• Adults now spending a record 4 hours a day online on average 
  • Twice as many using video calls to keep in touch during lockdown 
  • TikTok, Zoom, Houseparty have seen usage surge 

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Ofcom: Apps such as Snapchat, TikTok and Whatsapp use surges in lockdown

Source: Kenary820 Shutterstock

UK adults are now spending more than a quarter of their waking day online, with services such as TikTok and Zoom seeing unprecedented growth during lockdown, according to regulator Ofcom. 

Ofcom’s annual Online Nation report reveals that in April 2020, during the height of lockdown, UK adults spent a record daily average of four hours and two minutes online – up from just under three and a half hours in September last year.  

Video social media platform TikTok reached 12.9 million UK adult visitors in April, up from just 5.4 million in January. Twitch, the live streaming platform for gamers, saw visitors increase from 2.3 million to 4.2 million adults. 

The proportion of UK online adults making video calls has also doubled during lockdown, with more than seven in 10 doing so at least weekly. Houseparty grew from 175,000 adult visitors in January to 4 million in April.  Microsoft Teams rose from 3 to 6.5 million. 

However, the biggest growth was seen by Zoom, which grew from 659,000 UK adults to reach 13 million adults over the same period – a rise of almost 2,000%. 

Ofcom said that sites and apps such as YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok, which allow people to create, upload and share videos online, have never been so popular. 

Its report reveals that nine in 10 online adults, and almost all older children aged 8-15, used at least one of these websites and apps in the last year, with many watching videos several times a day.  

One third (32%) of online adults now spend more time viewing video-sharing services than broadcast television. 

Two in five adults (40%) and 59% of older children who use video-sharing sites and apps now create and upload their own videos, driving an explosion in short-form, user-generated content. 

Ofcom said that the proportion of children under 13 who aspire to become a ‘YouTuber’ had increased by 19% by the end of 2019 compared to 2018. Boys in particular are more likely to consider it as a career. 

Ofcom’s study shows that, before the Covid-19 pandemic, many people were moving away from more established forms of communication – particularly landline calls and SMS text messages – and adopting newer methods. 

In the 12 months to February 2020, substantially more online adults were sending daily text messages using a variety of online messaging platforms (52%), such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, than using SMS (41%) or email (26%). Daily use of online voice calls (31%) was only slightly lower than mobile calls (38%). 

Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s director of strategy and research, 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.”