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Ofcom Finds UK Adults Spend Over 3.5 Hours Online Each Day

Wednesday, June 9th, 2021 (8:41 am) - Score 360
home working

Ofcom has published their annual Online Nation 2021 report, which examines how we all use and interact with the internet in the United Kingdom. Overall, it found that 86% of adults use the internet (94% for households – up from 84% last year) and we spent an average of 3 hours and 37 mins online each day (up from 3:28 HH:MM).

The regulator’s latest report is another 185-page monster of statistics, and it largely reflects data from 2020. This was of course the year of COVID-19 and multiple lockdowns. During that period many more people found themselves stuck working and playing from home and naturally Ofcom’s data reflects that.

The fact that only 6% of UK homes had no internet access in March 2021 is also an improvement on the 11% recorded in March 2020, although the regulator cautions that some of their methodology changes this year may make direct comparisons with prior years’ difficult. Still, older people are less likely to have home internet access (18% of over-64s), as are those in lower socio-economic groups (11% of those defined as DE households).

Otherwise, fixed broadband remains by far the most common method for connecting to the internet at home, although 1 in 5 households also report that they accessed it via mobile broadbandtethering” (accessing the internet on a device such as a laptop or tablet using a mobile phone’s internet connection) – but this includes use observed during ‘outages’ of fixed line connectivity.

People also spent an average of 1 hour 21 minutes a day watching online video services such as Netflix and the BBC’s iPlayer on television sets (24 minutes more than in 2019). We’ve summarised a few more of the core statistics below.

Ofcom-UK-Online-Nation-2021-stats

Ofcom’s Summary of Key Stats

Brits also spent nearly £2.45bn on, and in, mobile apps across last year, with Tinder, Disney+, YouTube and Netflix topping the list.

Shopping bill arrives

With high street shops forced to close, UK online shopping sales rose by half (+48%) to nearly £113 billion in 2020. The online stores of food and drinks retailers saw the biggest increase in sales (+82% on 2019 levels), while household goods also surged, due to heightened interest in home improvements (+76%).

Children’s online purchasing power is also growing, enabled by digital pocket money apps and pre-paid debit cards tailored for youngsters. Since the spring 2020 lockdown, teenagers have been spending more money online than offline, and this trend has continued into 2021 (68% online vs. 32% offline in March 2021).

Swiping right

Around one in eight online adult Brits (12% or six million) and more than one in five (22%) of those aged 15-34 said they used an online dating service before the spring lockdown in 2020. Tinder was the most popular dating app among young online UK adults – visited by 11% of 18-24s in September 2020 – while Plenty of Fish was most popular among the 45-54 age group. Lockdown saw an increase in romance scams, with money lost to fraudsters increasing by 12% to £18.5m.

Social video

Social video sites and apps are used by almost all (97%) UK adult internet users, and by 92% of 3-4 year-olds. Young adults are particularly heavy users of social video platforms, with 18-24s spending an average of 1 hour 16 minutes per day on YouTube in September 2020 – an increase of 11 minutes since 2019.

TikTok experienced huge growth during the pandemic – from 3 million UK adult visitors in September 2019 to 14 million by March 2021. TikTok also saw the biggest increase in daily use among young adults – with 18-24s more than doubling their time spent on it in the year to September 2020 (up from 17 minutes to 38 minutes).

Around half (49%) of UK adults (around 26 million) visited an adult website or app in September 2020. The largest, Pornhub, was visited by around a third of online adults (15 million) in September 2020– representing half of all UK online men, compared to 16% of UK online women.

Socially self-conscious

Despite most platforms setting their minimum user age at 13, nearly two-thirds (59%) of UK children use social media by the time they are 11. By age 15, use increases to 95%.

About nine in ten older children (8-15s) say social media helped them feel closer to friends during the pandemic. But a similar proportion of teenagers say it prompts popularity pressures. Two-thirds of boys (67%) and three-quarters of girls (77%) aged 7 to 16 also agree that social media can cause worries about body image.

More than half of 12-15s reported having a negative experience online in 2020. The most common experience (cited by 30%) was someone they didn’t know attempting to befriend them online. A significant minority had seen something scary or troubling (18%), or content of a sexual nature that made them uncomfortable (17%).

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