UK Adults' Media Literacy Report

19 April 2011

This report is designed to give an accessible overview of media literacy among UK adults aged 16 and over (-1-). The purpose of this report is to support people working in this area to develop and promote media literacy among these groups.

This report is the fourth full report since our survey began in 2005. It is therefore able to show trends over time for many of the questions asked. However, statistically significant change is measured against 2009 in order to show how swiftly or not attitudes and behaviour are evolving.

Media literacy enables people to have the skills, knowledge and understanding they need to make full use of the opportunities presented both by traditional and by new communications services. Media literacy also helps people to manage content and communications, and protect themselves and their families from the potential risks associated with using these services.

Take-up

  • Internet take-up has risen for older people aged 55-64 who are now at the UK average (74%), but those aged 65+ are still considerably lower than average in terms of household internet take-up (35% v 74%). Internet take-up in C2 and DE households has also increased, although DE households still have lower than average take-up (54%) (-2-).
  • While the PC or laptop remains the most likely device to be used to go online, there has been a growth in use of alternative devices. Internet users are more likely to use a mobile phone to go online than in 2009 (31% vs. 28%), with this most prevalent among 16-24s (55%). However, just 2% of UK adults use only an alternative device to go online.
  • TV remains the most-missed media for UK adults as a whole, although this has decreased from 50% in 2009 to 44% in 2010. For the first time, adults aged 16-24 mention using a mobile phone (28%) and using the internet (26%) ahead of watching television (23%).

Use of the internet

  • Communication remains the most popular type of activity to be undertaken at least weekly among internet users (83%). In terms of individual activities carried out online, those most likely to be undertaken at least once a week are email (79%), social networking (45%), work/ studies information (45%) and banking/ paying bills (33%).
  • Broad use of the internet has increased since 2009 in 2009 38% of internet users could be classified as broad users, i.e. carrying out 11-18 of 18 types of internet activity. In 2010 this rose to 49%.
  • Over half of internet users say they have a social networking profile (54%) compared to 44% in 2009. One half of those with a profile (51%) now use it daily compared to 41% in 2009.
  • There is variation across the types of online activities carried out weekly by socio-economic group, gender and age. For example, people from DE households are less likely to carry out most of the activities with the exception of social networking, and men are more likely than women to carry out a range of the activities. Older internet users are less likely to carry out most of the activities than other age groups.
  • Four in ten (41%) internet users now say they ever watch audio-visual content online, an increase from 32% in 2009. Most of these users say they watch through UK TV broadcasters websites (37% vs. 29%) such as BBC iPlayer, with a much smaller proportion doing so from other websites (13% vs. 11%).
  • There has been some increase in using the internet for public/ civic activities, although internet users are more likely to have government/ local council interaction offline (71%) than online (65%), especially among older and DE groups. Contacting a local councillor or MP online has risen since 2009 (12% vs. 7%), and is more likely among older people.
  • Eight in ten internet users (82%) say that they have saved money in the last six months by using the internet, for example comparing prices online or buying online rather than in the shops. Close to half of all internet users (46%) say they have made significant savings by buying something online rather than in the shops.

Understanding and attitudes across media

  • Compared to 2009, UK adults are more likely to think that content is regulated across each of these key platforms, with the exception of radio: 84% think TV is regulated; 69% radio; 41% internet and 32% mobile phones.
  • Unprompted awareness of the main source of funding is higher for television than for radio, and considerably lower for the internet, as was the case in 2009. Unprompted awareness of the main source of funding for the BBC remains higher than for the commercial operators, across television, radio and the internet. Young people aged 16-24 are less knowledgeable compared to older age groups.
  • One quarter (26%) of search engine users say that if results have been listed by the search engine then they must be accurate/ unbiased. This is an increase from the 2009 figure of 20%. Those in DE households are more likely to answer in this way (38%), as are those that the first started using the internet less than three years ago (36%).
  • Attitudes towards online copyright infringement have not changed since 2009. Across all adults, more believe that certain types of downloading of music and films should be illegal (46%) than believe it should be legal (32%), with the remainder (22%) unsure. Adults aged 16-24 are the only age group who are more likely to say that such types of downloading music and films should be legal compared to those who say it should be illegal (51% vs. 36%).
  • When asked separately for their levels of trust in news on various platforms, users are more likely to trust news from the radio (64%); then the internet (59%), then TV (54%) and finally newspapers (34%). However, these findings should be considered in the light of other surveys which ask about trust in news in different ways: for example, results from our Media Tracker (-3-) data show that when people are asked for their views on which media they would trust most to provide fair and unbiased world news, TV is trusted most by 72%, the internet by 7%, radio by 6% and newspapers by 3%.
  • Few UK adults have experience of formal learning about digital technology or are interested in learning more. Compared to 2009, fewer adults are interested in learning more about digital technology (22% vs. 25%).

Privacy, security and concerns

  • Around four in ten internet users say they would be happy to share photos of their holidays online (37%), while around three in ten internet users say they would be happy to share information about what they are doing (33%). Internet users are least likely to say they would be happy to share information about how they are feeling about work or college (22%). Young people are more at ease about sharing these types of personality information online for example, 61% of 16-24s are happy to share holiday photos, and 44% are happy to share information about how they are feeling about work or college.
  • Desirable levels of due caution around issues of online privacy and personal information vary according to the activity, and both ends of spectrum - being happy to give out personal details, and never doing so - can carry dangers and drawbacks. Our proxy measure of due caution is those that say they have some concerns but who would nonetheless provide various types of personal or financial information online. Around half of internet users state that they have some concerns about providing these types of information for example, 44% say they would have some concerns about entering their home phone number. This proportion has changed little since 2005.
  • That said, there has been some increase over time in people who use the internet saying they use professional signs like padlocks etc to decide whether or not to trust a site, with this type of judgment made by just over half before entering any personal details, an increase since 2009 (55% vs. 51%). Four in ten make judgments based on personal instinct (42% vs. 43% in 2009), with relatively few saying they make judgments based on peer indications such as recommendations from friends or online reviews (17% vs. 20% in 2009). One in five (20%) of those aged 65+ say they wouldn't trust any site compared to 6% of the adult online population.
  • Few people have open social networking settings - 4% of those with a social networking profile allow their contact details to be seen by anyone, and 10% allow personal information to be seen by anyone. Men are more likely than women to have open profiles for personal information (12% vs. 7%), photographs (14% vs. 5%), and contact details (5% vs. 2%).
  • Installing software to control or block access to certain websites (20%) and installing security features (18%), are the main activities people say they are interested in but aren't confident doing. Women are twice as likely as men to say they are interested but not confident.
  • Since 2005 UK adults have become less concerned about the main media platforms they use. Concerns about the internet among users stand at 54% (down from 61% in 2009); TV at 40%; mobile at 24% and gaming at 21%. The top three specific concerns about the internet are: content unsuitable for children (24%), sexual content / pornography (23%), and identity fraud (14%).

Further analysis

Newer users

  • Further analysis of newer internet users (those having gone online less than three years ago) was carried out to see the extent to which they are different from all online users.
  • Newer internet users differ from more established users across a range of attitudes and behaviour, ranging from consumption patterns (9.1 hours per week vs. 14.9 hours for more established users), activities (lower frequency of weekly usage with the exception of social networking), confidence (40% say they don't visit new websites vs. 24% of more established users), security (only 33% say they would use professional signs to verify a website vs. 59%) and knowledge (36% think search engine results pages must be true vs. 24%). It is also of note that there are relatively few differences relating to concerns, or for their appetite for learning.

Narrow users

  • Narrow users of the internet are defined as those that carry out 1-6 out of a possible 18 types of online activity. This group accounts for two in ten of all internet users (19%), down from three in ten in 2009 (28%). Older people and those in C2 DE socio-economic groups are more likely to be Narrow users.
  • As well as doing less online, Narrow users are less confident users. Around one in five Narrow users rate themselves as very confident in judging whether a website is truthful (19% vs. 45% of all internet users). Three in ten Narrow users describe themselves as very confident overall as an internet user, compared to seven in ten of all users (32% vs. 67%).
  • They are also less likely to make a judgement about a website before entering personal details by using professional signs like padlocks etc. (39% vs. 55% of all internet users). They are less likely to understand search engine results four in ten (38%) give the most appropriate response that some of the websites will be accurate or unbiased and some won't be, compared to 50% of all internet users.

Non-users

  • Non-users of the internet are more likely to be older and from DE households. Close to half of non-users are aged 65 and over (46% vs. 7% of users) and the same proportion are in DE socio-economic groups (46% vs. 21% of users). Fifty-seven per cent of non-users are female, compared to 50% of internet users.
  • Over six in ten (64%) of those who don't intend to get the internet at home gave a main reason relating to a lack of interest, with most others giving a main reason relating to cost (23%).
  • Emailing, putting photos from a camera onto a computer, and online shopping are the three main activities of interest to non-users, although interest is at a low level even for these (16%, 15% and 13% respectively). These low levels of interest underline that encouraging an appetite for online activity is a key factor in getting people to take up the internet.

Footnotes:

1.-The report comprises two waves of fieldwork carried out in spring and autumn 2010. The data across both these waves have been combined to give an overall picture for the year.

2.-The take-up figures collected for this report give useful contextual information to understand better the behavioural and opinion-based findings about media literacy. Official all-UK Ofcom take-up figures based on a larger survey can be found in the annual CMR (Communications Market Report) published in August each year.

3.- Perceptions of, and attitudes towards, television: 2010 Ofcom PSB Annual Report 2010 annex H www.ofcom.org.uk