The UK’s digital regulator, Ofcom, has released its annual Online Nation report. One of the significant findings in the report is that people in the UK spent more time online (03:37 hours) than people in France (02:20 hours), Germany (02:06 hours), or Spain (03:06 hours) and it also recorded the most app downloads compared to those countries. The age group with the highest amount of time online were those aged 15 to 16 who spent a huge four hours and 54 minutes online each day.
Ofcom looked at how the country was using different services including online shopping, dating apps, video streaming, and social media. The report for the year is interesting too because the pandemic drastically affected how much time people have been spending online. Commenting on the virus’ impact, Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s Group Director of Strategy and Research, said:
“In an unprecedented year, we’ve seen a real acceleration in our migration to online services – which, for many people, have provided a lifeline in lockdown.
This research is critical to keep pace with these changes in technology, economics and behaviour, as we prepare to take on new responsibilities for regulating online safety.”
The report found that online shopping sales rose in the UK by 48%, accounting for £113 billion in 2020 due to the forced closure of high street shops. Those that saw the biggest increase in traffic were food and drinks retailers (up 82%) and household goods retailers (up 76%). Household goods retailers saw an increase in traffic because more people decided to get into home improvement seeing as they were spending most of their time there now.
Interestingly, Ofcom reported that digital pocket money apps and pre-paid debit cards saw an increase in children’s online purchasing power. The availability of pre-paid debit cards has been enabled by the rise of innovative challenger banks in the UK such as Starling Bank which offers Kite accounts for kids.
According to the new report, around 20% of adults between 15 and 34 were using online dating apps before the first lockdown came into effect in March 2020. The most popular app among the 18 to 24s was Tinder while Plenty of Fish was the most popular service in the 45 to 54 age group. Scams all across the board rose last year, including romance scams. Ofcom says that romance scams increased by 12%, causing losses of £18.5 million last year.
With not much to do under lockdown, most adults turned to social video sites with young adults being recorded as particularly heavy users of these services. The 18 to 24 age range saw average YouTube usage increase to one hour and 16 minutes per day, up 11 minutes from 2019. TikTok has grown also greatly with 11 million more people joining the service between September 2019 and March 2020.
Further, Ofcom provided details about visits to adult websites; it said 49% of UK adults (around 26 million) visited an adult website or app in September 2020. The website most popular among Brits was Pornhub which was visited by a third of adults in September 2020 – Ofcom says this represents half of all online men and 16% of online women in the UK.
Finally, social media has a mixed impact on people’s lives according to the report. Nine in ten children between eight and 15 said that social media helped them feel connected to their friends but among those aged seven to 16, social media increased popularity pressures; 66% of boys and 75% of girls said they experienced these pressures.
While social media websites have a minimum age requirement of 13, nearly two-thirds of kids have a social media account by their 11th birthday. By age 15, 95% of kids are on social media.
You can download the report in full from Ofcom’s website.