An Analysis of Change in Mobile Media Use of Senior Citizens in Korea


This study aims to analyze how the digital divide in Korea changes as the use of mobile media amongst senior citizens increases. First, this research attempted to find out which variables caused significant changes in mobile media usage by using the conditional Latent Growth Model (LGM), which observes changes at various time points by conditions. The analysis was conducted using the KISDI Korea Media Panel Survey data from 2016 to 2018, and the effects of demographic sociological conditions on the change of mobile media usage were identified. As a result of investigating variables such as gender, age, education level, income level, residential area, and smartphone holding in the latent growth model, the higher the demographic status, the higher the initial value of mobile media usage. This shows that the gap in mobile media use is also explained by demographic variables, as seen in other issues of digital divide. Although all demographic factors influenced the initial value of mobile media usage, only the age variable showed decreasing changes at a statistically significant level, meaning that the rate of change slows down as age increases. This implies that there may be limitations in closing the gap as the level of change amongst younger people is rapid compared to senior citizens.

Second, this study also attempted to identify the cause of the gap through a cross-sectional analysis, which was conducted to analyze the difference of these changes between media users under 60 years old and those over 60 years old. As a result, the following results were found in relation to smartphone holding, education level, and income. When all the conditions in the group of users over 60 and those under 60 are controlled, the amount of usage amongst users over 60 was significantly lower than users under 60, even if they possessed smartphones. Also, mobile media usage increases when education level is high, and the slope of the increase is lower in those over 60 than in those under 60. In terms of income level, a slightly different pattern was observed. For the group under 60, the usage of mobile media decreased according to income level. This shows that income levels have the greatest impact on the 'grey divide' in older people than other demographic factors. 

To sum up, although the use of mobile media is increasing and there are active mobile media users among users in their 60s, the change in actual usage is not as large and only users with high income show active use, which was confirmed through the cross-sectional analysis. This is different from the general discourse on the rapid increase in the use of mobile media by the elderly, which provides another point of view on the digital divide.