The Influence of Knowledge Gap on Older and Young Chinese People's Information Consumption during the Period of COVID-19


As the spread of COVID-19 has turned into an emergency in China, media and information flow has been focusing on the issues concerning virus. Under the highly intensified media flow, knowledge gaps and digital divide are perceived between the groups of the older and the younger. For a long time, education and socio-economic status were commonly considered the demanding factor influencing the knowledge gap. However, the result of quantitative research illustrates that the older is the group of inequality of information acceptance comparing to the younger group even though they are at the same level of education and issued the same degree. Although the older group is considered taking a higher socio-economic status than the younger does, the relatively aging group behaves slower than and not as rational as the younger. The qualitative analysis and records of interviews show that the empirical factor of the older is one of the obstacles which prevent them from gaining access to newly publicised messages and rapid flow of information. Meanwhile, digital divide between the two groups can be regarded as a significant cause of the gap. As is controlled on purpose, everyone participating in the research has physical access to the internet. However, the older group tends to rely less on the internet to collect information and shows a preference to trust the “more reliable” media such as TV and official press of the authorities, while the younger group rely highly on the internet, which provide faster information, to get awareness of issues about the virus as the data presented. Moreover, the two divides shows different preferences on sources of information even they are both on the platform of internet according to the feedbacks of questionnaires. The differences, or namely the second- and third-level of digital divide, as analysis of interviews indicates, may be consequences of empirical differences between the old and the young. During the spread of 2019-nCoV, the digital divide and knowledge gap have brought a great loss to China, and even to the world. Suggestions on promoting the free flow of information on not only the platform but also other forms of media and increasing the relevance and intimacy of news reporting with individuals ought to be put forward to reduce the gap and ease the divide. And education of public media literacy should be attached importance to in the long run.