Adults in the UK spent more time online in 2020 than most comparable European countries, according to Ofcom’s annual study into the nation’s online habits.
The Online Nation 2021 report looks at an unprecedented year and reveals how much time we spent on desktop computers, smartphones or tablets.
Adults in the UK were online more than three and a half hours each day in 2020 – more than an hour longer than those in Germany and France, and 30 minutes more than in Spain.
Brits also spent nearly £2.45bn on, and in, mobile apps across last year, with Tinder, Disney+, YouTube and Netflix topping the list.
However, lockdown also saw an increase in romance scams, with money lost to fraudsters increasing by 12% to £18.5m as Brits looked online for love.
Around one in eight online adult Brits and more than one in five of those aged 15-34 said they used an online dating service before the spring lockdown in 2020.
Tinder was the most popular dating app among young online UK adults – visited by 11% of 18-24s in September 2020 – while Plenty of Fish was most popular among the 45-54 age group.
UK online shopping sales rose by 48% to nearly £113 billion in 2020.
Food and drinks retailers’ online stores saw the biggest increase in sales, up by 82% on 2019, while sales of household goods also surged – by 76% – due to heightened interest in home improvements.
Children’s online purchasing power also grew, enabled by digital pocket money apps and pre-paid debit cards.
TikTok experienced huge growth during the pandemic – from three million UK adult visitors in September 2019 to 14 million by March 2021.
TikTok also saw the biggest increase in daily use among young adults – with 18-24s more than doubling their time spent on it in the year to September 2020 – up from 17 minutes to 38 minutes.
Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s Group Director of Strategy and Research, said: “In an unprecedented year, we’ve seen a real acceleration in our migration to online services – which, for many people, have provided a lifeline in lockdown.”