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Top trends from our latest look at people's online lives

Published: 28 November 2023
Last updated: 28 November 2023

Our latest Online Nation research takes a look at how people in the UK are spending their time online. It found that teenagers and children are leading the way in getting to grips with emerging technology like generative artificial intelligence, as well as highlighting a range of other trends. Here we take a look at some of the main findings.

We’re spending an extra two days each year online

The average amount of daily time spent online has seen a modest increase of eight minutes, to 3 hours and 41 minutes a day in May 2023. This means the average online adult now spends around 56 days each year online – two more days than in 2022.

Young online adults aged 18–24-spend the most time online, at 4 hours 36 minutes each day in May 2023.

Facebook gets knocked off top spot

YouTube was visited by more UK online adults using smartphones, tablets or computers, than Facebook.

Ninety-one per cent of online adults visited YouTube in May 2023, overtaking Facebook (90.7%) which saw its visitors fall by 1.4 million during the last year.

Millennials are the most prolific smartphone app users

People aged 25-44 on average used the most smartphone apps in May 2023 – 41 versus an average of 36 across all online adults.

Meta-owned social media and communication apps WhatsApp, Facebook, Facebook Messenger and Instagram were the most-visited smartphone apps by adults on an average day in May 2023.

Almost a quarter of online adults try Threads

Around a quarter of internet users aged 16+ (23%) tried Meta’s new service, Threads, at least once in the first two months since its launch in July 2023.

Threads’ reach, however, remains significantly lower than X’s which was used by 52% of online users aged 16+ in the last year.

More than a fifth of children have a false social media age of 18+

Older children and teens (aged 11-18) feel more confident communicating online than in person (71% versus 53%). Others told us how they benefit from the online world, from help with schoolwork (81%), building and maintaining friendships (68%), supporting their creativity (81%), and helping them get better at things they like doing (86%).

However, over a fifth (22%) of 8–17-year-olds with a social media profile on at least one of the platforms listed in our study, have a false user age of 18 or over, putting them at greater risk of encountering age-inappropriate, harmful content online.

A third of people saw harms in their personalised feed

Two thirds (68%) of adults reported that they had seen or experienced one or more potential online harms in the previous four weeks. Over a third (35%) of adults came into contact with their most recent harm when scrolling through their personalised feed or ‘for you’ page, whereby users are served up tailored content by the algorithm.

A similar proportion of teenagers (71%) aged 13-17 said they had encountered one or more  potential harms online in the past four weeks.  The top three concerns among 13-17s are content depicting animal cruelty (67%), content promoting suicide (66%) and content promoting self-harm (61%). They had also experienced unwelcome friend or follow requests, or messages (30%) and trolling (23%).

Online porn services attract more visitors during daytime hours

A third of adult internet users (29% or 13.8 million) visited online services for pornographic content in May 23 – the majority of which were men (73% or 10.1 million).

Adults were more likely to access online porn services between 9am to 5:29pm than at other times of the day in May 2023.

Pornhub was the most popular porn site, visited by 8.4 million adults in May 2023.

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