The UK’s digital regulator, Ofcom, and the Information Commissioner’s Office have published a new report called Online Nation for the first time. The report is planned to be annual and examines how people use the internet. One striking fact that it did reveal was that the number of adults, in the UK, who were concerned or worried about using the internet had increased from 59% last year up to 78%
While there were more people worried about using the net, the report found that the benefits outweighed the risks. Yih-Choung Teh, Group Director of Strategy and Research at Ofcom, said:
“As most of us spend more time than ever online, we’re increasingly worried about harmful content – and also more likely to come across it. For most people, those risks are still outweighed by the huge benefits of the internet. And while most internet users favour tighter rules in some areas, particularly social media, people also recognise the importance of protecting free speech – which is one of the internet’s great strengths.”
The increase in concern was likely driven by the bad experiences people have had online. The report found that 61% of adults had a “potentially harmful online experience” in the last 12 months, while children between 12 and 15 reported that 79% of them had a harmful experience in the same timeframe.
In terms of where users were encountering a harmful experience online, social media was the leading source with 28% of adults experiencing a potentially harmful experience on Facebook, 16% on Instagram, and 12% on Twitter. Other sources of harmful experiences that adults reported were from unsolicited emails (34% experienced in the past year), fake news (25%), and scams or fraud (22%). As for kids, 39% experienced offensive language online, 28% received unwanted friend requests, 23% were cyberbullied, and 20% have been trolled.
Lastly, the report found that more adults were in favour of tighter rules around social media sites, video sharing websites and IM services compared to last year; it’s unclear what has caused the shift but it could be down to the increased amount of bad experiences that people have had online.