Internet usage across the UK has skyrocketed since the beginning of lockdown, according to new figures published by Ofcom.
Ofcom’s annual Online Nation report shows that adults spent a daily average of four hours and two minutes online in April. This marks an increase from just under three and a half hours in September 2019, figures show.
Covid-19 lockdown measures have radically changed how people interact and access content online, Ofcom suggested. With people around the country looking for new ways to remain connected to with family, and with millions working from home, video-sharing services have surged in popularity.
The proportion of people making video calls has increased dramatically since the beginning of the lockdown. More than seven in 10 people across the UK are now making video calls on a weekly basis, up from 35% before lockdown.
According to the report, older internet users have been quick to adopt online services and video calls. The proportion of adults aged 65+ who make more than one video call each week increased from 22% in February to 60% by May.
Specific apps have proved to be extremely popular since lockdown measures were implemented in March. Houseparty, which allows users to play games and quizzes in a group video call format, grew from an average of 175,000 UK adult visitors in January to a staggering four million in April.
The biggest increase, Ofcom highlighted, has been in users accessing Zoom. The virtual meeting platform has grown from 659,000 UK users to 13 million across the same period. This marks a rise of nearly 2000% the report noted.
Yih-Choung Teh, director of strategy and research at Ofcom commented: “Lockdown may leave a lasting digital legacy. 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.”
Streaming platforms such as Twitch have surged in popularity, with UK visitors increasing from 2.3 million in January to 4.2 million in April.
Similarly, social media platforms such as TikTok, Snapchat or Instagram have seen an increase in the number of users. In April, the report shows that 12.9 million UK visitors used TikTok, marking a significant increase from 5.4 million in January this year.
The Online Nation report revealed that nine in 10 adults – including nearly all older children aged eight to 15 – with internet access had used TikTok, Instagram or Snapchat in the last year.
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Despite the increased use of online services and platforms, people across the UK said they harbour concerns about safety.
87% of adults – and more than three-quarters of eight to 15-year-olds – said they have concerns about using certain social media platforms. Bullying, harmful/inappropriate content and receiving messages from strangers are among the top concerns in this regard.
Yih-Choung Teh added: “As the way we communicate evolves and people broaden their online horizons, our role is to help ensure that people have a positive experience and that they’re safe and protected.”