TikTok boom: Brits spent a quarter of their waking hours in lockdown online – Ofcom

A quarter? That's pretty weak

Brits are spending more time than ever online, according to comms watchdog Ofcom's latest Online Nation report, and it's all thanks - surprise, surprise - to coronavirus. In April, at the height of lockdown, the average person was online for four hours and two minutes each day.

That, the regulator says, represents more than a quarter of the typical person's waking hours. It's also greater than the typical amount of time spent watching TV (three hours and 19 minutes) or listening to the radio (two hours and 40 minutes).

When you break down the data, there's a predictable demographic split. Those over the age of 55 spent the least amount of time online – three hours and 16 minutes.

Meanwhile, those in the 18-24 age bracket – commonly described as "Generation Z" – were connected for the most amount of time: Five hours and four minutes. Given this is the generation that grew up online, with the internet being their primary tool for socialisation and entertainment, you'd rightly expect the figures to split in that direction.

Ofcom's research shows that most of that time – three hours and 29 minutes – was spent among a group of 13 online properties you'd describe as "the usual offenders": Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and so on.

There are seismic shifts taking place in this space, and Ofcom highlighted the growth of two services in particular: the controversial Chinese video-sharing platform TikTok, and Zoom, the videoconferencing app that's enjoyed rapid growth since the outbreak of coronavirus.

TikTok, for example, reached nearly 12.9 million Brits in April, compared to just 5.4 million in January. Zoom's numbers are even more impressive, with the service growing from 659,000 users in January to 13 million in April).

Discussing the findings, Dan Howdle, analyst at Cable.co.uk, noted these growth figures are an inevitable consequence of the isolation caused by lockdown.

"Since entering lockdown our physical distance from one another has led to us finding ways to communicate that we perhaps wouldn't have turned to previously. In the work space, this has led to increased uptake of online meeting platforms, while at home far more of us are using apps such as WhatsApp, Zoom and FaceTime for video calling where previously a simple text would do".

Howdle also noted this newfound trend of video calling could remain long after the end of the pandemic as people cling to the habits they've developed during lockdown.

"Video calling, home working, and online meetings are likely to become a habit, and continue to pervade many businesses and social groups, fundamentally changing the way we live, work and communicate," he added. ®

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