BERLIN: Three quarters of Germans use the internet and two thirds of those are active on social networks, with older user numbers rising, according to recent studies.

BITKOM, the digital industry trade body, surveyed 1,005 people aged over 14 years on their recent internet usage and found that while younger people were three times more likely to go online, the older generation was catching up.

Virtually all of those aged 18-29 (98%) and 30-49 (94%) had used the internet, but fewer 50-64 year olds did so regularly (72%) and the over-65s (32%) lagged some way behind.

"Seniors have been catching up on internet usage, but to many of them the online world is still strange," said BITKOM president Dieter Kempf.

He noted the role tablets had played in breaking down barriers. "We hope that easy-to-use devices facilitate internet access for older people," he said.

A separate survey found 67% of internet users were also regular users of social networking sites and the numbers were rising fastest among the over-50s. 55% of this age group were active in social networks, compared to 46% two years ago.

"The structure of social networks today almost corresponds with the internet population in Germany," observed BITKOM vice president Achim Berg, citing as an example men's usage catching up with that of women, who had previously been over-represented.

Facebook was by far the most popular social networking site, with 56% of internet users active there. Other sites trailed in its wake with only single digit shares, but these tended to be targeted towards specific groups and to have specific functions.

Thus, Stayfriends (9%) was dedicated to finding old school friends, Werkenntwen (8%) was rooted in local communities and clubs, and Xing (7%) was business related. Google+ (6%) and Twitter (6%) also featured.

Seven out of ten active members (69%) used the networks daily, with one third being intensive users active for an hour or more per day.

According to the survey, interaction with friends (73%) was most important to social network users, followed by keeping in contact with family (47%) and catching up with the day's events (38%), making new contacts (36%) and organising activities (35%).

Berg remarked that these active users were highly aware of privacy issues and 82% had dealt with the privacy settings of their network.

Data sourced from BITKOM; additional content by Warc staff