With the UK in some form of lockdown for most of 2020, local people were more dependent than ever on online services for entertainment, shopping, keeping in touch, getting information, home working, and home schooling, Ofcom indicated in its latest report.
With the UK in some form of lockdown for most of 2020, local people were more dependent than ever on online services for entertainment, shopping, keeping in touch, getting information, home working, and home schooling, Ofcom indicated in its latest report. By the end of the year, about 94% of UK homes had internet access, up from about 89% in 2019.
According to the “Online Nation 2021” report, consumers in the UK spent an average of 3 hours 37 minutes a day on smartphones, tablets and computers (nine minutes more than in 2019) as well as an average of 1 hour 21 minutes a day watching online services such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer on television sets (24 minutes more than in 2019). In September 2020, UK internet users spent nearly four times as much time on smartphones (an average of 2 hours 19 minutes a day) than they did on computers (37 minutes).
With people at home for much of the year, online gaming saw a big increase in 2020. Nearly two- thirds (62%) of adults, and 92% of 16-24-year-olds, said they played games on an electronic device, and over half of all gamers agreed that gaming helped them get through lockdown. Games consoles and computers are widely used by young adults in particular, but smartphones are the most commonly used device across all age groups, and were used for gaming by 39% of all UK adults.
The investigation also revealed that much of children’s internet use is centred on watching video content and gaming. In fact, YouTube is a constant in UK children’s online lives, used by nearly nine in ten children of all age groups, from 3-4-year-olds to teenagers. YouTube was the app that 7-17-year-olds were most likely to name as their favourite in early 2021, but TikTok was the most popular platform for girls aged 13-17.
Furthermore, YouTube and Facebook are the largest social video platforms in the UK, each reaching over 95% of UK internet users in September 2020. They also account for the most time spent – YouTube users spent an average of 43 minutes a day on it at the height of lockdown in April 2020 (falling to 35 minutes in September 2020), while users of Facebook (including Facebook Messenger) spent an average of 31 minutes a day on it in April (falling to 21 minutes in September 2020).
Young adults are particularly heavy users of social video. During the spring 2020 lockdown, nearly three-quarters of 15-24-year-olds said they watched short video content online every day, and in September 2020 YouTube users aged 18-24 spent an average of 1 hour 16 minutes a day on the service.
TikTok, owned by the Chinese company Bytedance, increased its number of UK adult users from 3.2 million in September 2019 to 11.5 million in September 2020, and this grew further during the winter 2021 lockdown, reaching 13.9 million UK adults in March 2021. It is also particularly popular among teenagers, with more than 37% of 13-17-year-olds saying they used it in March 2021.
Of all the time spent online in 2020, more than a third was on Google or Facebook. Sites and apps owned by Google (including YouTube) and Facebook (including Instagram) commanded 39% of all the time spent online on computers, smartphones, and tablets. There is then a further list of 18 sites and apps, headed by Spotify, Netflix and Bytedance (which includes TikTok), all of which were used by UK online adults for a minute or more a day, and which amounted to 22% of the average time spent online each day. The remaining 39% of time spent online is across a range of more than 180 million sites.