Lockdown measures have had a huge impact on the amount of time Brits are spending online, according to new research from Ofcom.
The regulator discovered that the average Brit now spends a quarter of their waking hours online in some guise or another – whether that’s working, using social media or streaming content through channels like Netflix.
The average online time totalled four hours and two minutes in April, up from the three hours 29 minutes recorded in September last year. This wasn’t just a record high in terms of the total time spent online, but also the largest increase seen in recent memory. Previously, the total had grown by around 9% every year – but this jump was nearer 16%, and happened over just seven months.
There hasn’t just been a change in the length of time people are spending online, but also what they’re doing once they’re there. Ofcom found the number of adults regularly using video calls to have doubled in recent months, and that seven in ten adults are now using this technology at least once a week. Unsurprisingly, this has driven huge increases in popularity for video calling apps – not least Zoom, which has seen average usage grow by 2,000% during lockdown.
Though these changes have been driven by an unprecedented (and hopefully temporary) situation, Ofcom isn’t expecting things to snap back to the way they were once lockdown is fully lifted. Instead, it anticipates these changes to have long-lasting effects, with people now seeing the wealth of choices they have and being pushed towards trying out new technologies.
Director of strategy and research at Ofcom, Yih-Choung Teh, said: “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.” He added that the way we communicate has evolved, and that he expects people will simply continue to “broaden their online horizons”.