Tablets help drive increase in older people going online

29 April 2014

The number of people aged 65 and over accessing the internet has risen by more than a quarter in the past year, driven by a three-fold increase in the use of tablet computers to go online, new Ofcom research reveals.

This has helped to drive overall internet use up from 79% of adults in 2012 to 83% in 2013, according to Ofcom's Adults' Media Use and Attitudes Report.

The proportion of people aged over 65 that are accessing the web reached 42% in 2013, up nine percentage points from 33% in 2012, which is a 27% increase over the year. One reason for this is an increase in the use of tablet computers by older people aged 65-74 to go online, up from 5% in 2012 to 17% in 2013.

Nearly all adults under 35 years old now go online (98%). The increase in internet use was driven by three different age-groups: 25-34s (98%, up from 92% in 2012), 45-54s (91%, up from 84%), and, most notably, those over 65.

Younger people spend over 24 hours per week online

Older people spend significantly less time surfing the web than younger people (16-24 year olds), who on average spend more than a whole day (24 hours 12 minutes) each week online. UK adult internet users spend an estimated average 16 hours 54 minutes online each week, which compares to an average 9 hours 12 minutes online per week among those over 65.

While the majority of adult internet users undertake nine online activities at least quarterly, the majority of over 65s use the internet to carry out just two online activities this regularly browsing websites (77%) and using email (77%).

Those over 65 are significantly less likely than all internet users to do a range of online activities, including banking online (35% versus 61%), watching or downloading TV programmes or films (25% versus 40%) and visiting social network sites or apps (30% versus 68%).

Diverse devices

Computers, laptops or netbooks (78%) are still the most popular way to access the internet, but two-thirds of adults also use other devices, such as tablets or smartphones, to surf the web.

Use of tablet computers to access the internet among adults has almost doubled from 16% in 2012 to 30% in 2013. Nearly two-thirds (59%) of people access the internet through a mobile phone, up by six percentage points since 2012.

More adults than ever before, including older age groups, are playing games on all types of devices (42% compared to 35% in 2012). The rise in these activities could be driven by the overall increase in internet access as well as increased access to content via tablets and smartphones.

More than half of apps downloaded are ‘redundant'

Ofcom's research found that while nearly half (48%) of mobile users had downloaded an app, almost half of the apps downloaded were not regularly used. On average, smartphone owners have 23 apps installed, but only 10 are used regularly.

Over three quarters (78%) of recent app downloaders said they used friends and family recommendations to select apps compared with social media advertising (17%), in-app advertising (16%) and media advertising (11%).

One in five app users have concerns about apps content while over half (51%) of internet users have concerns. A clear preference is shown by app users to use them for reading news and downloading videos and music, while internet browsers are preferred for shopping and searching for information.

Ofcom has produced an infographic showing a selection of data on apps.

Smartphones ‘most missed' by young people

Ofcom's research highlighted generational differences in preferences for the types of media consumed. TV watching continues to be the media that adults say they would miss most (42%) if it was taken away, but this varies considerably by age.

People aged 16-24 are more than three times more likely to choose their smartphone (47%) over TV (13%). The majority of people aged 65 and over say they would most miss watching TV (68%).

Younger people more secure on social media

The report indicates that younger internet users (aged 16-24) appear more informed than all adult users about protecting their personal information on social media.

They are more likely to have adjusted their Facebook privacy settings (76% versus 65% for all Facebook users). In the last 12 months, younger social media users are more likely to have blocked friends or followers (49% versus 36% for all social media users) and deleted photos that they have posted (32% versus 22%).

While younger people seem aware of how to protect their identity in these ways, they are also more likely to say they are happy to provide personal information online to companies as long as they get what they want in return (55% versus 42% for all internet users).

Mixed media use

The number of adults regularly watching DVDs, videos or Blu-ray discs has fallen in the year (63% to 55%), while fewer people said that they read newspapers and magazines (71% to 66% between 2012 and 2013).

The use of social networking sites remained stable at 66%, but people are using them more regularly. Sixty per cent of those with an active social media site profile visited these sites more than once a day in 2013, up from 50% in 2012.

Ofcom's Adults Media Use and Attitudes Report 2014 is available here. The report covers the use and attitudes of UK adults across the key platforms of the internet, television, radio, games and mobile phones.



  1. Infographics highlighting Ofcom's new research into apps can be found on the Ofcom website.
  2. 2,674 adults aged 16 and over were interviewed as part of the research.
  3. Section 11 of the Communications Act 2003 requires Ofcom to promote media literacy in the UK. Under Section 14 (6a) of the Act we have a duty to make arrangements for the carrying out of research into the matters mentioned in Section 11 (1).