UK adults spent more time online on desktop, smartphones or tablets in 2020 than comparable European countries, according to Ofcom’s annual Online Nation report.
UK adults spent more than three-and-a-half hours (217 minutes) online each day in 2020 – more than an hour longer than in Germany and France and 30 minutes more than Spain.
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).
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 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.
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%).
Yih-Choung Teh, Group Director of Strategy and Research, Ofcom