviews helped contextualize the survey data. Our findings show that social capital decreased with age but varied for each type of Internet user.
It found younger people, as well as those in in wealthier countries or with greater incomes, were more likely to use digital technology.
Older adults were less likely to have a high level of social capital; yet within this age group, frequent Internet users had higher levels than other users and non-users.
On the one hand, the Internet seems to help maintain, accrue, and even mobilize social capital. On the other hand, it also seems to reinforce social inequality and accumulated advantage known as the Matthew effect. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licensewhich permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Data Availability: All relevant data are within the paper and its Supporting Information files. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. Introduction As identified by several organizations, the social challenges of an aging and aged population directly affect older adults—not just their communities [ 1 ].
For instance, social exclusion, social isolation, and loneliness are becoming emerging issues in later life—negatively affecting the health, wellbeing, and social participation of older adults [ 23 ]. Research has shown that the Internet can help address issues of social participation, connectedness, and well-being by providing: 1 communication opportunities with a variety of social ties strong, weak, new, latent, etc.
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Internet use among older adults, however, still lags behind other age groups despite increasing in the last years. In the 28 countries of the European Union, 26 per cent of older adults aged 65—74 use the Internet frequently compared to 88 per cent of people aged 16—24 [ 13 ].
In the US, 59 per cent of older adults use the Internet, but only those who are younger, higher-income, and more highly educated use it at rates that approach the general population [ 14 ].
As such, Internet usage relates to social inequalities not only in terms of age but also in terms of education and social status. Older adults without access or the skills to use the Internet are missing out on resources for social connectedness, support, and participation.
These resources can be captured by the social capital concept, which encompasses the resources embedded in our relationships, representing a health and psycho-socio-economic asset for older adults [ 515 — 17 ]. Previous research has identified a positive association between social capital and Internet use among adults and young adults [ 18 ]; however, it is unknown whether and how this association plays out among older adults or differs by age.
In a society where the Internet is becoming a social resource for example, in78 how to post a video and make money cent of EU citizens, aged between 16 and 74, used the Internet for networking and information seeking [ 19 ]we draw on a representative sample of adults to examine social capital and Internet use in old age and across different age groups.
Combining survey data and earnings from the age of 13 on the Internet interviews, our research contributes to an understanding of the critical relationship between social capital and the Internet and sheds further light on age dynamics. Social capital, Internet, and older adults Defining social capital Social capital is a widely-used sociological construct to capture the value of our social relationships [ 16 ].
However, the recent uptake of social capital across disciplines and its broad nature has led to conceptual, theoretical, and operational ambiguities. These include different definitions of social capital e.
Due to these ambiguities, social capital has received much criticism, leveled, in particular, at its wide application as an umbrella term [ 2021 ]. But even critical authors recognize the scientific value of social capital to enclose resources embedded in social relationships, and to bridge structure and agency in the study of social networks and social inequality [ 1621 — 24 ].
To overcome ambiguities, researchers must advance clear definitions, consistent operationalizations, and acknowledge different sources and effects of earnings from the age of 13 on the Internet capital [ 2122 ]. Although Lyda Hanifan is usually credited as the first known author to use the term social capital in a modern sense, recent historical research shows that John Dewey used the concept earlier [ 25 ].
The survey also finds there is no clear consensus among teens about the effect that social media has on the lives of young people today. Facebook is no longer the dominant online platform among teens The social media landscape in which teens reside looks markedly different than it did as recently as three years ago.
Pierre Bourdieu [ 26 ] and James Coleman [ 27 ] developed the contemporary definition of social capital, although in different directions. Bourdieu [ 2628 ] saw social capital as a result of resources embedded in social networks and investments in those social networks; Coleman [ 2729 ] defined it by function, i.
More recently, Robert Putnam [ 3031 ] popularized social capital in the study of civic life and communities macro level. For Putnam [ 31 ], social capital includes social connections, networks of civic engagement, norms of reciprocity, and trustworthiness. The common elements of the various definitions of social capital are relationships and resources—be it at the micro, meso, or macro level [ 32 — 34 ].
Our relationships matter and give us access to a range of resources that can be used for personal and collective gain [ 22 ]. But social capital is not always a public good, as suggested by Coleman [ 29 ] and embraced by more contemporary authors [ 31 ]: using a well-known example, the Ku Klux Klan displays high levels of social capital amongst its members, albeit with negative societal outcomes, such as oppression, discrimination, exclusion, in-group mentality, etc.
At the micro level, social capital as with other forms of capital is mainly considered a positive resource for the individual or group being analyzed [ 22 ]—even if reproducing broader social inequalities and excluding other individuals or groups [ 28 ]. In fact, as shown by Bourdieu [ 2628 ], social capital is relational: it interplays with other forms of capital cultural, economic, and symbolicdynamically connecting agency and structure.
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In other words, social capital captures the resources that are potentially available in our social networks e. These resources include social, psychological, economic, political, cultural, and symbolic assets, which can be employed for instrumental e.
Instrumental actions are mostly taken to gain resources, whereas expressive actions to maintain resources [ 23 ]. As such, action and social structure are embedded in social capital theory: motivated actions lead to specific interactions in a social network, but the mobilization of resources is controlled by the availability of those resources and by the diversity of the social structures wherein individuals act [ 23 ].
Our definition of social capital does not include social norms, trust, or civic engagement, as considered by Coleman and Putnam.
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This is because a body of research has shown non-existent or marginal empirical associations between social capital and norms, civic engagement, and social trust, suggesting that although these might be related, they are independent concepts [ 16 ]. Social capital and the Internet among older adults Social capital matters for older adults, because it has positive effects on health, wellbeing, social support, sociability, and social standing [ 15 — 17 ].
Older adults with higher levels of social capital are healthier and engage in healthier behaviors [ 17 ], and display better physical and social wellbeing even when single or having low-income [ 15 ]. And as with other types of capital—economic, cultural, and symbolic—those with higher levels of social capital tend to have greater social and economic opportunities [ 1628 ].
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Social capital is not only a useful tool to study social connectedness and wellbeing in old age, but has also been invaluable in studying the social impact of the Internet [ 3334 ]. While various studies examine the relationship between the Internet and social capital, particularly among young adults [ 37 — 39 ], relatively little attention has been paid to older adults or different stages of adulthood.
The existing literature on the subject, scant as it is, suggests that Internet use among older adults relates to higher levels of social capital [ 4041 ].
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- Social capital and Internet use in an age-comparative perspective with a focus on later life
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These authors also demonstrate that changes in social capital remained constant after a certain frequency of Internet use, with the exception of using the Internet for communication [ 41 ].