UK adults are spending a quarter of their waking day online, with services such as TikTok and Zoom seeing unprecedented growth, according to Ofcom’s annual Online Nation report.
The report shows that in April 2020, during the height of the coronavirus lockdown, UK adults spent a daily average of four hours and two minutes online. This is up from just under three-and-a-half hours in September last year.
With people looking for new ways to keep connected, informed, entertained and fit during the pandemic, video-sharing and video-calling services have surged in popularity.
Video calling and video sharing
Ofcom found the proportion of people making video calls has doubled during lockdown, with more than seven in 10 doing so at least weekly.
Zoom saw the biggest growth. It had 659,000 users in January and this had risen to 13 million by April – a rise of almost 2,000%.
Other lockdown winners were:
- Houseparty, the app which combines group video-calls with games and quizzes, grew from 175,000 adult visitors in January to 4 million in April
- TikTok, which allows users to create and share short dance, lip-sync, comedy and talent videos, reached 12.9 million UK adult visitors in April, up from just 5.4 million in January
- Twitch, the live streaming platform for video gamers, saw visitors increase from 2.3 million to 4.2 million adults
Sites and apps such as YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok, which allow people to create, upload and share videos online, have never been so popular.
The Ofcom report found nine in ten adults, and almost all older children aged 8 to 15, with access to the internet used at least one of these in the past year, with many doing so several times a day.
One third (32%) of online adults now spend more time viewing video-sharing services than broadcast television.
Two in five adults (40%) and 59% of older children who use video-sharing sites and apps now create and upload their own videos, driving an explosion in short-form, user-generated content.
Vlogging is also a money-making enterprise, with 17% of adults who create and upload videos receiving revenue or gifts in return.
Ofcom found that in the 12 months to February 2020, more than half (52%) of people were sending daily text messages using online messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
Four in 10 (41%) used SMS, and 26% used email. Daily use of online voice calls (31%) was only slightly lower than mobile calls (38%).
The pandemic appears to have sped up the adoption of online services to keep in touch. More than seven in 10 people in the UK are now making video calls at least weekly, up from 35% pre-lockdown.
This trend is particularly noticeable among older internet users; the proportion of online adults aged 65+ who make a least one video-call each week increased from 22% in February 2020 to 61% by May 2020.
Nick Baker, broadband expert at Uswitch.com, says: “Our own data shows how households are spending their time online, with people enjoying an extra hour-and-a-half a week streaming TV and films and an additional three hours using their connection for work.
“The UK’s broadband network has coped well with the extra demand placed on it, but a fifth of users have reported problems with their connection, seeing internet pages failing to load and online videos buffering.
“The experience of the last few months highlights how important a good broadband connection is to every household.”