NEW YORK (MainStreet) - Social networks aren’t just for college kids anymore.

The age group that has seen the fastest growth in social network use between 2008 and 2010 was the 55 to 64 crowd, according to a new survey from Pew Research. Two years ago, just 9% of this demographic said they used social networks, but by 2010, that amount has skyrocketed to 43%.

Meanwhile, other older age groups have seen similar booms in social networking use. Roughly a third of 65- to 73-year-olds now claim to use sites like Facebook, about triple the amount that professed to using the sites in 2008, and 16% of those 74 and older use social networks, compared to just 4% two years ago.

Of course, younger tech-savvy adults remain far more likely to use social networks, with more than three quarters of those between 18 and 33 saying they do, but the balance is starting to shift. Social networks are going gray.

According to the survey, which is based on interviews with more than 2,200 adults, this change is part of a larger trend in which older Americans are beginning to find many of the same uses for the Internet that young people do.

The three most common online activities for those 56 and older were checking e-mail, searching for information and researching health information. The first two were also the most common for those 18-33.

Pew’s study is also a testament to the growing power of social networks. Overall, the number of adults surveyed who said they use social networks nearly doubled in just two years, from about a third in 2008 to 61% this year.

However, if much of that growth is coming from older Americans, it does raise one important question: Will the 18-year-olds who first joined these sites now be the first to leave as they get invaded by their parents and grandparents?

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