Brits are clocking up an astonishing 30 hours a week online, with the popularity of social media fueling the growth, according to new research. The study, from uSwitch, found that on a typical working day the average person now spends 5 hours online – 2 hours for professional or work purposes and 3 hours for pleasure and leisure. This includes online shopping, managing their finances, socialising and emailing family and friends. At the weekends, Brits spend an average of 3 hours a day online.
18 – 24 year olds already spend 7 hours a day online during the week, but they supplement this with 5 hours a day at the weekend too. However, almost two in ten 18 – 24 year olds (19%) now spend more than 8 hours a day online at the weekend – barely leaving time for anything else and possibly contributing to rising obesity levels amongst the young.
The social networking boom is one of the main reasons why Brits now spend so much time online. A quarter (25%) of adults say they need to use sites such as Facebook and Twitter at least once a day and almost a third of 18 – 24 year olds (30%) spend more than 5 hours a week on them.
People even have to log in while on holiday with over a third of under 25s (36%) admitting to checking these sites while away.
But, while the influence of these sites cannot be under estimated, only 27% of people think that social networking is a good thing – almost half (46%) are still weighing it up saying that for them, at least, the jury is still out.
Social networking has also led to a new generation gap – while 41% of over 65s agree that social networking is the future and they should get used to it, over two thirds (67%) aren’t joining in, preferring not to socialise online.
With the recession pushing people to hunt for bargains and people keen to save both time and money, 93% of the population now shops on the internet. Over 38 million people (79%) spend up to two hours a week doing so.
Brits are also spending time managing their money online – just 18% say they don‟t use their bank‟s online services.
Over a quarter (28%) spend between one and two hours a week banking online while nearly half (44%) spend up to an hour a week.
Jason Glynn, communications expert at uSwitch.com, said: “This research shows the huge impact that the internet is having on British life. Broadband is rapidly becoming a necessity – as important to our quality of life as gas or electricity. Our reliance looks set to increase dramatically over the coming years as younger generations come to the fore, putting the Government under even more pressure to deliver universal broadband access across the whole country.
“However, we are also seeing growing signs of a ‘digital divide’ and the risk of social exclusion for those who are unable or unwilling to go online. As we move towards ‘Digital Britain’ some groups, such as the elderly, are in danger of being left behind – more work needs to be done to encourage greater take-up amongst these groups, who could otherwise be left disadvantaged.
“As usage increases it is going to become even more important that consumers fully understand broadband packages so that they are able to choose one that is cost-effective and right for their needs – at the moment this could save them up to £140 a year. Ofcom should be pushing suppliers to ditch the small print, tell people exactly what they are getting for their money and be upfront about any limits to their service – unlimited broadband should be exactly that.”
Research was carried out with the uSwitch.com Consumer Opinion Panel among 2,690 UK adults in August 2009.