U.K. Daily Internet Usage Tops 4 Hours

Internet use in the United Kingdom is surging. Adults in the U.K. now spend more than a quarter of their waking day online with myriad services such as TikTok and Zoom, according to new data from Ofcom, the region’s regulator for the communications services.

In April, during the height of the coronavirus lockdown, U.K. adults spent a daily average of four hours and two minutes online. This was up from just under three and a half hours in September 2019. With people looking for new ways to keep connected, informed, entertained and fit during the pandemic, video-sharing and video-calling services surged in popularity.

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TikTok, which allows users to create and share short dance and lip-sync videos, reached 12.9 million U.K. adult visitors in April, up from just 5.4 million in January. Twitch, the live-streaming platform for video gamers, saw an increase from 2.3 million adults to 4.2 million.

The number of people making video calls doubled during lockdown, with more than 70% doing so at least weekly. 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. But the biggest growth was seen by Zoom, the virtual meeting platform, which grew from 659,000 users to reach 13 million users over the same period — a rise of almost 2,000%.

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Ofcom found that 90% of adults, and almost all older children aged 8-15, with access to the Internet used at least one of these platforms (YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok) in the past year, with many doing so several times a day. About 32% of online adults now spend more time viewing video-sharing services than broadcast television.

“Lockdown may leave a lasting digital legacy,” Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s director of strategy and research, said in a statement. “The coronavirus has radically changed the way we live, work and communicate online, with millions of people using online video services for the first time.”

The study shows that, before the pandemic, many people were moving away from more established forms of communication — particularly landline calls and SMS text messages — and adopting newer methods.

In the 12 months to February, more people were sending daily text messages using online messaging platforms (52%), such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, than using SMS (41%) or email (26%). 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 70% people in the U.K. are now making video calls at least weekly, up from 35% pre-lockdown. This trend is particularly noticeable among older Web users; the proportion of online adults aged 65+ who make a least one video-call each week increased from 22% in February to 61% by May.

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