Adults in the United Kingdom spent over four hours a day online in April 2020, as coronavirus restrictions changed the way people communicated and accessed information and entertainment. One in three people reported watching online video more than television but the BBC remained the most used source of information.
The annual Online Nation report from the United Kingdom communications regulator Ofcom reveals a rise in online usage across a country in lockdown.
During the first week of lockdown due to coronavirus restrictions, network traffic across fixed broadband networks in the United Kingdom increased by an average of 20% and remained at this elevated level through April.
Online adults spent an average of 37 minutes a day more online each day in April than at the start of 2020. Among those aged 18-24, that amounted to over five hours a day. Even among those aged over 55 it was an average of three-and-a-quarter hours a day. The overall average per online adult was just over four hours per day.
The proportion of online adults in the United Kingdom making video calls doubled during lockdown, with more than seven in 10 doing so at least weekly.
TikTok, which allows users to create and share short dance, lip-sync, comedy and talent videos, reached 12.9 million adult visitors in the United Kingdom in April, up from just 5.4 million in January.
Twitch, the popular live streaming platform for gamers, saw users increase from 2.3 million to 4.2 million adults.
Houseparty, the app which combines group video-calls with games and quizzes, grew from 175,000 adult users in January to 4 million in April.
Zoom saw the greatest growth, with the reach of the virtual meeting platform rising from 659,000 adult users to reach 13 million adults over the same period, a rise of almost 2,000%.
The reach of Microsoft Teams increased from 3.3 million to 6.5 billion, while Skype video rose from 2.2 million to 4.9 million.
The use of online video calls increased in April and May, with those using them at least weekly rising from 35% to 71%, and those using them daily from 17% to 38%.
The proportion of adults who have ever used online video calling increased to 81%, indicating that 7% of adult internet users have started using video calling for the first time as a result of ‘lockdown’ measures resulting from the coronavirus outbreak.
30% of adults in the United Kingdom reported using FaceTime for personal video calls at least once a week in May, compared to 23% for Zoom, 15% for Skype, and 10% for Microsoft Teams.
In April, the BBC Bitesize education web site increased its reach to 7% in April, but the average time spent per visitor per day rose to only 21 seconds.
The government web site had a reach of 53%, but the average time per visitor per day was only 13 seconds.
The national health service web site had a reach of 40% in April, with an average time per visitor per day of 15 seconds.
In comparison, Amazon had a reach of 88%, with an average time of four minutes and 19 seconds per visitor per day.
Social media use increased to an hour and eight minutes per adult user per day, and up to an hour and 36 minutes a day among those aged 18-24. The average time spent by adult users of Facebook and Messenger increased to over thirty minutes a day.
The BBC was the most used source of information about coronavirus, used by 78% of adults, with three in ten adults using BBC Online for information.
Half of all respondents considered a BBC service to be their most important source of information. That was far higher than social media, which just 4% considered to be their most important source, rising to 8% among those aged 18-24.
Online Nation draws on data from a range of sources including commissioned research and is published by Ofcom.