More people in Northern Ireland are now online than ever before, according to Ofcom’s Communications Market Report Northern Ireland 2016.
But it also reveals that around one in three internet users have taken a ‘digital detox’ in the last year in a bid to strike a healthier tech-life balance.
Two-thirds of people had cut down on specific activities, such as using social media or browsing the web, and half of parents made rules of some sort to limit their children’s time online.
The most common reasons for taking a ‘tech timeout’ were to spend more time doing other things (cited by 62%) and more time with friends and family (43%).
Many people found their time offline to be a positive experience - 29% felt more productive while 38% were less distracted.
More than three quarters of homes (77%) have a fixed line broadband connection, up from 69% in 2015. Customers are also embracing faster mobile internet connections, with more than half of adults (54%) having a 4G mobile service – up from 26% in 2015.
People in Northern Ireland are also increasingly using smartphones to get online. Seven in ten people (72%) own a smartphone, up from 63% in 2015, and it remains the most popular device for accessing the internet.
Jonathan Rose, Ofcom Northern Ireland Director, said: “More people in Northern Ireland are now online at home and on the move than ever before. But our relationship with the web isn’t always plain surfing and many people admit to feeling hooked.
“In search of a better tech-life balance, many people are choosing to take a bit of breathing space from the web and instead spending more time with friends and family.”
Despite the rise in online activity, traditional media remains popular in Northern Ireland. Indeed 97% of people tuned in to live TV at least once a week, the greatest proportion of any media activity measured. Around three quarters of households (74%) subscribe to pay TV services – up from 71% in 2015 – higher than the UK average.
Our research also shows that TV is still by far the most important source of news in Northern Ireland (62% of adults say this is their main source of UK and world news), followed by radio (17%) and websites/apps (9%), all higher than newspapers (4%).
People are also embracing newer online services, however, with instant messaging seeing the biggest rise in popularity. Nearly half of adults (49%) now use services such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, up from 31% in 2014.